CHAPTER VIIa. An Analysis and Examples of the Types of Humor

The bases for the classification of humor have been established. We will now take a closer look at the various kinds of humor. There are as many kinds of humor as there are mistakes that we can make. An examination of each type will show how it works and also how to create humor.

Accident Humor (Nonserious accidents)

In his confusion he bit a large piece out of his teacup instead of the bread-and-butter.

(Alice in Wonderland)



This is an accident. If it is seen as harmless it fits our formula for humor: Humor is produced by the assessment that there is a mistake, but one which is not bad or harmful. In the Alice in Wonderland example above, the accident seems harmless enough. His teeth seem not to have been knocked out, and no one says the cup is precious. The mistake is as follows: There is deviation from what we expect. We expect a sip, not a bite. There is deviation from purpose, that of drinking tea. When people slip on jello they go flying about in the air. That is not the usual or best way to walk. The result looks like disorder or chaos. A new, funny, or odd, unexpected, purposeless, chaotic world is created. There is purposelessness in a supposedly purposeful world. There is deviation from, or defeat of, our intentions. It can be humorous to see a dignified person harmlessly slip on common, insignificant jello. This would be called "sinking humor." But if one breaks a leg, it is taken seriously and ceases to be humorous. There may be other reasons why someone may not laugh at any joke. They may have assessments about other things at the time. Whether or not we laugh depends upon all of our observations, not just the assessment that there is a mistake.

We may laugh because the person who accidentally slips is someone we do not like. In this case, we may laugh at the person, rather than at the mistake. This is not humor. It is like saying, "She made a mistake and that is good, and it serves her right." It is more revenge than the acceptance needed for humor. It is more like laughter of the cruel, mad people in the comics. They laugh when cities burn. Laughing at people is not humor. And it does not fit the definition of humor given earlier. For humor, we need positive, accepting assessments. Fear, blame, revenge, and other evaluations and emotions, block humor.

The world of humor is like a strange mirroring of our own world. Whatever is seen is backwards, upside down, inside out, and sure to be such that no matter what happens it has to be wrong, nonsense, or unexpected. Correct answers are unheard of, and order does not exist at all. Making sense and accomplishing a task never happen. Sound a lot like the everyday world? The usual laws of science do not apply in this world (like the world of religion). The usual actions, feelings, statements, rules are all mirrored out of this world. They are all replaced here by the strange science-of humor.

In this world there is no fighting, no anger, and no hatred. It just is not allowed. It cannot survive for a moment. That is because to be humorous we have to accept and evaluate the mistakes are OK. If there is fear, or the thought that something is bad, there can be no humor. So it is a laughing-place just like that described in Uncle Remus (Harris 1972:53): "It is: a sure-enough place that the four-footed creatures had found necessary for their comfort and convenience."

It is a world of friendliness and love, joy, and acceptance, where nothing can be bad. The ugly and horrible are destroyed in an instant, and turned into warmth and cheer. The impossible is one of the easiest things to do. "He is so unlucky that he runs into accidents which started out to happen to somebody else." (Don Marquis) Problems are all solved by means of a smile. Here, humor yields all knowledge, happiness, and fun. Accident humor helped us to stumble into such a world. A banana peel has associations with mischief and monkeys. It is a bright, yellow color and stands out or contrasts with things around it. That is, it is an interesting image, as is the image of one suddenly flipping on one's head like a monkey. Thus, visual imagery and contrasts also make this a funny scene. And the banana is a slimy thing, enough to send a mischievous chill up any child's spine.

The humor of this, as any situation, is not simply due to one type of humor or a single assessment. The humor, as with any emotion, partly describes: the evaluations involved, the feelings, the actions, and the situation. There can be one or more deviation from each of these at the same time. One person may laugh at the banana peel example for one reason, and another person laugh at it for other reasons. We may laugh mainly because we want to see someone else get hurt. But, if so, this would not be humor.

Thus, one can have nearly the same assessments in two relatively similar circumstances, yet have different emotions in each. This is because the feeling may differ. Or one could have similar feelings and context, but have different emotions because the assessments differ. Accident can occur in each factor. There may be humorous verbal, perceptual, physical, or contextual accidents. Some people do not think that slipping on a banana peel is funny, even if no one is hurt. The assessments here may possibly be: "This is no surprise anymore. I've seen this happen too often." "I don't like slapstick humor. There is not much to it." "I can't be concerned with comedians like this when I have serious work to do." "I'm preoccupied with my own problems and cannot be involved with anything else right now."

Nevertheless, all this is complex. It may be that some people laugh at the banana joke each time it is presented no matter how many times they have seen or heard it. They have, in effect, a positive assessment and acceptance of that sort of humor. They are always ready to say, "I like humor and enjoy it." A fearful, negative or overserious person would tend not to laugh at any kind of humor. They would lack this kind of humanity. They do not have an accepting attitude. The people who did not enjoy the humor because preoccupied with their problems may be shaken out of their preoccupation and laugh anyway. They may soon experience the pleasurable "It's O.K." aspect of humor and these pleasurable, accepting factors may block out their serious, fearful thoughts.

We said the person slipped on a banana as an accident. If, however, someone purposely put the banana there to be slipped on, it would be no longer strictly an accident. The viewer put it there, planned it, intended, and expected one to slip. This would be a practical joke and classified under that type. The resulting humor would differ from accidental humor. Stage humor cannot be strictly accidental, because it is planned to look accidental. The humorist intended to slip and so it is not genuinely harmful. We often react to it as if it were accidental anyway.

One use of accidental humor is to show how important it is for us to be careful. It may teach us a lesson or reinforce us if we are already careful. It gives us a vivid image, a yellow peel and person both spinning in air, which we may think of when we are not being careful. But one of its main uses is to give pleasure. Thus, each kind of accident would need to be analyzed separately to determine the kind of appraisal, feeling, action, and situation involved. In each case of humor we must know each of these for the specific person and situation. A small child may laugh even when someone's legs break, because the child does not realize that it is a quite painful, hurtful thing.

Freud (1960), in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, suggested that accidental slips, jokes, combinations of words, reveal something about us. They tell us things about ourselves which we may not otherwise admit or reveal. For example, one university Dean said at a faculty meeting, "I believe in committees, and whenever I get a chance I sit on them." This is an unintended ambiguity or double meaning pun type joke. It may be that he revealed his true intention of wishing to "sit on" or "squelch" the committees. It may, of course, have just been a simple error, not signifying anything more. Lying takes concentration. The lie can easily or accidentally slip out to reveal itself as a lie. This is the main point of courtroom cross-examination. The errors can reveal our actual desires rather than what one might wish people to believe and thereby produce humor.

A nonsexual sentence may accidentally take on a double and sexual meaning or reference. We tend to slant things in terms of our needs, desires and beliefs. They show in our humor. This would suggest that what appears to be slips or accidents may rather be intended. If the slip is truly accidental it may tell us very little except that the person says accidental things to a certain degree. One may even learn to create verbal accidents. This may also be suggestive for analyzing the banana example. Some who slip on bananas may be accident-prone. We may laugh because they seem to slip quite often. That they slip shows that perhaps they are not well-coordinated, or not well organized and we may (inhumanely) laugh at them or hold them up to ridicule.

