Fact Check

The Blind Man

Woman embarrassingly discovers that 'blind man' has more than one meaning.

Published Jan 8, 2000

Legend:   When a man at the door identifies himself as a "blind man," an unclothed housewife too late realizes that the phrase has more than one meaning.


[Playboy, 1964]

She had just finished her shower when the doorbell rang. Tiptoeing to the front door, shivering in plump, pink nudity, she called, "Who is it?"

"The blind man," came a mournful voice, so she shrugged and opened the door with one hand while reaching for her purse with the other. When she turned to face the man, he was grinning from ear to ear and she saw that he was holding a large package in his arms.

"You can see!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah," he nodded happily. "And mighty pretty too. Now, where do you want I should put these blinds?"

[Reader's Digest, 1958]

A fellow in our office told us about a household incident of which he had been an innocent but perplexed spectator. Our friend had called a Venetian blind repairman to come pick up a faulty blind, and the next morning, while the family was seated at the breakfast table, the doorbell rang. Our friend's wife went to the door, and the man outside said, "I'm here for the Venetian blind." Excusing herself in a preoccupied way the wife went to the kitchen, fished a dollar from the food money, pressed it into the repairman's hand, then gently closed the door and returned to the table. "Somebody collecting," she explained, pouring the coffee.

[Collected on the Internet, 1997]

Two nuns are ordered to paint a room in the convent, and the last instruction of the Mother Superior is that they must not get even a drop of paint on their habits.

After conferring about this for a while, the two nuns decide to lock the door of the room, strip off their habits, and paint in the nude. In the middle of the project, there comes a knock at the door. "Who is it?" calls one of the nuns. "Blind man," replies a voice from the other side of the door.

The two nuns look at each other and shrug, and, deciding that no harm can come from letting a blind man into the room, they open the door.

"Nice tits," says the man, "where do you want these blinds?"

Origins:   Disabuse legend is anything other than a funny story — what visually challenged individual upon being

Cartoon of the legend

asked to identify himself is going to say "blind man"? It's true tradesmen will choose to identify themselves by the profession or purpose which brings them to your door (hence shouts of "meter reader" or "cable guy" when challenged through the peephole), but someone panhandling on the basis of his disability will not see himself as having turned his affliction into his profession. He will thus continue to answer questions of "Who are you?" with "John Smith," not "The blind man."

The earliest versions of this story (which appear to date to the mid-1950s) leave out the nudity element we raconteurs now can't tell the story without. In those earlier tales, upon hearing the guy at the door identify himself as the blind man, a clothed woman (and it's always a woman) matter-of-factly opens the door and hands him money. She figures he's collecting for the disadvantaged, not that he's blind himself, so at that point in time the story did not turn upon the heroine's presumption that the "blind man" wouldn't see her.

The way we now tell the story, the presumption of blindness is key. Modern versions featured a naked housewife, a gal who's either thrown off her clothes to better tackle a big cleaning job (at least that way she keeps her outfit clean; we ladies picked up this tip from Lizzie Borden), or she's on her way into the shower. In the 1950s it was enough for the central figure to mistake the identity of the tradesman for a fundraiser; half a century later the tale has to turn on the woman being caught in the nude if this anecdote is going to survive on the "funny story" circuit. Audiences in the 1950s looked to be amused; in the 2000s they expect to be titillated.

A hastily-arrived at assumption leads to displaying oneself in the buff to a total stranger. We laugh at the heroine's discomfiture even as we assure ourselves we'd never jump that wildly to a worthless conclusion. (Which, by the way, is the underlying admonition of the tale — measure twice but saw once, especially when parading around in the all-together.)

Another "blind man" tale has a slightly different twist:

[Reader's Digest, 1967]

In our college post office, a collection box appeared marked: Help The Blind Fund. It filled up rapidly with small change. One day it was replaced by a card which read: Thank you for your contributions. The Venetian blinds for our dormitory room have now been purchased.

Barbara "blind ambition" Mikkelson

Sightings:   At the end of the first episode of the British television comedy The Vicar of Dibley ("Arrival," original air date 17 November 1994), Geraldine the vicar tells local resident Alice the "blind man" joke:

Last updated:   5 June 2007


  Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 213-215).

    Playboy.   "Party Jokes."

    September 1964   (p. 83).

    Reader's Digest Treasury of Wit and Humor.

    Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association Inc., 1958   (pp. 471-472).

    Reader's Digest.   "Campus Comedy."

    April 1967   (p. 93).

  Sources Also told in:

    Braude, Jacob.   Braude's Treasury of Wit and Humor.

    Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964   (p. 199).

    Cerf, Bennett.   The Sound of Laughter.

    New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970   (p. 2).

    Cohen, Daniel.   The Beheaded Freshman and Other Nasty Rumors.

    New York: Avon Books, 1993.   ISBN 0-380-77020-2   (p. 92).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 138).

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