Fact Check

Husband Swap Chain Letter

A humorous chain letter about how to get a better husband.

Published Nov 5, 2000

Claim:   Don't like your husband? A chain letter offers a way to trade up to something better.


Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, November 2000]

This chain letter was started in hopes of bringing relief to other tired and discouraged women. Unlike most chain letters, this one does not cost anything. Just send a copy of this letter to five of your friends who are equally tired and discontented. Then bundle up your husband or boyfriend and send him to the woman whose name appears at the top of the list, and add your name to the bottom of the list. When your turn comes, you will receive 5,625 men. One of them is bound to be better than the one you already have.

At the writing of this letter, a friend of mine had already received 184 men, 4 of whom were worth keeping. REMEMBER — this chain brings luck. One woman's pit bull died, and the next day she received an NFL offensive tackle. An unmarried woman living with her widowed mother was able to choose between an orthodontist and a successful gynecologist. You can be lucky too, but DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN! One woman broke the chain, and got her own husband back again.


Origins:   A version of the preceding chain letter appeared in an Ann Landers column in 1996, but

the underlying joke had been around for a number of years prior to that: folklorists Dundes and Pagter collected a version of the same letter in 1968. Notice that the humor of the piece barely disguises womens' supposed opinion of husbands: "A friend of mine had already received 184 men, 4 of whom were worth keeping."

Some versions contain lines that say of the friend who received 184 men, "They buried her yesterday, but it took three undertakers 36 hours to get the smile off her face."

Male versions (offering relief for "tired businessmen" and promising those who mail off their wives will receive 16,740 women and "some of them will be dandies") were around in the 1950s. The central theme of getting your own burden back if you break the chain has been used in other joke letters, too.

A 1956 joke book presented the following similar bit of workplace humor:

Overworked girls in the Pentagon Building are circulating chain letters of their own:

"Fellow slaves! This is a plan to bring happiness and steak dinners to tired government working girls. It won't cost you a nickel. Simply send five copies of this letter to the girls as underprivileged and neglected as yourself. Then tie up your boss and send him to the girl on the top of the list. When your name reaches the top, you will receive 12,938 bosses.

"Have faith! Don't break the chain! The last girl who did got her own boss back!"

Barbara "doing the boss a'nova" Mikkelson

Last updated:   26 December 2008


    Cerf, Bennett.   The Life of the Party.

    Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1956   (p. 154).

    Dundes, Alan and Carl Pagter.   >Urban Folklore From the Paperwork Empire.

    Austin: American Folklore Society, 1975.   ISBN 0-292-78502-X.   (pp. 7-8).

    Landers, Ann.   "Ann Landers."

    26 August 1996   [syndicated column].

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