Analyzing humor is not straightforward and simple. In one sense, then, there is no such thing as pure accidents. The accidents were determined by our desires, habits, hastiness, methods of thinking, beliefs, etc. Accidental humor shows or tells something about the kinds of thought and associations we make. The fact that we have accidents tells us something about ourselves. We may laugh at people who are involved in an accident, partly because they are deviating from ideal behavior. We may laugh "at" them as ridicule, or merely laugh because of their actions, but not laugh at them as a people. We may, in accidental humor, be laughing at a person's ignorance. We may laugh when a cat "spooks" or scares itself. We may laugh at accidents because it makes us feel fortunate or lucky. To laugh because one appraise-feels superior may be faulty reasoning and be "laughing at," rather than humor, but one laughs anyway. We may also inhumanely laugh if our "enemy" or someone we dislike has an accident. We only deceive ourselves if we think this is humor.

Metaphors may be accidentally created by means of a computer which randomly combines two or more words. We tend to find it difficult to combine unlike things because they seem so unlike, or because we do not associate one with another. By having it done accidentally, or by a computer, it breaks through that difficulty. Some computer writing programs use this kind of metaphorical juxtaposition. We may, then, select which accidentally combined metaphorical combinations seem especially interesting to us. The combinations may be produced by juxtaposing cards with words on them, such as one card giving the formula, "x below y," and two other cards with words on them such as "once" and "time," thus yielding "once below time." The poet, Dylan Thomas, once used this phrase. Metaphors are often enjoyable or even humorous because of the deviations they produce. Accidental humor is also related to other types of humor, such as, slapstick, defeated expectation, behavioral deviation, mistake, sinking and practical jokes.


AESTHETIC HUMOR (Cartoon, Insight, Metaphor, Perceptual)

Humor is an aesthetic object. Jokes are works of art. Gaut 1998:52

Humor transforms the world like love and poetry transform the world.

Humor is a form of art.

Humor is a form of beauty.

Humor is a form of art and aesthetics. We can say, "That is a beautiful joke." In the sense that aesthetics of painting, music, dance, etc. are based on and presuppose thought and by thought we mainly mean language use, humor as a largely linguistic medium, like poetry and prose, can involve the aesthetic more than other forms of art. There is, also, however less verbal humor such as the perceptual, cartoons, and behavioral humor. Humor is found as an important part of music, painting, dance and the other arts as well. The aesthetic is especially exemplified in the section on metaphor. Humor could be taught as one of the fundamental arts along with poetry and music. It is a great oversight in our education that humor, emotion and critical thinking are not taught in the schools at any level. Comedy is sometimes taught in theater and literature, but it is narrow in comparison with the larger field of humor. (For the teaching of humor in the university see Wycoff 1999) only discipline devoted to critical thinking, philosophy, is taken by only a few people and not a basic requirement as is mathematics. Just as there is music appreciation, there can be humor appreciation. We can enjoy humor as we enjoy art. But humor has an even more universal appeal. A cartoon is as much a form of art as a Picasso, Magritte, Dali, Rembrandt, or Bruegel. Black humor is the fundamental basis of one genre of novel. (See section on Black Humor) Humor and art both often require distancing for appreciation. And there is good and bad humor as there is good and bad art. (See section on god and bad humor.) Both humor and art involve a positive cognition which causes bodily feeling. (cf. Shibles 1995bcde) The types of humor will be seen to usually be types of art because metaphor is fundamental to both. (cf. Nilsen 1993:244) Gaut states, "Jokes can be elegant, expressive, complex, original, an exercise of creative imagination, etc, which count towards their status as art." (1998:65) Yuri Borev (in Dziemidok 1993:26) saw humor as a form of aesthetic insight: "The comical in art is a means to uncover the contradictions of reality and as such is an aesthetic form of critique."

Mike Martin's (in Morreall 1987:172-186) claim that only if an incongruity is enjoyed for it's own sake is it aesthetic, must be rejected. "For it's own sake" is unclear, a fallacy of abstractionism, and itself a kind of joke. Suppose one says, "I like this ice-cream for its own sake." What does this mean? Could one reply, "Oh, then you don't like it for me?" or "I like it for you." Jean Paul held a similar view, "The joke knows no other goal than its own existence." (in Haberland 1971:115-116) If this were the case, then "sick" and black humor would not be objectionable because they are only enjoyed only for their own sake. There is, however, some truth in this view. (See section on black humor.) Tsur (1989:253) sees humor as an aesthetic quality of a shift from one script to another.

Allegorical Humor. [See also context deviation, expand metaphor, juxtaposition, insight, irony (saying one thing but meaning another), satire, simile or analogy.]

Allegory is a type of metaphor and so a use of figurative language. "Allegory" derives from the Greek word allegorein, meaning "to speak figuratively." It is a use of symbol, of symbolic figures or actions to represent human actions and traits. It is saying one thing, but symbolically meaning another. One meaning derivation of "allegory" is "to speak other." It is, therefore, a kind of irony and satire and so is related to irony humor and satire humor.

Allegory is an intentionally false or disguised way of saying something. It is, therefore, a conscious mistake, deceit, or literal falsity. With allegory one seems to be saying one thing, but rather says another. This, like irony, creates humor. Metaphor connects unlike things which do not usually go together, thereby resulting in the enjoyment or humor of metaphor. Allegory can be an enjoyable kind of metaphor. With allegory the characters of a story may stand for some general truth or concept such as kindness or reason or temptation or pleasure, e.g. George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Owen Barfield (1964) regards allegory as a kind of false metaphor, a hypostatization and synthesis. Demetrius (ca. 100 B. C.) in On Style (1965), stated that allegory is a kind of metaphor which renders mystery. Max Eastman (1913) regarded allegory as a "direct metaphor" if there is no explanation of the symbols of the allegory. Maurice Evans (1953), pointed out that allegory was once thought of as the religious notion of universal analogy, but that it no longer is. Paul Feldkeller, in "Die Einstellungsmetapher" (1928), saw allegory is a kind of subjective metaphor which cannot be explained by purely objective, conceptual thought. Thomas Gibbons, in Rhetoric (1767/1969), thought of allegory as a chain of metaphors. Gracián (1642), uses metafora to refer only to extended metaphor or allegory. Quintilian (1921), also refers to allegory as extended metaphor. Alexander Jamieson (1818), refers to allegory as a "strained" metaphor. William Tindall (1962) says that allegory is an incomplete analogy, a symbolic work of which the meaning is not completely clear. This gives meaning to Demetrius' view above, according to which allegory renders mystery.

Allegorical humor is sometimes regarded as an expanded metaphor or extended metaphor. In this book "expanded metaphor humor" is listed as a separate type of humor because one can expand a metaphor without it being allegory. Myth and fable are kinds of allegory or very similar to allegory. Myth and fable involve purposely telling what is not true, or giving a false or fanciful account as if it were true. The humor involved is that of the apprehension of a seeming contradiction. It is something you are asked to believe which you do not believe. This raises philosophical questions, as does religious belief. Is such belief believing what you do not believe? One may strongly wish to believe, but if one has insufficient evidence how can one honestly believe or deceive oneself? This is the paradox which leads to humor, absurdity, as well as insight. It is Kafkaesque.

Allegories are works of fiction, for example, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Dante's Divine Comedy, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Swift's Gulliver's Travels. But allegory may, nevertheless, represent and give profound insight into scientific and philosophical truths. It may also present heuristic hypotheses. Allegorical humor may serve as a critical and satirical tool in order to criticize existing institutions and beliefs, as well as to propose new models and theories for consideration. John MacQueen (1970) believes that allegory and satire are intimately connected; one may gain a better understanding of an allegory by considering it as a satire, and vice versa.

