What's so practical about a practical joke? Where did the term come from?
-- AV, Golden Hill
Welcome to another episode of As the Word Turns, the Matthew Alice College of Etymological Knowledge. A joke is practical when it involves an action of some kind-- having 15 pizzas delivered to some unsuspecting schmo, dropping water balloons, clever stuff like that. Practical, in this case, comes from the idea of a practice, an action, some insanely stupid trick that only the practician thinks is funny.