Now you can take this one of two ways. Either the chicken simply wants to arrive on the other side of the road, or he is suicidal and wants to reach the afterlife.

You are watching: To get to the other side

This is where my confusion sets in. According to a Wikipedia article, "The first known printing of this riddle was in 1847."

I"d like to know the origin of the phrase "the other side" being used to mean the afterlife.



While dubious that the other side has the double meaning you suggest, it originates in the Greek myth of Charon and the river Styx.

The Styx was the boundary of "Hades, the land of the dead, on the other side."

See, for example

The oldest instance in print that I"ve been able to find of “the other side” in the context of death and the afterlife is from Matthew Henry"s Commentary on the Whole Bible written c. 1710.

The doctrine of the immortality of believers laid down, John 8:51...The property of death is so altered to them that they do not see it as death, they do not see the terror of death, it is quite taken off; their sight does not terminate in death, as theirs does who live by sense; no, they look so clearly, so comfortably, through death, and beyond death, and are so taken up with their state on the other side death, that they overlook death, and see it not.


A phrase similar to this can be found in John Bunyan"s widely circulated book Pilgrim"s Progress from 1684:

When the Day that he must go hence, was come, many accompanied him to the River side, into which, as he went, he said, Death, where is thy Sting... So he passed over, and the Trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

More information can be found here:

It seems reasonable that this widely circulated book having a similar phrase, albeit different, in reference to death could have led to the chicken joke being funny to 1847 listners.


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