In "moral allegory" a character represents an abstract idea. As such, it is a kind of personification and will be discussed under "personification humor." In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, the Duchess says, "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it." (1960:84) Presumably, even this statement has a moral. We can look for a moral in every leaf, stone, tree, and word. Not that a moral is there, but as with all ethics, as Shakespeare said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." (Hamlet ii.2.256) We can give anything a second level allegorical meaning-allegorize every word, act, and object. Thus, in Alice in Wonderland, we could carry this too far and ask for the moral of such a statement as, "I think it will rain." Carroll may here be giving a humorous extension of the moralizing of Aesop's fables.

In this sense, Greek myths and religions, as well as more recent religions, are based on myth, on allegorical, symbolic, or pseudoscientific explanations of the world. Such "explanations" are on the positive view humorous (or on the negative view ridiculous and harmful) to those who are not religious or belong to a different religion. To a nonbeliever, "God created the world," is a perverse, indoctrinative joke; to the scientist, as scientist, it is a pure fantasy. On the other hand, to a believer, "People resemble and came from an ape," is a joke and much of science is regarded as being merely humorous (or on the negative side, annoying).

Symbol and signs of a supposed second mystical reality or world are notoriously unintelligible and arbitrary. A star on the flag only arbitrarily stands for a state. The intricate design of a leaf held up to the sun is no more evidence for a creator than it is evidence for control and creation by a God-of-Humor inhabiting a jack-in-the-box (cf. Chapter 10 on religious humor). Symbols are a priori assertions or are arbitrary. They do not constitute evidence or causal explanation. Thus, allegorical symbols may be graciously laughed at, however seriously people may take them. Astrology and numerology are laughable extended metaphors or allegories. So also are metaphysical theories and extended religious metaphors.

The number three, for example, seems to be a magical number. We become captivated by it and expand the metaphor. For example: three parts of state, three souls, three parts of humans (mind, body, soul), holy trinity, Hegelian logic, Kantian philosophy; logic with its major premise, minor premise and conclusion; Freudian categories of id, ego, superego; transactional analysis with its parent, adult, child; in funeral ceremony three handfuls of dirt are thrown on the casket, and casket-bearers walk three steps at a time, etc.

Myth and religion are entertaining and fun unless taken seriously or followed in practice. They are like comic strips. To think of people as witches on Halloween is fun; unless we take seriously the witch trials based on the Bible's "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Many of the concepts in religion and myth are so perverse that they are difficult to take in any humorous way (e.g. the concept of hell, or prohibition of abortion). The notion of "soul" is often regarded as a joke even by Christians. In some cultures or periods of culture some believe in three souls. Others believe in one. Some believe trees have a soul. Recently, merchants picked up on the idea and sold "pet rocks" which supposedly have emotions, feeling, and perhaps even-a soul. The Menabe tribe of Madagascar supposedly believes that the soul of a king passes into a large snake. In Bali, a bamboo tube, extends from a body temporarily buried until cremation, to allow the soul to escape. When Cardinals choose a Pope the windows are sealed with lead to prevent evil spirits from coming in and influencing the decision. To many of us, such allegories or extended metaphors are absurdly humorous. Others take them as serious or literal truth.

Plato distrusted language and thus thought that we can only present truth in myth, extended metaphor, and allegory. For humor and for insight one may create elaborate, fantastic, extended metaphors or myths. It is often remarked that most people will listen to a myth before they will listen to a true statement. This may be partly because myths are a form of enjoyment and humor. They are fun. Thus, if we wish to present a serious point it is ironic that one the most effective ways of presenting it is through humor, allegory, or myth. We must sing and burn candles even for scientific inquiry-scent the laboratory with incense and perfume. Children's books must have rhymes, pictures, and fantastic creatures which no one has or will ever see.

Because allegory can be taken in two ways: one humorous, one serious, it is a way of sugarcoating the pill. One can say things and be critical in this indirect way where serious, direct presentation would be unacceptable either because of its lack of evidence or because the reader would be offended. Allegory in the sixteenth century led to emblem books and pictorial iconology. This is symbolism or metaphorical imagery of a perceptual sort. Here, allegory combines with "perceptual humor." It is as if art or certain perceptual objects have some mystical meaning-the "evil eye," for example. Just as symbol may be question-begging, unfounded, or arbitrary, emblems and icons may be illusory. There may be no universal meanings or mythical second world for symbol to represent. ("Anagogic" refers to symbols which supposedly refer to such universal meanings or myth-taken-seriously worlds.)

Each believer undermines the next believer's myth. Each sees the other's beliefs as a joke. The jokes become perceptual in the form of emblems and icons. One constantly seeks hidden or concealed meanings, signs from above and below, in a paranoid fashion. Looking for such allegorical meanings gradually lessened since the middle ages, at least outside of religious circles. The religious still wear their mythical crosses and charms. By so doing they reveal their comical indoctrination.

Freud's psychoanalytic theory may be thought of as allegory, looking for hidden meaning. He expands the metaphor of "conservation of energy" to apply to the id, ego, and superego. Theodore Sarbin (1964) wrote that Freud was captivated by his metaphors, and committed the metaphor-to-myth fallacy. He took his metaphors literally. Sarbin pointed out that a romantic mystique has evolved around Freud's colorful metaphors, but that experienced clinicians realize that the mystique is unjustified. Freud's model is itself a myth or allegory and, if taken literally, is a joke. The joke has been taken seriously and been pervasive throughout our thinking for generations. Unfortunately, it has until recently been the major model of therapy.

Ambiguity and Puns (Substitution, context deviation, incongruity)=

The research literature on puns is vast, but largely inconclusive. (Attardo 1994:111)

Puns can inspire momentous action, as well as narrative. They may also become the instrument of knowledge. ( Culler 1988:15)

One function of humor is to call attention to the ambiguity of all things.

Ambiguity humor is a mistake or clash of different meanings. It often involves double or multiple meanings, sounds, or gestures, which are taken in the wrong way, or in incongruous ways. They are thus a kind of category-mistake, contradiction, incongruity, or metaphor humor. A statement is not funny because it is a pun. It is funny because the clash of meanings brought together is incongruous, but seems to be congruous, or congruous but seems to be incongruous. Pun is only the rough characterization of the rhetorical device involved. Puns depend on other explanations for their humor. A behavioral or perceptual pun may involve taking a sign or gesture in the wrong way. James Brown stated that puns link two contexts, reconcile disparate meanings, and have a semimetaphoric status. (1956) in his article, "Eight Types of Pun." A double entendre is a pun in which one of the meanings alluded to is risqué. Example: "I want to make you............mine."

The pun is also a shift of context in a sense other than double meaning. It shifts our attention from the meanings to the words and sounds themselves. Puns and ambiguity often involve surprise that the word is being used in the wrong way. It may be thought of as ignorance of our language and so we laugh at someone's ignorance. Puns are often disliked. This may be because they form such an arbitrary and artificial connection. It is often thought to be merely verbal play. The German word, Der Kalauer, refers to both puns and stale jokes. Gracián (1642) says, that the conceit or farfetched metaphor involves subtlety of thought, whereas puns are merely verbal wit. Thought, however, we have seen has no meaning except as language-use so the thought vs. verbal distinction fails. However, it may be seen that virtually all humor involves assessing, because all emotion involves assessing. Even perception and behavior involves evaluation. Thus, it seems inaccurate to say that puns or verbal wit do not involve "thinking." Furthermore: "Puns are not a marginal form of wit, but an exemplary product of language." (Culler 1988:15)

McLuhan & Fiore (1989), in The Medium is the Massage, seem to base much of their thinking on metaphors and puns which they take literally, or are captivated by. They hold views seriously which seem rather to be absurd jokes. For example, they say that we "think linearly" because we read straight, consecutive lines. They say, "the medium is the massage" punning on the word "message." Some of their metaphors give insight, others are howlers. Compare their statements with: "Light bulbs communicate," "Light bulbs illuminate," "Plants wave at us." Pun and ambiguity can be used as critical tools with which to explore the language of McLuhan & Fiore.

