So they finally got to the bottom of a box of Iraqi cuneiform tablets dug up in 1976 and found some written by some guy trying to be funny as reported in the New York Daily News:
This one could also benefit from cranking up the laugh track:
“In your mouth and your teeth, constantly stared at you, the measuring vessel of your lord. What is it?
So there you have it: an ancient beer joke. (At least, a riddle referring to its taste, the authors say.) Perhaps something has been lost in the translation through all those many centuries. And since they were meant as riddles designed to communicate truths about life - "wisdom literature," as the authors call it -- perhaps gut-splitting hilarity was not the point.
Well, how many riddles today really bust a gut. Few. What I find more interesting are the underlying premises. The person has a lord. The person constantly sees beer. Perhaps he is saying that the measure of a lord's virtue is his generosity with the beer.
After clicking through various news articles of increasing seriousness, I actually arrived at the scholarly article upon which the story is based. Go to page 117. I don't know why the speculation is that this is the work of a student as there are two references to the impotency of a soldier as well as the ethical status of leaders - plus some sex and a bit of beer. Its a view from down there somewhere and it's a bit telling. Any other ideas? I know from the emails that you've been clamoring for a chance to play Mesopotamian cuneiform scholar so live it up.