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You have two cows

From Academic Kids

fr:Vous avez deux vaches

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"Cow" is sometimes said to be an inherently funny word.

"You have two cows" is the beginning phrase for a series of political joke definitions. "You have two cows" jokes originated as a parody of typical introductory-level economics course material examples featuring a farmer in a moneyless society, using his cattle and produce to trade with his neighbors. The examples ran along the lines of "You have two cows; you want chickens; you set out to find another farmer who has chickens and wants a cow, etc." They were meant to show the limitations of the barter system, leading to the eventual introduction of currency and money. The "two cows" parodies however, place the cow-owner in a fully fledged economic system where cows are used as a metaphor for all currency, capital, means of production, etc. The intent is often to point out flaws and absurdities in those systems.

The first "two cows" jokes were meant to compare opposing economic systems such as capitalism and communism, typically by describing how government and bureaucracy would interfere with one's quiet enjoyment of one's cows. The jokes evolved into satire of various political, cultural, social and philosophical systems and theories. Eventually, virtually anything has come to be usable as "cow joke fodder." Newsworthy events involving actual cows (Mad Cow outbreaks) have also been used as material.

The definitions are examples of the first Internet jokes that circulated in the early days of the Internet. However, the initial variants of these jokes predated the widespread adoption of the Internet and were circulating in typewritten form even by the early 1980s. Being such a readily understood source of humor in many cultures, "two cows" jokes became a part of the international development of the World Wide Web. The jokes are still circulated today, and are translated and quoted on many websites, in dozens of versions, with newer "definitions" added every year. Tucows, the popular download site, is rumored to have taken its name from these jokes, rather than from The Ultimate Collection Of Windows (or Winsock) Software as implied by its logo.

Because of their freedom and universality of topics, "two cows" jokes are sometimes considered a good example of "cross-cultural humor." They can be concise examples (not necessarily scientific) of how different cultures can express different visions of the same political concept, by paradox, hyperbole, or sarcasm. In practice, most such jokes reflect the views of outsiders to the systems being satirised. In the spirit of finding international common ground, some also see them as humorous manifestations of an underlying general scheme of political science that would compare legal or political concepts, such as the rights of ownership, across cultures around the world.

Cows themselves are a frequent subject matter of humor (see cow ASCII art, cow tipping, The Far Side). Some have conjectured that the word cow may be an inherently funny word.

See also

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