Pun and ambiguity may also be seen to sometimes give insight, for example, by pointing out that the medium itself (e.g. the computer, TV) also is a kind of communication. The use of ambiguity here can also show us how fluid and confusing language can be. We can and do create puns and take words in the wrong sense, thereby making mistakes or creating category-mistakes. If, however, we are aware of our ambiguities and puns, we need not be led into error. It appears that McLuhan & Fiore are often misled by their own metaphors and ambiguities.

One humor-producing aspect of ambiguity is that it is not clear what is meant, and so our thinking goes into a state of anxiety or shock. If it is not seen to be harmful anxiety, this ambiguous state can lead to humor. We laugh because we are "up in the air." The information floats about and doesn't fit into any particular categories. The orderly world is suddenly chaotic. This aspect of ambiguity will be discussed when "free association humor" is presented. Ambiguity humor shares its vagueness with metaphor. Rudolf von Allers (1955), asserted that metaphor is almost always ambiguous. Metaphor relates unlike things and does not specify how these things are related. The relation is uncertain, and open for various interpretations. "The world is atomic," may be developed and expanded in many ways. For example, "ideas" were and are usually still regarded as mental atoms. Metaphor is often interesting or even humorous because of such ambiguity. "Humans are computers," is partly a joke and partly an interesting hypothesis, or metaphor, which may be expanded in order to gain insight.

Certain jokes, commonly but not kindly called "moron jokes," often involve ambiguity. They involve taking a double meaning word literally, or in the wrong sense. For instance, Q. Why did the moron bring bread and a knife when she went downtown? A. Because of the report of a traffic jam. "Jam" here has double meaning. It is used metaphorically in the sentence, but the comic takes it in its literal usage. "Jam" is used in a way which is inappropriate, but which seems to be appropriate. And the following statements are ambiguous: "Forty-three people were injured, none of them serious." "You need not worry about the future. It will be fine, but you do not have any." The experience of incongruity confronts us with something which seems to be both true and false at the same time. But we soon see that we do not clearly have both truth and falsity at once. However, it may not be especially interesting to us that "jam" can be used in two incongruous ways. It is called a "moron joke" because supposedly the person does not know of the error or incorrect meaning. We then laugh at the person. The pun joke may contain ridicule.

Ambiguity can also show confusion if taken in a negative sense. The person who made a pun may not laugh, but be quite confused, angry, or embarrassed. Ambiguity, if taken seriously, leads to anxiety, indecision, or anger. It is a form of the "fallacy of equivocation" in philosophy to use the word in the wrong sense without realizing the mistake.

The above analysis yields the first technique of creating puns: Take a double meaning term in the wrong sense. Thus, one may look up a word which has two senses, and use it in the wrong sense. If the two meanings are incongruous it is an incongruity pun. As words tend not to have contradictory meanings, they are more likely to be incongruous than contradictory. The more the incongruity, the more the humor in some cases.

Ambiguity combines with value deviation, blatant vice, or taboo humor when a person takes every word and gives it, even by force, a sexual connotation. A woman commends a male musician's musical technique. Our outrageous comedienne of puns then adds, "I'll bet he does have a nice technique." Farfetched conceit may be used in this type of pun. Accidental puns which reveal one's frustrations or desires relate pun to accident and insight humor. "I joined the Navy to see the world, and what did I see, I saw the sea." A pun may be accidental as in the following example. In his book on humor, Dziemidok (1993:85) unintentionally wrote "Taylor" for "tailor."

Behavioral pun might involve taking a sign or gesture in the wrong sense. An extended thumb may signify hitchhiking or that one should leave. If one is asked to leave by motioning with one's thumb, one may ask if the asker is hitchhiking. A sleepy nod may be taken as assent. The verbal equivalent is, "I can see by your nodding that you all agree with me."

Circularity humor also involves pun. There is a double meaning such that the statement may be taken in a circular sense and a noncircular sense. For example, "You get to see a lot if you keep your eyes open," may be taken in a literal or a metaphorical way. It is a circular pun. Incidentally, "lot" has two senses and is a pun also.

Traditional rhetorical devices indicate several types of ambiguity as follows:

antanaclasis: a word repeated with a shift in meaning, e.g. "Steal away to steal." A homonymic pun. "Learn a craft to avoid living by craft."

asteismus: a mocking reply, for example, by using the other's words in a different sense, e.g. "I'm first rank." "You are rank all right," or "Some smell." It involves a play on a word. A horse went into a bar and asked for a Martini and catsup. It then said to the bartender, "I suppose you think it's strange for me to walk in here and ask for that." The bartender replied, "No, I like them that way myself." Here the ambiguity is in reference to a previous statement. What is most strange is that a horse can talk. There is also "defeated expectation" and "sinking humor" in the bartender's reply.

paranomasia: repeated word with only similar meaning, e. g., "Out sword, and to a sore purpose." A play on words which only sound somewhat alike.

syllepsis: a word used with two different meanings, a faulty reference to two words. "He lost his hat and his temper. "

Linguists speak of the pun using an adverb of manner, a "Tom Swiftly." Examples:

"I hate pizza," said Tom crustily.)

"I'll brew some coffee," said Tom perkily.

"I'll have the lamb," said Tom sheepishly.

"I'm being crucified," said Tom crossly.

"I'll have another sugar," she said lumpishly.

"Give it to me on the level," Tom said flatly.

"Thanks a lot," Tom said grossly.

"This boat leaks," said Tom balefully.

"Turn up the heat," said Tom coldly.

Children use the following sort of pun:

Adam and Pinch-Me went to sea in a boat. Adam fell off. Who was left? If you answer correctly you are in for it. Thus, this results in a trick or practical joke as well.

"Did you hear about the purse who stole the man? It got persecuted." This combines "persecuted" and "electrocuted" with "purse" and a sound likeness ambiguity of "pers-" and "purse." It is also reversal humor.

"Are you fond of tongue?" "Yes, and I like it still." Here one-term ambiguity combines with value deviation or blatant vice. One is able to say that one still likes tongue and that one wishes the person would be silent at the same time. More critical and philosophic is: "Can you see a visual field?" Here "field" is used literally and metaphorically, but the correct metaphorical use is being called into question and compared with literal use. That is, can one see a metaphorical (visual) field as one can see a regular field? Are we being misled or captivated by the term "field" if it is taken literally? Also, category-mistake may be involved because one does not see a visual field. It is just a range of seeing which one has. One sees fields, not visual fields. This is insight humor combined with pun, category-mistake, or context mistake, and taking-terms-literally type of humor. This is not a usual type of humor. One may have to learn to appreciate philosophical jokes. They are not accessible to everyone.

The following is even more difficult to understand: "Puns: Camus sees everything through the concept of absurdity." This means that Camus gives everything a double meaning. One is a correct meaning, the other a meaning that is an absurd meaning. The result is that Camus' double-interpretation is itself ambiguously absurd. It may be easier to think of it as a circularity joke and regard "absurdity" (a double meaning) as a synonym of "pun" (a double meaning). It is contradictory humor to say "All is absurd," because this statement itself would be absurd. Camus, then, says something and nothing at once.

Also, the absurd is, in a sense, the opposite of pun. Pun is an acceptable mistake. The absurd is sometimes ambiguously regarded as a synonym of fun nonsense, and sometimes as a negative statement. "The absurd is absurd," is a pun. This is also a case where the pun takes on an aesthetic quality, and may be called an aesthetic or poetic pun. And all of this is to show that the pun, which was sometimes called "false wit," can be a significant poetic and philosophic tool of inquiry, as well as being humorous.

