American punchline to the French joke:
The proprietor of the, um, hat shop says to the American, "But Monsieur, I cannot sell you un capeau noir unless I am certain your wife has indeed passed on. We must be sure she is dead."
"OK," says the American, and walks outside the shop. Soon, there is heard a short, sharp report. The American returns.
"OK," he says. "Now how much?"
@idontundersand: Does this help answer your question?