A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“There was a fight at the fish and chip shop. The fish got battered” (12/21)
“If you’re white, it’s all right” (12/21)
“Courtesy Counts: Manners Make a Better Ride” (bus and subway slogan) (12/21)
Manspreading (12/20)
“I can’t breathe” (anti-police brutality slogan) (12/20)
More new entries...

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


Entry from November 26, 2012
“How many people work here?” / “Oh, about half.” (joke)

The question “How many people work here?” (meaning “how many employees are there") and the jocular answer “About half” (meaning “half of the employees work and half of them goof off") has been printed on many gift items, such as buttons, posters and even a teddy bear. “How many people work in here?” was asked in May 1918 about government workers in Washington, DC. In a 1922 version of the joke, a census taker asked this question. “How many people work here in the Vatican?” was asked of the Pope in a 1963 version. The author of the joke is unknown.

“How many people work in the Pentagon?” is a version of the joke that was cited in print in 1957.


23 May 1918, The Syracuse and Lake Wawasee Journal (Syracuse, IN), pg. 7, col. 2:
How Many Work Here?
A visitor to the national capital entered one of the department buildings one day while he was sightseeing. Entering a large room where he expected to see many clerks, he was surprised to find only one occupying the numerous desks that looked as if they had just been vacated. No one was in sight but the janitor, who was dusting and cleaning. Thinking to obtain some knowledge of the room, its capacity and use, he approached her:

“How many people work in here?”

“Humph! About half of ‘em, I ‘low.”

Chronicling America
6 June 1918, Mexico Missouri Message (Mexico, Missouri), pg. 6, col. 6:
How Many Work Here?
A visitor to the national capital entered one of the department buildings one day while he was sightseeing. Entering a large room where he expected to see many clerks, he was surprised to find only one occupying the numerous desks that looked as if they had just been vacated. No one was in sight but the janitor, who was dusting and cleaning. Thinking to obtain some knowledge of the room, its capacity and use, he approached her:

“How many people work in here?”

“Humph! About half of ‘em, I ‘low.”

HathiTrust Digital Library
January 1921, The Artisan (The William Hood Dunwoody Industrial Institute, Minneapolis, MN), pg. 41, col. 2:
VISITOR IN A FACTORY.
“How many people work here?”
“About half of them.”

Google Books
January 1922, The Progressive Grocer, pg. 14, col. 2:
A Good Percentage
Visitor in Factory: “How many people work here?”
Foreman: “About half of them.”

HathiTrust Digital Library
18 March 1922, Forbes magazine, “A Little Laugh Now and Then,” pg. 410, col. 3:
THE LITERAL TRUTH.
The head of the firm sat in his office. Spread before him on his desk were a score of charts and graphs, which he had been studying carefully. There was a knock at the door and the census taker entered.

“Mr. Smith,” said the visitor, as he opened his book, “the Government would like some information. How many people work here?”

“About one-half,” replied the head of the firm.—$1 prize to D. B. MacRae, 297 Redwood Ave., Winnipeg, Canada.

Google Books
September 1922, The Office Economist, pg. 14, col. 3:
“It reminds me of the census taker who asked the boss ‘how many people work here’ and the boss replied, ‘About half of them.’”

Google News Archive
10 March 1960, Windsor (Ontario) Star, pg. 3, col. 7:
Who Told You That?
The proud owner of a plant was showing his friends around.
“How many people work here?” the friend asked.
“I’d say about half,” the owner replied.

15 May 1963, Boston (MA) Traveler, “Urges Catholics Cultivate Good Public Relations” by Joe Mack, pg. A11, col. 6:
Then one of them asked the Pope: “How many people work here in the Vatican?” The Pope replied: “About half of them.”

Spiegel Online International
09/11/2009
Doubt, Worry and Fear
New York Faces Dramatic Consequences of Crisis

By Klaus Brinkbäumer in New York
Part 4: ‘We’re at a Watershed. Everyone Knows That’
Fred Austin knows Lower Manhattan well; the people, the “New York feeling.” He grew up here. Austin sits at the back of Katz’s, the restaurant he runs on Houston. Over there is where Meg Ryan showed Billy Crystal how women fake an orgasm in the famous scene from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” Here’s where Bill Clinton ate. It’s a room full of photos; a museum that renews itself every day. The pastrami sandwich is its specialty.

The humor is Jewish: How many people work here? “Half of them,” Austin replies.

Google Books
Supervisory Management:
The Art of Inspiring, Empowering and Developing People

By Donald C. Mosley, Jr. and Paul H. Pietri
Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning
2011
Pg. 192:
Journalist: “Your Eminence, the Vatican is such a huge place. About how many people work here?”
Pope: “About half, my son.”
—Anonymous

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Monday, November 26, 2012 • Permalink