James Joyce' (1947) Finnegan's Wake is filled with multimeaning puns. There are so many meanings for each word that the work is almost a history of civilization. There is a minimum of words with a maximum of references, so combined as to produce an "all is one" view, because all the congruous and incongruous meanings of a word are related. Metaphor, similarly, can function to relate unlike things until everything is related to everything else. This is presented in the form also of Joyce's circular, repetition view of history. The Wake is dominated by Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker who is referred to throughout in many ways: HCE, Here Comes Everybody, Haveth Childers Everywhere, Howth Castle and Environs ( of Dublin), Haroun Childeric Eggeberth, etc. This combines pun with connotation. On the basis of mere initials, HCE, different things are identified. Whereas many words have limited meaning, names, initials and letters can take on unlimited meanings. Letter abbreviations can always be literally punned on. And this is suggestive for words as well, because we can arbitrarily stipulate meanings for words also and so pun on their stipulated meanings. The Wake begins with a polylingual thunderclap: "The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!)" (Joyce 1947:3)

You "Wipe you glosses [gloss and glasses] with what you know," in attempting to understand the puns and multimeanings. The statement also renders Kant's epistemology. There are themes and key words that provide surprising puns and associations in each paragraph. The puns relate to words in many languages: Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Gaelic, Russian, Italian, French, German, Norwegian, and numerous other languages. The Wake begins with the following multimeaning paragraph: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs." The book ends: "A way a lone a last a loved a long the…." The end of the book supposedly continues with the beginning of the book again to suggest that history will repeat itself.

"Riverrun" suggests the technique of allowing HCE and other characters to metaphorically and by stream of consciousness represent anyone and anything. It is also Dublin's River, Liffey, which flows past the church, "Adam and Eve's." Adam and Eve obviously suggests the myth of creation. "Swerve of shore" refers to the course of the river, but also to sensuous curves of an enticing island. The water reaches Hill of Howth and the latter becomes also HCE. It is also as if Ireland lures invaders as the waters beat against the Hill or Head of Howth. "Commodius vicus of recirculation" refers to Vico's (vicus) theory of history as repeating (recirculation) itself. "Vicus" is the Italian word for Vico and Vico was an Italian. Vico, in Italian, also means "street." Commodus refers to the decayed times of the Roman emperor, Commodus. "Commodious" suggests also spacious and easy, as well as the commode or decay, as well as the polluted fluid of the river. We end our analysis here before we barely begin. Joyce presents pun or ambiguity in a metaphoric and poetic mode to yield humor, insight, paradox, allegory, fantasy, etc. It's all there, the entire alphabet. His work may be studied in detail for techniques of creating puns and ambiguities. Joyce's own high-pitched reading of the Wake is also unusual, impressive and, depending on one's view, humorous. Numerous guides from that of Campbell & Robinson (1944) to more recent ones, exist to aid in the interpretation of Joyce. It is certain that looking for the possible multimeanings contained in the work will never end. And it would seem that he wanted it that way-the greatest pun of all. Our failure to find all the meanings signifies the never ending riverrun……

The Wake does have meanings, too many perhaps, but it sounds like nonsense. Humor arises from the fact that that which seems to make no sense at all, is so full of meaning. It is not that with which to start children off with, or read aloud to one's barber. The following paragraph illustrates. It is yours. No explanation will be given: "The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy." (Joyce 1947:3)


The following is an analysis of several puns and ambiguities. The analysis indicates also the linguistic technique involved.

"To ask if the fetus is in itself a person is a misconceived question." This insight pun suggests that it is erroneous to think of a fetus as we think of people. "Misconceived," meaning "mistake," is literal with "question" and the sentence, but has a second or metaphorical meaning as a "misconceived" (as a child wrongly conceived) question. It is an aborted question. "Misconceived" is metaphorical to the sentence as well as to the word "question." This metaphorical sense of "misconceived" connotes and is connoted by the word "fetus" and the process of birth. It involves connotation humor. Here the associated, connoted terms are "fetus" and "misconceived," as both are related to birth.

But there is also another level of meaning. The statement itself is about abortion and about the view that the fetus is a person, and so one should not abort because it would be killing. The statement and argument is turned around by the pun of using the word "abortion" to apply metaphorically to "question" as an "aborted" question. It states, in short, that the only justifiable abortion here is the abortion of the mistaken question not of the fetus. It is a reversal joke. The pun here is, then, the double meaning of the implied topic of the sentence with a metaphorical use of the term "misconceived." The sentence serves as an argument for abortion. In summary, the pun "misconceived" has:

a) a literal meaning as "mistake" which is literal to the sentence.

b) a metaphorical meaning which is suggested by "fetus" and so by the implied notion of birth.

c) a reversal joke and clash of double meaning resulting from moving from "aborted fetus" to "aborted question." There is an additional pun on "question" because it refers now to both 1) "Is the fetus a person?" and 2) the issue or abortion question.

"Not long ago he had a heart attack. Today he has a son." This is incongruity humor, but also "heart attack" may metaphorically mean that he fell in love, which lead to his having a family.

"An easy transition from scared to sacred and sacred to scared." The pun is created by showing that these terms which have similar sounds may well, in fact, have the same meaning in an analytic sense. That is, "sacred" means "being scared" of death and deity. A pun or double meaning is thus created yielding insight. It suggests how one may learn to become religious and fear that which supposedly eliminates fear. It produces contradiction humor.


"Where is dignity when you dig your grave?"

I wanted Stuttgart, but just got Streugut [grit]

Sign in laundry in Italy: Ladies leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time

To Mafia moll:What am I am getting you for your birthday? How about a neckless?

Sign at airport: We take your bags and send them in all directions.

Policeperson after catching a woman concealing books under her sweater: "It was the biggest bust of the year."

Die Ruhr is the not especially clean river Ruhr, but Ruhr also appropriately means dysentery.

There is a vas deferens between children and no children.

Hugh More (hu-mor)

Does the doctor use people as guinea pigs? He even uses guinea pigs as guinea pigs.

Education kills by degrees.

The fool is by no means a fool.

The British woman injured herself trying to slide down a barrister.

How to find a cat. Look in the catalogue.

All men eat, but Fu Manchu.

The man knows, the woman knows better. [Der Mann weiß, die Frau weiß besser.]

The horse barn doesn't look very stable.

I'll have a cup of tea and a tart.

Our lawyers never leave, they just lose their appeal.

You cannot be humorous if your name is not Hugh.

"What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?" "I don't know, and I don't care."

Their request for weapons was not greeted with open arms.

He quit teaching math when his parrot, "Polygon," died.

Only three people? If you don't have four, you can't have a forum.

The winter will stop them cold.

"Do you smoke after sex?" "I don't know, I never looked."

Automöbel. (in Möbel means clumsy thing or furniture)

(Re: Clark who is a Kantian) Who has a last name which begins with "c" but sounds like "k"?

Pick up line: Hello. I won't beat around the bush."

Love is a comedy of Eros. (Evan Esar in Cousins 1989:127)

The book is a portrayal of a boy who strayed from a trail (poor trail).

Thackeray, who said that humor is love, has the middle name of "Makepease."

"I want to commit suicide." "Okay, it's your decision, but you will have to live with it."

"Death is good enough for the common person." "Good enough" here means that it is "quite good." It also has the contradictory or ironical, opposite meaning of "not good at all." It is to suggest, perhaps, that if the common person never investigates or inquires into death and other things, but instead seeks mystical or dishonest approaches to death, then the uninquiring person is not really alive and so death is suitable.

