Tag Archives: nautical joke

“Where does the Ocean Lay to Sleep?” Joke


The informant’s demeanor was theatrical, adding to the comedy of the situation. It was overly fanciful, which made it evident that the joke they were planning to tell was something rather simple in structure and recitation.

“Where does the ocean lay to sleep?” they asked, prompting me for a response of some sort.

“Where?” I asked.

They grinned, genuinely a bit proud. “On the seabed.”


They stated that they hate the piece, but it happened to be the first joke that came to mind when they searched their brain for jokes that they knew. They wanted to tell another joke, but simply couldn’t think of one.

The informant found the joke out-of-place in a “knock-knock” joke book they owned as a child.

They interpret the joke as a play on words. Specifically, they said “My interpretation of the joke is that it’s funny because the ‘seabed’ is obviously the floor of the sea… so where the ocean sleeps– well the ocean doesn’t sleep– which is, you know, it’s interesting and it’s fun to imagine: if it did sleep, where would it sleep? Naturally, on the seabed which is also a play on the English word of where we usually sleep: bed.”


The joke is effective due to its play on words specifically in conjunction with the English language. It’s simple and easy to understand for an English speaker as a joke that places emphasis on having a double meaning. The joke personifies an inanimate object– the ocean– to provoke the audience’s imagination without immediately giving away the answer. The resulting punchline is easy to understand and is thus satisfying for the audience. “Seabed” is a rudimentary word in the English language that works in fulfilling the audience’s active imagination as they picture a personified ocean sleeping on the ocean floor.

Nautical play on words

Jennifer has been a close friend of my mother’s since childhood and has always been an aunt-like figure in my life. Multiple members of her family have at one point babysat for me as I was growing up and our joint families have often celebrated holidays together. Currently a 55 year old, Christian white (though with Native American Indian heritage on her biological father’s side) woman who works in Escrow in Glendale, CA, she grew up in La Crescenta, CA.

Jennifer also, essentially, grew up on boats. Her family owned a boat, a beach house in Newport Beach area, and a place in Avalon, on Catalina Island, and she frequently spent time on the boat and going to and from Catalina during the summer. Her father also had a fishing charter boat on which he would take out people that wanted to go fishing, and, she said, “my mother would have been involved with boats for forty years.”

She related to me a sort of joke, or pun, that her mother used to make while on the road, driving, that makes a play on nautical vernacular:

“Oh, what’s in the road? A head?”

This is a pun on the phrase “Oh, what’s in the road ahead?” an expression that comes from looking out the window of the car, down the road, and wondering what lies up ahead. However, as a member of a  nautical family, at least in this usage, she’s not referring to a physiological human head, but rather the “head” from a boat, or the toilet. Thus, as Jennifer says about her mother, “By pausing when she does [between the “a” and the “head” of “ahead”], it sounds like there’s a toilet up ahead, in the road.” Jennifer relates that this joke is very typical of her mother, “Things like that, I grew up with, where she [my mother] would constantly…basically, be quizzing us and having fun with words, and seeing how you can change it, change the meaning by simply pausing or stretching a vowel.”