“A dog bit her, and she had to get a rabbi shot.”


Okay, first we’ll clear away the SpellCheck possibility: this is another Horror from 1978. This is a Mistake.

Dare we venture into a punchline like “Rabies, schmabies, what’s the difference?”?

I really can’t imagine how my student came up with rabbi, a word that I’ve heard pronounced both “raaa-bye” and “rahbbie.” “Ray-bee” never. Besides, the shot is a rabies shot, a shot to prevent the development of the disease rabies. One of my relatives died of rabies. It’s a terrible way to die.

Anyway, at first glance we read that the shot is called a “rabbi shot.” The standard treatment for dog-bite. One “gets” a rabbi shot as one gets a vaccination, a root canal, a haircut, a ticket. The misspelling, or the mis-chosen word, just makes the name of the shot funny.

But here’s a second level to the sentence: “shot” can be a noun, or it can be a past participle. Does one “get” (another versatile word in terms of its meanings) a rabbi shot the way one gets a tooth pulled, a leg amputated, a splinter removed, an identity stolen?

The picture that forms with the first interpretation of the sentence is a little girl extending her arm to a doctor wielding a hypodermic needle that’s wearing, perhaps, a tiny yarmulke. The picture that forms with the second is a little girl crying, off in the corner, teeth-marks in her arm, and looking hopefully on as someone aims a revolver at a reluctant rabbi. The first is some form of modern medicine; the second, perhaps a magical ritual.

Neither seems particularly efficacious for the bite, although the latter seems especially futile— exchanging one life for another (and most likely losing both).

How did they choose the rabbi, anyway? As it was a random dog, did they choose a rabbi at random?

Well, neither procedure sounds like modern medicine to me. And if a dog bites me, it’s modern medicine I want. I wish that relative of mine had had access to it.




About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

6 responses to ““A dog bit her, and she had to get a rabbi shot.”

  • Pat Skene

    Really enjoyed this one…very funny. I read a few nuggets recently that I thought you might enjoy:
    “The program will be televised live, about an hour after the event.”
    “You guys pair up in threes and then make a circle.”
    “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
    Don’t you just love it?

    • RAB

      Very nice! Here’s something back: A Sale sign I once saw in an upscale department store, evidence that people don’t actually think when they use words: “REVLON Eterna! Limited time only!”

  • Moonbeam McQueen

    Wow. Innocent rabbis are dying, simply because people aren’t muzzling their dogs? This is not going to do a lot for Judaism.

    Hilarious post!

    • RAB

      Yes, it’s probably going to result in a drop in enrollment in rabbinical schools, at the very least! What is the world coming to? ;-}

  • yearstricken

    I love that you wrote about the two ways it could be read.

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