"Louis got lewd." There is a double meaning of "lewd" here. "Lewd," by means of sound similarity, refers to "Lou" or "Louis." The interesting part of this is that it seems like this metaphorical "louing" makes sense, but it doesn't. It is appropriate, but isn't. It is absurd humor. One tries to imagine what it might be like to "lou." He is doing what any Louis would do.

"I read the author, then I read her book." A second or metaphorical meaning of "read" is stipulated here which suggests that to understand the reading, one must understand the author. It is similar to: "To obtain a high grade, study the teacher as well as the book."

"A writer must serve her sentence." Writers are prisoners and pushers of words. She does not just put thoughts into words. Language has epistemological primacy.

"Criminal justice is criminal justice." This seems circular but contains a second level of meaning, the insight that what goes for justice in the courtroom is often based on revenge.

"Ridicule is an offense mechanism." An insight pun. Ridicule is often a defense mechanism. It may involve laughing at others in order to make oneself feel superior. But, ridicule is also aggressive in being negative and forward. The various meanings all seem to apply quite well to the mechanism of ridicule. "Offense" even rhymes with "defense." In this example, the seemingly incongruous is seen to be congruous. A pun may be especially good if both meanings are true, but bad if one or both meanings are empirically or theoretically false.

In philosophy, close in form to pun and ambiguity are the fallacies of accentuated words, equivocation (using words in different senses and confusing them), many question fallacy (for example, "Have you stopped beating your dog?"), etc. Amphiboly is the fallacy arising from ambiguity of grammatical construction. The premise is proved on the basis of one interpretation, then falsely applied to the other. Also, there is the simple fallacy of ambiguity. The following are types of illogical fallacies.

"Some dogs have shaggy ears. My dog has shaggy ears. Therefore, my dog is some dog." "A crust of bread is better than nothing. Nothing is better than true love. Therefore, a crust of bread is better than true love."

Fallacy of composition is exemplified above and also in: "A plum is a fruit. Therefore, a large plum is a large fruit." To make the error obvious, compare: "A large mouse is a large animal."

The reader may practice analyzing the following nonoriginal puns. Identify the ambiguous word, sound, or statement. The same meaning may also be represented by two different words. A pun is often two different meanings for the same word. Circularity humor is two different words for the same meaning. The reader may show what types of humor the following puns involve as well as what the use or point of the joke is. Is the example good or bad? This could be tested on a scale of one to five from good to bad, and answered on computer sheets for scoring. Texts of this sort may be given to examine language defect, and dysfunctional personality, to see what may be learned both about the patient as well as about how humor works.

Because with pun one must understand the double meaning, double sound, or contextual aspects of meaning, examinations of puns may also serve as a test for the thorough understanding of a foreign language, or as a way to aid in teaching a foreign language. Here are the sorts of common-a-garden pun we usually encounter. If we find them quite good or bad, we may try to determine what makes them so: "Tourists taken in." (Road sign) "Woman's bawdy." "You may think as you please." Undertaker signs letter, "Eventually yours." The tire spoke. Her English teacher's name is Miss Pell. "We are the world," becomes "We arm the world." Q. "How did the bee break its leg?" A. "It fell off its honey." "Don't go into the jungle. You will just make a food out of yourself." In Alice the mouse makes the mistake of trying to get the wet ones present dry by telling them "dry history." Alice mistakes "knot" for "not," and the mouse's tail for a tale.

Such ambiguity adds force to the exposition of confusions which trap us in our thinking as we use language. We often, for instance, have the idea that the etymology of a word determines what its meaning really is. "Philosophy" means in Greek, "love of wisdom," but as a definition or a use of the word "philosophy" we may be quite misled by this-just as much as thinking that one cannot get "ill" in a "well." And this is another way in which language can mislead us. Because there is something called "faculty psychology," does not mean that there is "student psychology." One does not wake flowers out a flower bed. In Alice the Mock Turtle puns on his teacher who was called "Tortoise" because he "taught us." There is a pun on lessons which lessen by one hour every day, that being why they are called "lessons." In addition, the following subjects are taught: Uglification (multiplication), Ambition (addition), Reeling (reading), Writhing (writing), Distraction (subtraction), Derision (division), Mystery (history), Drawling (drawing), Stretching (sketching), Laughing and Grief (Latin and Greek), Seaography (geography, and Fainting in Coils (painting in oils). (Carroll 1960:91)

Q. What happens if you drop dynamite into a well? A. Noel (No well).

"Give me a hot dog with nothing on."

Esso when phonetically spelled in Japan means a stalled car.

"It's so nice out, I think I'll leave it out."

Boxer: "I'm going to play Picasso, and put you on the canvas."

"Lost: umbrella belonging to gentleman with bent rib."

Q. Should a woman have children after forty? A. No, forty's enough."

"The shooting of the hunters was finished quickly."

Q. Have an accident? A. No thanks, I just had one.

"Sit up Joe, take that sweet out of your mouth and put your feet in."

One reason why some puns are better than others is that they combine with uses such as gaining insight, allowing us to say what could not otherwise be said, etc. That is, they combine with other types of humor. What makes certain puns interesting is not merely that there is a double meaning, but that the meanings are interesting, as are the uses to which the pun is put. The enjoyment of the pun alone is based on reacting to the fact that words seem to say one thing, but say another incongruous thing. This alone may suffice for the enjoyment of puns. They become richer with the selection of specific meanings and combination with other types of humor. Basically, then, pure puns are enjoyed by those who like cleverness with words and language itself. Perceptual puns, e.g. in music and art, are also possible. The worst puns may be those which deal merely with forced, superficial, linguistic ambiguities, such as "punny," for "funny." There is no insight gained here, merely the show of the similarity of the sound of two terms very close in meaning.

Should dissimilarity puns be combined with insight or powerful argument, a superb pun may result. A poor pun may result if based on a bad argument. With pure pun humor alone we often feel cheated. We expect someone to say something, but find the person is only artificially playing with words. It is like a practical joke. The preference here may then be for humanistic, rational, philosophic, and poetic insight puns. An excellent insight pun is created especially when both of the double meanings are significant. This takes the pure pun mechanism of incongruous double meaning to turn it into a critical tool of language and meaning to produce new understanding. The pun is thus appropriate and avoids being farfetched, trivial, or a practical joke. This view is in opposition to those who hold that the pun is merely dysfunctional and trivial.


Behavioral Humor (nonverbal humor) (accident, deviations, defense mechanisms, mistake, perceptual, trick, practical joke, slapstick)

The gorilla Koko has a sense of humor. (Fry 1987:69)

A. Introduction. Some humor words partly describing a behavior are: chuckle, guffaw, howl, roar, snigger, chortle, titter, twitter, giggle, frolicsome, caper. But here we will concentrate on behavior which is humorous. This deals with the behavior of animals and humans. The behavior of things is discussed primarily under perceptual humor and under other categories. The main distinguishing feature is that of being nonverbal. Behavioral humor, like perceptual humor, is nonverbal humor. But it is not purely nonverbal, because behavior presupposes language use, and language use is verbal. Purdie (1993:15) states accordingly that behavior is always linguistic, textualized. This oppposes, for example, Premack's (Gamble 2001:172) suggestion that one can think without language, and Gamble's statement that the gorilla, Koko, "does know the true meaning of words." (174). (cf. Helen Keller literature and ordinary-language philosophy of Wittgenstein) It has been already argued that thinking is basically verbal and so to have the thinking required for humor, it essentially involves the verbal. We can never have perception or behavior per se or in itself totally unconnected with the verbal.

