In the spirit of everything old is new again, I’m blogging the classic ‘give the frog a loan’ story since none of the 20-somethings I recently told it to had heard it before. Give the frog a loan is an example of a shaggy dog story; a longer joke full of seemingly irrelevant details with twists and turns that ends in an anti-climactic pun.
Comedian Norm Macdonald tells an expletive-filled version [NSFW]; here’s one for general use:
One afternoon a frog hops into a bank. Seeing a bank teller’s name tag, the frog says, ‘Hi Mrs. Whack. I would like to take out a loan to renovate my lily pad.’
Mrs. Whack is confused because… it’s a talking frog asking for a loan. Trying to be polite, Mrs. Whack says, ‘Please call me Patty. What’s your name? What’s your background?’
The frog responds, ‘My name is Kermit and you may not believe this, but my father is Mick Jagger.’
Mrs. Whack says, ‘Well, I suppose Jagger has a froggy face, so I guess I see the family resemblance. Even though your father is rich, you’re going to need some collateral for the loan.’
Kermit takes out a little pink elephant figurine and asks ‘Is this good enough for collateral?’
Puzzled, Mrs. Whack replies, ‘I have no idea; let me check with my manager.’
‘Sure, tell him I say hello,’ adds the frog. ‘He knows me.’
Mrs. Whack approaches the bank manager to explain the situation. ‘There’s a frog who wants to take out a loan. Apparently, he’s Mick Jagger’s son! However, all he has for collateral is this little pink elephant. Should we give him a loan?’
The manager picks up the figurine, smiles, and exclaims:
‘It’s a knick-knack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man is a Rolling Stone.’
The ending is a pun on the nursery rhyme which contains the similar sounding phrase “With a knick knack, paddy whack, give the dog a bone. This old man came rolling home.”
When I was younger, give the frog a loan was a common enough saying that it became shorthand slang for agreeing to a ridiculous request – usually just so the person would go away.
English is confusing, even for native speakers.
(Let me know your favorite shaggy dog story in the comments. It might inspire a future blog entry.)