Richard Herring: Sometimes the best jokes are lost in translation

We were about to fly off on holiday and, as the seat belt signs flashed on, my wife (top comedian Catie Wilkins) tweeted: ‘I put my phone on airplane settings and it told me not to call it Shirley.’ To be fair, she tweets this every time we fly but so she should, it’s a good joke. I retweeted it.
It’s not like Twitter is a menagerie of humourless pedants with empty lives but when I later checked my replies, someone had informed me that ‘airplane’ was an Americanism and that as I was British I should use the word aeroplane. Yes, because that would be a great joke, wouldn’t it? Firstly, no phone (as far as I am aware) calls this function ‘aeroplane settings’, but even if one did, that cack-handed edit ensures that the joke no longer makes sense. Had I tweeted: ‘I put my phone on aeroplane settings and it told me not to call it Shirley,’ people would assume I had lost my mind.

Are there any Brits that even use the word ‘aeroplane’ any more? We call a plane ‘a plane’, don’t we? Aeroplane sounds like something coined in the 17th century by a huckster in a travelling circus. Nowadays, you only need add the aero if the plane is made out of bubbly chocolate. Though, personally, I’d love to travel in an Aero-plane: you could snack on your armrest if you got peckish, though you might get carried away and end up chewing off a wing. Doubtless someone will now tweet me to say: ‘Your chocolate aeroplane idea is so ridiculous as to be almost comical. The heat generated by the chocolate engines would melt the fuselage.’ Pedantry is comedy’s kryptonite.

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