A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 27, 2014
“Why does no one starve in a desert?” (joke)

"Sand which is” is an old pun on “sandwiches.” “Why surely you can afford it here (the seaside—ed.), for you would not have to pay a farthing if you were to eat all the sand which is (sandwiches) before you!” was cited in Punch, or the London Charivari in July 1845.

A popular form of the pun appeared in the Boston (MA) Post on March 15, 1847:

“A friend asked us yesterday, why no man could possibly starve in the Great Desert of Sahara? We could not conjecture. ‘Because,’ said he, ‘of the sand-which-is there.’”

Three additional puns (Ham/ham, mustered/mustard and bred/bread) were added by 1857:

“Why should a man never starve on the desert of Arabia? Ans.—Because of the sand which is there. How came the sand which is there? The generations of Ham were bred and mustered there.”

English rhetorician, logician, economist, and theologian Richard Whately (1787-1863) has been credited for the entire pun since at least 1868. It’s likely that the original pun of “sand which is” is not his, but that he added the extended puns.

“I asked my caddie for a sand wedge” is a golf “sandwich” joke. “What would you find on a haunted beach? A sand witch” is a popular Halloween “sandwich” joke.


Wikipedia: Pun
A compound pun is a statement that contains two or more puns. For example, a complex statement by Richard Whately includes four puns: “Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert? Because he can eat the sand which is there. But what brought the sandwiches there? Why, Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred.” This pun uses “sand which is there/sandwiches there”, “Ham/ham”, “mustered/mustard”, and “bred/bread”.

Google News Archive
July 1845, Punch, or the London Charivari, pg. 72, col. 2:
AN ANECDOTE, BY COLONEL SIBTHORP.
A CHEAP LUNCHEON.—“Why don’t you walk about, and enjoy yourself like other people?” said Charles Sapling to his friend Harry Bye, as they sat in the lodgings of the latter at the sea-side. “Because I can’t afford it,” said Harry, “it makes me so hungry!” “Not afford it!” replied Charles, “Why surely you can afford it here, for you would not have to pay a farthing if you were to eat all the sand which is (sandwiches) before you!”

15 March 1847, Boston (MA) Post, “All Sorts of Paragraphs,” pg. 2, col. 3:
A friend asked us yesterday, why no man could possibly starve in the Great Desert of Sahara? We could not conjecture. “Because,” said he, “of the sand-which-is there.”

8 July 1847, Litchfield (CT) Republican, pg. 5, col. 5:
Why is there no danger of a person’s starving in the Desert of Sahara?

Because of the sand which is (Sandwiches) there.

8 May 1848, London (England) Magnet, “Varieties, Original and Select,” pg. 6, col. 3:
Why should travelers in the desert never be hungry?—Because they can feast on the sand which is (sandwiches) there!

18 November 1853, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “News Items and Scraps,” pg. 2, col. 3:
A friend asked us yesterday why no man could starve in the Great Desert of Sahara? We could not conjecture. “Because,” said he, “of the sand which is there.”

9 June 1857, Daily Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “All Sorts of Items,” pg. 2, col. 4:
Why should a man never starve on the desert of Arabia? Ans.—Because of the sand which is there. How came the sand which is there? The generations of Ham were bred and mustered there.

5 September 1862, The California Farmer (San Francisco, CA), pg. 191, col. 4:
We have seen it stated somewhere that “the people of Cape Cod will never die of starvation, on account of the sandwiches (sand which is) there.”

Google Books
The Christian Ambassador
Edited by Colin Campbell M’Kechnie
London: Published by W. Lister
1868
Pg. 115 (Archbishop Whately):
One of his best conundrums is this: “Why can the natives of Africa never starve in the great desert. Because they can eat the sand which is (sandwiches) there. But what brought the sand which is there? Noah sent Ham, and his (Pg. 116—ed.) and his descendants mustered and bred (mustard and bread).”

Google Books
Wit and Humor:
Their Use and Abuse

By William Mathews
Chicago, IL: S. C. Griggs and Company
1888
Pg. 242:
It was Whately who said that Noah’s ark was made of gopher-wood, but Joan of Arc was maid of Orleans. Some of the most mirth-provoking conundrums that are familiar to us fell from his lips. At a meeting of the famine-board in Dublin, Dr. Whately asked his next neighbor, “Why is Ireland the richest country in the world? Because its capital is always Dublin.” Again, “Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert? Because he can eat the sand which is there. But what brought the sandwiches there? Why, Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred.”

Google Books
The Sahara:
A Cultural History

By Eamonn Gearon
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2011
Pg. XI:
Perhaps the commonest view of the Sahara, as nothing but a sandy place, is neatly summed up by the nineteenth-century Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, Richard Whately, who is responsible, some would say guilty, of the following speculation: “Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert? Because he can eat the sand which is there. Not content with one groan-inducing pun, Whately went on to ask, “But what brought the sandwiches there? Why, Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred.”

Twitter
Brenda Fin
‏@Brenda_Fin
You can never go hungry at the beach because of all the sand which is there
5:45 AM - 27 Nov 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, November 27, 2014 • Permalink