I recently came upon a short story, Death of a Foy (1980), in the compendium The Winds of Change (1983). In the intro, Asimov states that he was "hardly able to stop laughing", but I just can't seem to get the joke.

In particular, it's a two page story that ends with the paragraph

"Give my big hearts to Maude, Dwayne. Dismember me for Harold's choir. Tell all the Foys in Sortibackenstrete that I will soon be there --"

What am I missing here?

I suspect it's word play in the same vein as two of his other stories in this collection. (plays on "slow and steady wins the race" and "much ado about nothing"). Perhaps that's misleading me, but given the publish dates it may just be a 30+ year old reference.

The two other stories and their wordplays were

  • Sure Thing (1977); "Sloane's Teddy wins the race." => "Slow and steady wins the race."
  • About Nothing (1977); "Much Adieu About Nothing" => "much ado about nothing"

Amusing side note: in About Nothing, the character was killed for that pun.

2 Answers 2


It took me a second to get it; you have to say it out loud. When you do, you might hear a bit of a familiar melody come to mind.

He's playing off the lyrics to George M. Cohan's "Give My Regards to Broadway":

Give my regards to Broadway
Remember me to Herald Square
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street
That I will soon be there

A full story just to build up to the punchline.


This is called a feghoot: a story that builds up to a pun for its punchline.

Asimov seems to have had a fondness for feghoots, as he did this in several stories:

  • "Loint of Paw", about a criminal who uses the statute of limitations and a time machine to his advantage, has the punchline "a niche in time, saves Stein" (a spoonerism of "a stitch in time, saves nine")
  • "Battle Hymn" has "Mars says yes!" (for The Marseillaise)
  • "Sure Thing" as you mentioned has "Sloane's Teddy wins the race" (for "slow and steady wins the race")
  • "About Nothing" as you mentioned has "much adieu about nothing" (for Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing)

In this case, it's a play on the chorus of the song "Give my Regards to Broadway".

Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square,
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street, that I will soon be there;
Whisper of how I'm yearning to mingle with the old time throng;
Give my regards to old Broadway and say that I'll be there ere long.

It seems that Asimov had misremembered the penultimate line or perhaps knew another version of it. "Tell all the Foys in Sortibackenstrete" seems like an intended spoonerism of "tell all the boys in Forty-Second Street".

Which is a shame, since he seems to have based the title of his story on that misremembered line. It should have been called "Death of a Fang".

  • 1
    The wikipedia page lists this story as an example. "Isaac Asimov used the song "Give My Regards to Broadway" to form an elaborate story pun in his short story "Death of a Foy".[3] He uses the Marseillaise in the short story "Battle-Hymn"[4] for the same effect."
    – JollyJoker
    Jun 30, 2017 at 14:08
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    boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=482118 says the story was called "Sure Thing." TIL there's a word for stories like these; thanks! :D
    – Shokhet
    Jun 30, 2017 at 15:54
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    What's the difference between a feghoot and a shaggy dog story (which is the name I've heard for this type of tale)?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 2, 2019 at 13:31
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor A shaggy dog story is just a long story to build up to a punchline or oftentimes even without a punchline, while a feghoot specifically has a pun for its punchline.
    – SQB
    Dec 2, 2019 at 15:08
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    Asimov was not alone in misremembering the words to "Give My Regards to Broadway". Alexander Woollcott also has "Tell all the boys in Forty-second Street" in his 1932 obituary for Father Francis Duffy, collected in While Rome Burns, p. 49. Perhaps there was a variant version of the song. Feb 9, 2023 at 14:32

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