Infants and animals without language cannot have humor in the same way as can humans. As they do not speak, we do not know what humor is for them. Does a rabbit, for example, have a sense of humor? Gamble (2001:173) stated about gorillas and chimpanzees, "Nothing that an animal could do would constitute unequivocal proof of a humor experience." Within this limitation it was found that gorillas can "make-believe": put on jewelry, fancy clothes, "pretend to talk on the phone or pretend to juggle with objects," tie the shoelaces of the researcher together and sign for "chase me," "joke" about cleaning one's teeth with one's foot, mislabel white as red, and even rhyme by signs: "flower pink, fruit stink." (Gamble 2001:173-4) Gamble argues that McGhee's stages of a child's development of humor is also seen in chimps, apes and gorillas. (168) I maintain that this is a personification and violates the principle that without our language we do not know how other animals think. However, we can find external patterns of symbol using just as we do with insects, bees, dolphins, birds, etc. Furthermore, we do see a kind of "communication" between humans and other animals. Koko does "mislabel" and a child of two likes to mislabel, for example, call a dog a cat. But we cannot say that they both mislabel in the same sense. Again, we should not personify this to think, for example, that our cat is laughing at us, or that our cat loves us (sorry). Gamble notes that a safe environment is needed for humor to take place. This coheres with the view that an acceptance of a deviation is needed for there to be humor.

Such humor, however, centers around action. It is mistaken, senseless, incongruous, or contradictory action. Behavioral humor is created merely by making a mistake or deviation in one's actions. Just do something wrong. Take any verb which describes action and perform the action incorrectly. This results in: walking like a duck, riding a bicycle backwards, etc. A guide to behavioral humor is the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, etc. It is especially for those who enjoy action at the expense of the verbal. Almost anyone can understand a pie in the face. But behavioral humor can be extremely sophisticated as well. The slogan for behavioral humor is: If you must do something, do it wrong.

Behavioral humor is not good or bad in the same way as verbal humor is. Nor does it give the same sorts of insight. Behavioral humor gives a limited, or at least different, kind of insight. It is insight which involves how to do something, consequences of actions, associations of the symbolic language of movement and gesture. If it is to be especially good, it must produce insight, and if this is mainly produced verbally, then behavioral humor will not usually be as sophisticated. On the other hand, the insights of behavioral humor are those of the dance, acting, mime, the clown. Whatever intuition is contained in these areas can produce enriching humor as well. To perceive behavior requires assessment, and assessment is linguistic. Therefore, behavior presupposes language. There is no strictly nonverbal behavioral humor. In this sense we can ride a bicycle in French. Because behavior excludes the directly verbal, or relates to it by gesture and other ways, it would be useful to give behavioral examples of each type of humor.

B. Behavioral Humor by Type (See also perceptual humor, caricature, cartoons)

Accident behavior humor: Woman accidentally walks into a men's restroom.

Allegorical behavior humor: An action represents or symbolizes something on a second level. Dance and acting provide examples, as does the extended acting-out of a pretense. Human flaws of personality may be revealed symbolically. One person may represent justice, and another vice. There is often humor in seeing a person represent an abstract term. Love, then, is seen eating breakfast. A person could symbolize an animal, or thing, but this will be presented under personification humor. Gestures are symbolic actions. Gesture sets up a new sort of language and in this way, behavior develops into a language of communication. Thus, behavior becomes verbal, and along with it gestural language humor. Gestures also often stand for verbal statements. Mistakes and deviations in the gestures create humor. Allegorical behavior is acting in one way, but really expressing another action symbolically. The humor is from the shift

Ambiguous behavioral humor: One pretends to reach for a cigarette on the cash register, but takes cash instead. Such gestures may be paradoxical as well. Beckoning with one's finger could mean things other than "come here." It may mean, "Well, now what are you up to?" or its meaning could simply be ambiguous. Suppose one beckons with one's little finger instead of the index finger. What does it mean? Behavioral pun involves the multi-meaning of gesture or action and may be analyzed as pun was analyzed.

Category-mistake behavioral humor: Socks worn as gloves.

Circular behavioral humor: Action whereby one tries hard, yet gets nowhere; one repeats the same action, such as cleaning a clean glass.

Conceit behavioral humor (farfetched behavior): A greatly exaggerated act or gesture. Beg on one's knees for a toothpick. Rob a bank to pay your parking meter.

Context deviation behavioral humor: A person returns from a long auto trip and makes a hand signal for a left turn before entering a room.

Contradiction behavioral humor: Smile when serious. Boil an egg without water. A judge picks the pocket of a thief. Rich person wearing old clothes. Incongruous characters are put together. Negativistic, psychiatric patients systematically do the opposite of what they are told to do.

Defense mechanism behavioral humor: Rests on acting out, escape, regression (acting like child), sublimation, strutting to try to show superiority, wish fulfillment, etc. An illustration would be having a nervous twitch, or compulsive behavior, such that one may needlessly repeat the same act of cleaning a room, washing one's hands, or compulsively stepping on every crack in the sidewalk.

Behavioral deviation from desires, familiar, ideal, practical, role, purpose, rule, tradition, the usual: Men dressed entirely in pink. Make a chess move by moving one's piece off of the table. Comb your hair with a fork. Drive a car in circles. Open can with screwdriver. Live in a furnace, library, or old junk car. The philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, once washed his host's dishes in a bathtub. Wear half a moustache. Deviate from the way one normally eats. (Even a slight deviation can produce humor, but the amount of deviation can produce more up to a breaking point.) Suck a lollipop while teaching a university class. In the military, soldiers were required to hold a canteen of water until a bird came along to drink from it, or put a finger on a helmet on the ground and run around the helmet until told to stop.

Deviate from the way in which we usually hold a cigarette. We usually hold a cigarette between the first two fingers. Any deviation, even the slightest degree, is seen to be humorous, or weird. Raise the cigarette up or down an inch between our fingers and it creates humor. Change its angle and vary these changes as the cigarette is placed between each set of fingers. Then, turn the cigarette around with the burning side facing you; to take a puff, flip the cigarette over so the back of your fingers now face you, and suggest that this is the way tumblers smoke (connotation humor). Then deal with the deviations from the way smokers usually bring a cigarette to their lips, flick ashes, put out cigarettes, e.g. crushing them until they are completely destroyed. Vary the placement of the cigarette on the lips and push it in until only a half inch of cigarette sticks out. Let the cigarette stick to your lip allowing it to hang down. Vary the way to inhale and puff smoke. Every slight deviation can create humor unless it is done poorly.

Exaggeration behavioral humor: Child takes long strides as if he or she were an adult. Child tries to fly with propeller on his or her beanie.

Expand metaphor behavioral humor: In charades you have to represent a snake. After slithering and hissing, you bite someone's leg.

Defeated expectation behavioral humor: A performer is about to play the guitar, but each time before she begins, she talks instead. She never does play it.

Unexpected honesty behavioral humor: You mention to your job interviewer that you just discovered a hole in your sock.

Hopelessness behavioral humor: You laugh at a hopeless situation you are in, e.g. failing an exam or breaking a leg skiing.

(Expose) Hypocrisy behavioral humor: Heavy cosmetic smears. Two men and a woman are on a bench. Three people sit on a bench. One man has his arm around the woman, the other is holding hands with her behind the back of the first man. (possibly, just deviation)

Ignorance behavioral humor: Bring a cup when invited to tee off.

Improbable behavioral humor: Escape from jail with an umbrella.

Informal logical fallacies: Use anger to try to win an argument (very popular!). Makes one look foolish.

