In response to a recent Language Log post that mentioned Belgium as the New Jersey of Europe ("Willimantic", 9/27/2008), Cosma Shalizi wrote to draw my attention to the Belgian joke embedded in Robert Pinsky's poem "Impossible to Tell".
… In the Belgian Army, the feud
Between the Flemings and Walloons grew vicious,
So out of hand the army could barely function.
Finally one commander assembled his men
In one great room, to deal with things directly.
They stood before him at attention. "All Flemings,"
He ordered, "to the left wall." Half the men
Clustered to the left. "Now all Walloons," he ordered,
"Move to the right." An equal number crowded
Against the right wall. Only one man remained
At attention in the middle: "What are you, soldier?"
Saluting, the man said, "Sir, I am a Belgian."
"Why, that's astonishing, Corporal–what's your name?"
Saluting again, "Rabinowitz," he answered:
This in turn reminds me of an old Irish joke, told at the bottom of an older Language Log post about Tibetan hats. [I note, by the way, that the Wikipedia article linked in that post no longer has a discussion of the history of sectarian violence among the Tibetan buddhist sects known as "red hat", "yellow hat", "black hat", etc. As a result, the proverb quoted in the post ("Whoever has a head has a hat") is not explained by the link. A bit of more informative background can be found e.g. here.]