Why did the chicken cross the road?

Mike's picture

Everyone has, at some point in their life, been asked this question. Everyone will no doubt be prepared to give their answer.

So how do you know that YOUR answer is, in fact, the ACTUAL reason why said chicken made the journey which has been questioned for so long?

More importantly, who was trying to find out the answer to that question in the first instance and for what reason?

Was there more to the question than the simple on-the-surface one we now hear?

The original joke is reputed to be:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side.

This, being an example of anti-humour, wherein the listener is tricked into thinking there will be a humourous punchline, only to be given a fact.

In my research into the question, I found out that this joke is more than 120 years old, having become widespread by the 1890s when a variant of it appeared in Potter's American Monthly magazine. That variant being

Why should not a chicken cross the road?
It would be a fowl proceeding.

Variations on the animal crossing the road have appeared, with familiarity to the original joke being assumed. For example, a dinosaur crossing "because chickens didn't exist yet", ducks crossing "because it was the chicken's day off".

If only there had been records kept of this question, then every part of the history could have been traced. The original questioner would be known and all the future askings of the question (and to whom it had been asked) would be documented and a full papertrail would exist to allow us to go back to discover WHY the chicken was making the crossing and what bearing (if any) it had on a person or persons, dependent on the outcoming answer.

Unfortunately this historical trail does not exist.

It may be that it was a court case, with a farmer being questioned as to why his horse and cart had swerved through a neighbour's front wall, with the farmer's defence being because he "swerved to avoid the chicken that was crossing the road".

Some of you may already be pre-empting my reason for looking at the question, some of you may be completely confused. Some, I am sure, will simply be thinking I have lost my mind and am making even less sense than normal!

But the truth is, we ALL have chickens crossing roads in our everyday business lives. We all have colleagues who need to be able to go back, historically, to find out what the chickens were crossing for and where the road was.

It could be that our chicken is our most recently acquired customer. The road in question could be the sale and the question our colleagues in customer relations need to know, further down the line, what we did to get that customer to sign up. By having a shared CRM resource, we are able to look through all communications, meetings, correspondence and keep a detailed history of all activities that have been held from the time we first started talking to that potential customer, right through to now, when they are about to renew their multi-million pound deal. Not only do we have the reason why the chicken crossed the road, we have the names of who assisted the chicken, who picked it up and carried it so carefully that it trusted us to look after them from that point on.

In reality, what we REALLY need to know is not WHY the chicken crossed the road, but why was it trying to make the journey on its own without the assistance of someone who had done it before and therefore knew what pitfalls to look out for... but we'll talk about that another time.

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