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RHF Joke Headers and Bodies

If you look at the jokes, you will see they have all sorts of strange words and phrases under the title. This section tells you how to interpret these headers.

Each joke has a centered header that gives the title of the joke, the "mailing address" and name of the person who sent it, and some information on the content and quality of the joke. Here's what you might see:

There and Back Again
bilbo@bagend.shire.org (Bilbo Baggins)
Hobbiton Computer Centre
(chuckle, heard it)

The titles are straightforward and set in large bold type. Sometimes these titles were chosen by the people who submitted the joke, but often they have been chosen by the editor. In the case of titles provided by submitters, you will often see words like "submission," or references to things that seem to have no antecedent. Fear not -- and simply enjoy the joke.

The Submitter's Address

If you're not a USENET user, the next line in every joke will be the hardest to understand. The names provided here are actually an address you would type to an electronic mail program if you wanted to send a message to one of these people on the USENET, UUCP NET, ARPANET or, generally, "INTERNET" electronic mail networks.

Because there are so many networks, and they all, at least at one time, used different forms for mailing addresses, these strings of letters and symbols can look like gobbledygook. In general, they consist of three parts, namely "user names," "site names" and "domains." A user name (The part to the left of a % or @, or to the right of an !) is the identification of a person on his or her own computer. This will usually be something like their first name, initials, last name or a nickname. It varies from place to place. You might consider a user name to be like a combination of a person's name and street address number.

A site name is the name of a computer on the electronic mail network. Roughly, this corresponds to a street name in the postal mail addresses that everybody is familiar with.

Finally a domain is usually a collection of computers. This is analogous to a city, state or country. (To get technical, a site is also called a domain.)

Many of them are intuitively obvious -- for example harvard.edu is Harvard University (in the educational hierarchy). Others, unfortunately, will look like gibberish to the uninitiated.

Here's an example of a modern mailing address and what it means:

bilbo@bagend.shire.midearth (Bilbo Baggins)

In this case, there is a domain called midearth, which is quite large, and contains a domain called shire. In that domain, there is a computer called bagend and one of the users on that computer is identified by the name bilbo. We read this by saying there is a bilbo ``at'' bagend. The words in parentheses are ignored by a mailing program, and usually contain the person's real name.

While there are people striving for domains arranged according to geography, that's fairly rare at this point. Instead, domains follow institutional and corporate structure, and sometimes even network structure. Top level domains that you might see include:

The old Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency network--the grandfather of the modern structured networks. (Obsolete)

A special network of computer science research computers, mostly at universities. (Obsolete)

A non-classified military network.

The general domain for commercial institutions and corporations. (North America)

A domain for providers of network services. (North America)

The general domain for educational institutions. (North America)

The general domain for government institutions. (USA)

A network of IBM mainframes.

A geographical domain for the USA.

A geographical domain for Canada.

Geographical domains for Australia.

Geographical domains for European nations (standard 2-letter country code.)

The old network of Unix machines that communicate with a special program called the Unix to Unix Copy Program.


In olden days, machines on the UUCP network had to specify mail addresses by listing all the machines that would forward the mail towards its final destination. Sort of like listing the names of all the postal workers you expect to carry a letter on the envelope. Nowadays, many machines keep big files that list the right route to every known machine, and you don't have to name the postal workers. If a message goes to the UUCP ``domain,'' you hope it gets to such a machine, and that this machine has heard of the computer you eventually want to get to. It's not really reliable.

On the UUCP network, you listed a chain of machines by delimiting them with exclamation points. So a message to:


meant that you wanted the machine decvax to forward the message to machine clyde, which would forward on to watmath, and so on to looking, where you would hope there was a user named ``brad.'' You will sometimes see addresses like this in this book, and it pays to simply look at the end, which is looking!brad.

Another thing to note is that:

Brad Templeton <brad@looking.UUCP>

is the same as:

brad@looking.UUCP (Brad Templeton)

The type of brackets determines what part is a comment, and what part is a mailing address. Both of these are the same as the looking!brad shown above.

Due to bugs in mail handling software all over the network, the editor cannot be held responsible for errors in mailing addresses shown.

The Organization

Sometimes under the name and mailing address you'll see the name of an organization or company to which the submitter belongs. Sometimes this is real, and sometimes a silly line has been filled in by the submitter.

The most important thing to remember is that these organization and company names are there only to help you identify the submitter and tell where he or she is from. No submitter is acting in any way as a spokesperson for their organization or company in this archive. Quite the opposite, in most cases, I'm very sure. These jokes are all submitted on people's private time, and aren't coming from AT&T (for example) or any other company on the net.


Below all this, in parentheses, you will see the joke keywords. These have been added by the editor.

These include quality keywords in the following order: maybe, smirk, chuckle, funny, laugh, sidesplit. I've been very conservative with giving away the latter two ratings.

You will also find "content" keywords that warn you about potential offensive material in the joke. You will find words like "sexual," "scatological," "swearing," or references to ethnic and sexual stereotypes in many jokes. (These are in no way complete descriptions on the possible offensive content of the jokes.)

You will also find keywords like "true" which mark that the submission is supposed to be a factual account, and "original," which means the the submitter (or some one close) actually wrote the joke.

The keyword "heard it" indicates that I felt the joke is moderately well known. Most of these jokes are collected in their own section. The keyword "rot13" indicates a truly nasty joke. All of these are in their own section. ("rot13" is the name of the cypher used to encode nasty jokes so that they can't be read without deliberate action.)

The keyword "topical" indicates that the joke refers to items in the news at the time it was submitted. These jokes are collected in their own chapter as well. Other keywords should explain themselves, and if they don't, don't worry.

Let me say once again that there are mistakes in the keywords, and it is entirely possible you will find sexual or offensive material in a joke that is not marked. These markings exist for your convenience only, and in no way are they a guarantee of the content or quality of a joke.

Joke Bodies

Note first of all that only about 2000 of the jokes in the collection were prepared for formatting. They will be represented to you in proper HTML, and read nicely on your screen. Some are simply presented in plain, fixed-width text, the way they were entered by the submitter.

Where possible in the formatted jokes, editor's comments are set in a special typeface. All other text was written by the submitter of the joke, with occasional changes by the editor.

You'll see various submitter's comments included with the jokes. Some of them may refer to antecedents you won't find in the archive. Don't worry if you're confused. That's what reading the net is normally like.

You may also, from time to time, see various netter's words and symbols that are not used in the real world. One to watch out for is the "smiley-face." This looks like ":-)" and is to be viewed sideways. (Try it.) It indicates sarcasm, or says, "I'm kidding."

Another famous net word is "flame." A flame is an angry or vigourous opinion. It's the net equivalent of yelling.

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