Delayed joke recognition

When I first saw this Free Range cartoon, I was baffled, wondering why people were putting their desks down the elevator shafts. It took some staring before I finally got it.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Ummmm … I’ve looked at it a while and I’m still not getting it. Maybe it’s an American thing?

  2. John Morales says

    Only thing that makes “sense” to me is that the desks are treated like those fold-down beds.

  3. Owlmirror says

    Murphy bed

    A Murphy bed (in North America), also called a wall bed, pull down bed, or fold-down bed, is a bed that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall, or inside a closet or cabinet.
    [. . .] 
    In 1989, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” had entered common usage so thoroughly that it was no longer eligible for trademark protection.

    On the one hand, I think I’m pretty fluent in North American English; on the other, my experience with such beds is so minimal (I’ve probably seen them in TV shows and old movies, but I’m having trouble remembering specifics) that if you had asked me what they were called, I would probably have just said “fold down bed”.

  4. Owlmirror says

    It wasn’t that on seeing the caption referring to the “Murphy Bed Company” that I thought: “Oh, I got it”. I thought: “I wonder if that’s the company that makes fold-down beds? Better look it up.” Or in other words, “Murphy bed” was not in my personal vocabulary as meaning anything before I looked it up.

  5. Mano Singham says

    Owlmirror @#3,

    Like you, I did not know until I read your comment that a ‘Murphy’ bed had such a precise meaning so did not even think of looking it up. I had always referred to them as a ‘fold down’ beds.

  6. jrkrideau says

    I am familiar with the term “Murphy Bed” so with that and your warning Mano it probably only took me 15 seconds or so to figure it out.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    I know what is a Murphy Bed.
    I, too, thought those were elevators.
    Later, comma, I got the joke.
    Jocularity, jocularity.

  8. flex says

    I’d didn’t have a problem with the joke, but I will say that the drawing is somewhat miss-leading. If they were true Murphy desks, the alcove would be the same size, not wider as it looks to be. Further, the bottoms of the desks being folded up would be parallel with the alcove opening rather than at a slight angle.

    On a related topic, my wife really likes the idea of the tiny-house movement. At least until we discussed it, and she recognized that anyone who, like we do, stores things using the “first available space” method would have a hard time living in a place where you need to fold up the sink to place your pillow. We aren’t quite as cluttered as some people, but in order to live in some of those houses you need to have strict discipline on where everything goes. Anything new to the home, whether it’s a toaster or a shoe-string needs to have a place assigned to it, and often it means getting rid of something else.

    Which is the same problem with a fold-away, or murphy, desk. What would happen in our home is that the desk would get piled with papers we don’t feel like moving and then it would never be folded away. We have a hard enough time with our secretary (the piece of furniture, we don’t have a person taking notes for us).

  9. ridana says

    As a native speaker of American English, I got the joke as soon as I read the caption. 🙂

    #9 @ flex: I got a taste of the tiny house experience on an overnight sleeper car from Melbourne to Sidney. Everything from the sink, toilet, and shower to the chairs, table, and bed were fold away. It was impressive how much they could pack into such a small space.

  10. Mano Singham says

    flex @#9,

    I have seen some shows about tiny homes. It seems like it could work for a single person but for more than one, I can see it becoming problematic because there is so little flexibility to accommodate individual variances.

  11. says

    If the alcoves were meant to be seen as elevators they would have had floor indicators above them. I had no idea that fold away beds were called Murphy beds but could see that a bed company making fold away desks would be a suitable joke.

  12. says

    I wonder if the design elements that allow for tiny homes drive the cost higher than having an ordinary small home. Making things fold away, etc, is expensive -- you need fancy hinges and more work to produce the components.

    I’m skeptical of the whole small home thing; it seems to me to be an oblique way of defending mcmansions: “look you can have a beautiful house that’s smaller than one of the bathrooms in my house!” Why not just have reasonable sized homes and no fucking golf courses?

  13. says

    I’ve watched a few tiny homes shows and and think the name “tiny home” is a deliberate misnomer with some exceptions. For the most part, they’re just fancy handmade trailers. They’re usually made to be portable in every way any other trailer is made but by calling them “tiny homes”, the owners can get away with not saying they live in a trailer. There is more than a touch of classism to the whole thing. The exceptions are the tiny homes that are actual houses built on one spot and will stay on that one spot.

    (Having watched a fair amount of HGTV and some older comedies I got the above joke as soon as I read the caption, but that’s just because I only ever think of the fold-out beds as Murphy beds and am honestly surprised it’s not a more well-known name for those.)

  14. Mano Singham says


    Apparently trailer homes are not that well-built which is why over time they depreciate in value, more like cars, and do not appreciate in value like regular homes. If tiny homes are built more like homes, keeping that distinction may be about more than just about class.

  15. says

    That could well be the case, Mano. The homes I’ve seen seem really nicely built. Not very aerodynamic for highway travel, but are built as close to regular houses as possible for small, portable homes.

    I’m curious how often they are used like regular trailers. I’m trying to picture the usual lakeside holiday trailer park with a few of these parked for a long weekend…

  16. jrkrideau says

    @18 John Morales
    Not at all. Given the general growth of everything these days, Diogenes would probably be using a shipping container these days.

  17. EigenSprocketUK says

    FWIW, in the UK we haven’t heard of Murphy beds. And “quitting” is most often synonymous with resigning (a job) in the manner of quitting your assignment. At the end of the working day, we just go home. So I was doubly perplexed until I read these comments! Thank you.

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