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WE ALL TAKE FOR GRANTED the delight of checking our e-mail and finding a collection of hilarious jokes, forwarded to us by a loved one, a friend or Suzanne in Accounts Payable. But what do we know of the origins of this invention? Who was the first brave man or woman to say "Eureka! I'll send this joke to all my friends so everyone can have a laugh!"?

The first recorded instance of joke forwarding occurs in one of Cicero's letters from Rome to a friend staying in his villa at Cumae:

My dear Atticus, in case you feel bored in the country, I have enclosed in this letter a truly clever satire entitled "You Might be a Visigoth If . . .," which Pompey sent to me yesterday. If you enjoy it as much as I do, please have your slave copy it onto a scroll and bring it to the houses of Marcus Marius, Aulus Licinius, Lucius Lucceius and Clodius Pulcher.

(Scroll courtesy of the Peabody Collection, British Museum)

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