New York, New York

by Kieran Healy on August 30, 2008

From Overheard in New York:

(family stands facing the empire state building)
Tourist son: Mom, which one is the Empire State Building?
Tourist mom: I think it’s the one with the circley top. (points to the Chrysler Building)
Tourist dad: No, honey, it’s the one way out there, on the water.
Tourist son #2: That’s the Statue of Liberty. [To no one in particular:] I can’t believe I’m part of this fucking family.



Jamie 08.30.08 at 9:05 pm

Hm. Where are they standing, exactly? There are lots of vantage points you can see the two skyscrapers from, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a view of both buildings plus Miss Liberty. Maybe they’re in Brooklyn?


Kieran Healy 08.30.08 at 9:18 pm

According to the site, they were on the top of Rockefeller Center.


noen 08.31.08 at 1:37 am

Bet they know who Paris Hilton is though. Cultural icons, they come and they go.


signsanssignified 08.31.08 at 2:24 am

Favorite all-time undergrad final exam snippet:

“For forty years, the Vietnamese fought the empirical nations.”


Gene O'Grady 08.31.08 at 2:34 am

Reminds me of the English tourists I met doing laundry on my vacation in South Dakota. The man told me that they’d been to see a dinosaur dig near some town in the Southwest and one of their fellow (American) tourists said “I’m surprised they had the dinosaurs so close to the downtown.” Whereupon two other members of his party clapped their hands over his mouth.


Shawn Crowley 08.31.08 at 7:49 am

There is no sport in picking on undergrads. But since I’m no sportsman I’ll do it anyway.

On an exam where the students were asked to describe the mechanism of active transport (across cell membranes): “First it comes and then it goes away.”

Doing a lab on reproduction, we were using sea urchin eggs. The sperm had already been collected and was in a nearby environmental chamber. I asked one of the students to go fetch the sperm. At which time a freshman female asked if one of the male students had produced it. Several possible responses flitted through my head, any one of which was likely to get me into big trouble. So, I just reminded her that we were dealing with sea urchins. She got very red in the face and very quiet.

But my wife, who teaches biology at a major US university, was left speechless when students asked her about the mechanics of “brain transplants.”


Daniel 08.31.08 at 8:34 am

And you believe that that “quote” is not contrived?


novakant 08.31.08 at 10:03 am

They have this section in TimeOut London called “Overheard on the Tube” and some of the quotes there can be quite funny. Since, however, after several thousand tube journeys on various lines at various times of day, I have not once overheard anything remotely as funny and quirky as the stuff they put up there, I have no doubt that these “quotes” are the product of TimeOut writers getting pissed in the pub on Friday afternoons.


Tom 08.31.08 at 11:22 am

I don’t think Time Out’s ‘Overheard Underground’ is entirely made up, at any rate. I’m pretty sure that I was once quoted in it (though saying something which wasn’t even a bit witty, unfortunately).

It’s not really Time Out’s feature, anyway: it’s contributed by this bloke:


Michael Drake 08.31.08 at 11:53 am

Turns out, they were in Chicago.


Frank 08.31.08 at 1:58 pm

Overheard on a Napa Valley tour bus, last week:

Expensively dressed lady on mobile-phone, to her maid:

‘ I’m sorry I can’t be there for the excorcism. Now be sure to ask the ghost-hunters whether they are good spirits spirits or whether they are bad spirits.’

She eventually got off the bus at 1 Nob Hill


Randy Paul 08.31.08 at 3:40 pm

My ex-brother-in-law, when he was a graduate teaching assistant in biology, would routinely ask the undergrads in his lab to go to the supply room and bring him back some fallopian tubes. He claimed that many spent time doing just that.


Kind of sad that someone so loony has the mone to stay at the Mark Hopkins.


Watson Aname 08.31.08 at 5:26 pm

And you believe that that “quote” is not contrived?

Who knows? I’ve overheard even more ridiculous things from tourists though, so it’s certainly plausible.


qb 08.31.08 at 6:38 pm

And you believe that that “quote” is not contrived?

That’s exactly how it went down. I was there.


Lisa 08.31.08 at 8:00 pm

Son #2 is going to be living in the West Village in 3 years, I’m sure.

I think when you see the Chrysler building though you think it *should* be the Empire State Building. It’s just so cool looking.

OK, I’m the idiot who thought it was The Empire State Building at first. In my defense, I was in the 4th grade.


herr doktor bimler 08.31.08 at 10:04 pm

First-year biology tutorial. Class are going through the ritual of taking buccal swabs and smearing them on slides so they can practise their microscopy skills and learn to identify the different kinds of epithelial cells.

“Excuse me, Professor XXXX — this cell isn’t shown in the study guide”.
[Professor XXXX looks through microscope].
[Clinical but penetrating voice]: “That, young lady, is a human spermatozoon.”


Matt McIrvin 09.01.08 at 3:19 am

Ah, yes… the companion to “Why Does It Taste So Salty?”


Kieran 09.01.08 at 4:17 am

#16 has been doing the rounds ever since women forced their way into science class, I think.


kevn 09.01.08 at 5:00 am

Regarding the other VP candidates: They Palin comparison.


Nick 09.01.08 at 10:04 am

#17 – I believe was translated from hieroglyphics in King Tut’s tomb . . .


Ginger Yellow 09.01.08 at 11:19 am

“I have no doubt that these “quotes” are the product of TimeOut writers getting pissed in the pub on Friday afternoons”

I suspect they spend most of their time in the pub regretting the decline of Bradley’s Spanish Bar since they featured it as one of the top 10 reasons to live in London.


Rick Dubin 09.01.08 at 1:39 pm

So this duck walks into Tavern on the Green……..

Made up is funny too…


bdbd 09.01.08 at 2:55 pm

An arena-sized class in intro business statistics, a “round it out to 100 points” 5 point exam question that goes “your friend makes the false statement A about the Law of Large Numbers. Correct your friend’s mistake and explain to your friend how the Law of Large Numbers can be usefully applied.”

One answer: “I would not have someone who cared about the Law of Large Numbers as a friend.”

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