Of Shakespeare And Pencils

Ok now listen. I’ve been running this site for coming up on fifteen years now, hunting for interesting, educational and amusing things to say about Shakespeare.

Please, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, can we put an end to every combination of the joke that involves Shakespeare deciding between pencils? Yes, yes, 2B or not 2B. We get it. We’ve heard it, about a million times.

In an attempt to put this one to bed and declare it the oldest known Shakespeare joke, I went googling to see how far back in time I could find it. Anybody know this one?

Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?

That’s A Silly Poem, by Spike Milligan.

I couldn’t pin down an actual year that was written, but Spike Milligan died in 2002. Assuming he didn’t knock that one out on his death bed, this joke is at least twenty years old. His book Silly Verse For Kids was written in 1959, though, so if it turns out this poem was part of that collection then it’s more like sixty years old.

Please stop telling that joke. It is the least original thing anyone will hear all day.

2 thoughts on “Of Shakespeare And Pencils

  1. Looking around more, the best I can find about the modern scale for grading pencils is that it was developed in the early 20th century by an English pencil maker named Brookman (https://samuelglass.net/2009/what-is-a-number-2-pencil/). I’m reasonably certain that Mr. Brookman would have been the first to make this joke! Too bad he never wrote it down. Maybe he didn’t have a pencil?

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