Even a joke should have some meaning

Alice Through the Looking Glass chapter 9:

However, there would be no harm, she thought, in asking if the game was over. `Please, would you tell me — ‘ she began, looking timidly at the Red Queen.

`Speak when you’re spoken to!’ The Queen sharply interrupted her.

`But if everybody obeyed that rule,’ said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, `and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for you to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that — ‘

`Ridiculous!’ cried the Queen. `Why, don’t you see, child — ‘ here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation. `What do you mean by `If you really are a Queen”? What right have you to all yourself so? You can’t be a Queen, you know, till you’ve passed the proper examination. And the sooner we begin it, the better.’

`I only said “if”!’ poor Alice pleaded in a piteous tone.

The two Queens looked at each other, and the Red Queen remarked, with a little shudder, `She says she only said “if” – ‘

`But she said a great deal more than that!’ the White Queen moaned, wringing her hands. `Oh, ever so much more than that!’

`So you did, you know,’ the Red Queen said to Alice. `Always speak the truth — think before you speak — and write it down afterwards.’

`I’m sure I didn’t mean — ‘ Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen interrupted her impatiently.

`That’s just what I complain of! You should have meant! What do you suppose is the use of child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning — and a child’s more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn’t deny that, even if you tried with both hands.’

`I don’t deny things with my hands,’ Alice objected.

`Nobody said you did,’ said the Red Queen. `I said you couldn’t if you tried.’

`She’s in that state of mind,’ said the White Queen, `that she wants to deny something — only she doesn’t know what to deny!’

`A nasty, vicious temper,’ the Red Queen remarked; and then there was an uncomfortable silence for a minute or two.

H/t Bjarte Foshaug

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