Insight behavioral humor: Where gesture creates a symbolic language of action, or stands for verbal statement, other possibilities of insight are created. Because assessment is verbal, behavior already implies the verbal. There is no nonverbal behavior as such. Behavior is perceived by evaluating and evaluating is verbal. It is not accurate to speak of nonverbal behavior in this sense. Therefore, behavioral insight and humor involve verbal insight and verbal humor as well.

Gracián (cf. MB:120) gives an example of what he calls "wit of action" as follows: Someone stated that anyone could discover America. In a rebuttal another asked, "Can you or anyone present make an egg stand on end?" No one could. The challenger then placed the egg on end by slightly flattening and cracking one end of the egg.

Cosmic irony behavioral humor: The opposite from the expected happens. It is a type of defeated expectation. It's just a matter of time before one drinks the ink instead of the coffee. The more kind you are to people the more hostile they are to you. Kafka provides many examples of cosmic irony.

Juxtaposition behavioral humor: The way various people walk is juxtaposed and also compared with the way animals walk. Truck driver sews delicate lace.

(Take) literally behavioral humor: People search the area because they heard a man had "lost his mind."

Mimic: You pretend to be others and/or exaggerate their characteristics.

Mistake behavioral humor: Attempt to leave the room, but go into closet instead. You are nearsighted and propose to the wrong person. You open a can from the cylinder side instead of the top.

Name-calling behavioral humor: This could take the form of gesture, such as rude gesture. The humor is due to the deviations of falsity involved.

Obvious behavioral humor: You carefully show a professional cook how to boil water or an egg.

Paradoxical behavioral humor: Hand rising up out of a small pail of water. She had the look of the interjection "Well."

Personification behavioral humor (includes dehumanization): Gobble like a turkey. Pretend to be a carrot or a robot. Act like an animal. Autos that speak. Woman plays a violin for mice.

Practical joke behavioral humor: Play catch with two raw eggs. Talk to people while staring at their ears.

Pretense behavioral humor: Pretending to be on vacation while at work.

Reversal behavioral humor: Walk backwards. Go in opposite direction one asks directions for. Reverse the direction of a film.

Self-deprecation behavioral humor: Laugh at one's own broken leg or other infirmity. (Because it is odd and there is nothing one can do about it.) Purposely dress shabbily. Kafka's (1988) story "Hunger Artist" portrays self-deprecatory behavior.

Simile behavioral humor: He is so poor he has to take baths with his grandmother.

Sinking behavioral humor: Give a person a package of peanuts as a birthday gift. Doff cap before milking a cow. Feed boyfriend with spoon as if he were a baby.

Stereotype behavioral humor: Compulsive behavior, fixed habit, or role behavior. Mechanic gets under a cow to milk it, as he or she would get under an automobile. Dog buries an ice-cube as it would bury a bone for later use. Thief steals no matter whether the object is wanted or not.

Substitution behavioral humor: Put pillow under bed covers so it will look as if you are sleeping there.

Synecdoche behavioral humor: Substitution of part for whole or whole for part. After years of battle and risking his life for his ideal woman, the chivalric hero obtains merely a kiss on the cheek from her.

Trick behavior or deceit humor: Magician's tricks.

Understatement behavioral humor: Give large man a small shirt.

(Wrong) use or purpose behavioral humor: Use corkscrew to open can. Use chainsaw to remove a chair leg.

Uselessness behavioral humor: Erase marks which are not there. Count grains of sand on the beach.

Value deviation behavioral humor: Any bodily function or action which is regarded as unacceptable. Burp at a formal dinner. (In China, however, this may be acceptable.)

(Blatant) vice behavioral humor: Clown in Hamlet (5, 1, 70) throws up a skull.

Caricature Humor (cartoon, deviation, exaggeration, insight, perceptual, metaphor, personification and dehumanization, reduce to absurdity, ridicule, satire)

Now take, for example, Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit. They are not drawn as they should be. Not all of their whiskers are where they ought to be. In fact, the way they are drawn, they might as well be people, just like yourself. But it works both ways. Sometimes animals are drawn to seem like people, and at other times, people are drawn to seem like animals. This is personification. You never, never do see people walking around with the heads of chickens. Caricature distorts the way people really look. Often, faults or cute features are exaggerated. One's good or bad actions may be somehow represented. A miser may be shown putting pennies in tall unstable piles.

Narrow thinking may itself be represented as a horse with blinders on. It is only able to look straight ahead, or in one narrow direction. Caricature, then, can show insight or a truth about someone, or about a situation. The humor comes as a result of deviation, or seeing something as something else. Social and political cartoons (often by deviation) make humorous, yet critical, statements. Caricature also involves the suggestions made by means of visual lines, colors and shapes. There are visual associations which are communicated. Straight lines, for example, can be seen as being rational and logical. Curved, flowing lines are seen as being emotional. Each line, shape, color, and whatever it is that is seen or drawn must be examined closely.

CARTOONS (behavioral humor, caricature humor, deviation, exaggeration, insight, perceptual, metaphor, personification and dehumanization, reduce to absurdity, ridicule, satire. For additional cartoons, see Shibles 1978acf, 1985a, 1995f, 1997, 2000b)

For additional examples of cartoons see:

Chapter II, B Cartoons About Emotion. D. Cartoons About Ethics

Behavioral Humor

Insight Humor. 3. Cartoons About Time. Chapter X, B, 1 Cartoons About Religion

Perceptual Humor, E. Perceptual Humor Cartoons

Other examples throughout this book

Hi! The cartoons which are in this book are intended to guide or illustrate, or to have nothing to do with anything. Many are examples of insight humor, which you might have guessed by-what some have called-my academic appearance. But above all, the CARTOONS are examples of CARTOONS.

Let me introduce myself. I'm the thoughts people have sometimes when they read.


Caricatures often involve exaggerations of facial, physical and behavioral features, as well as a humorous rendering of the personality of the subject of the caricature. Besides being a form of perceptual humor, cartoons may involve any of the other forms of humor. Those given here exemplify many of the different types of humor.

A. General Examples











Category Mistake Physician; " I am prescribing for you a pearl necklace."

Circular He said the time was 3:60. I'm sure of it.

Contradiction Picture of a bar scene. Caption: All men by nature desire to know. Aristotle

Hopelessness. On tombstone: Someday I will own my own business.

Improbability Child to physician: "I think I have moon germs."

Personification Philosopher to chicken; "Now, just why do you cross the road?

Religion On tombstone: I will live forever.

Vice Sorry,I couldn't think of a

cartoon for this page.


Satire: Absolute Freedom

Self-Ref. Shows book title: How to Deal with Myself.

Sinking On tombstone: Please water the flowers.

Theory anit h Shows comedians: He who is not with us is against us.

B. New York er Cartoons

Judith Lee (2000) has done a recent analysis of cartoons in Defining New Yorker Humor. For comedians and cartoonists see the bibliographies of Alleen and Don Nilsen, and Muster (1992). The section on feminist humor also deals with feminist cartoons. Each cartoonist, magazine or comedian is characterized by a special type of humor. The New Yorker is known for its cartoons, but it would be best to characterize the individual cartoonists in the magazine rather than set a type of humor for the magazine itself. (See internet also for samples of its humor.) Some of the best humorists have published stories or cartoons there, e.g. James Thurber. Much of the humor stresses the viewpoint of an affluent upper class. Some approximate examples of their humor follow:

Legally blond.

His vulnerability is what we like about him.

Are these [flowers] beautiful? I can't even tell.

Have you ever wondered if everything in your life has been a mistake?

Propose with Power Point.

(Girlfriend takes computer along on picnic:) "Whoa! Move over, Thoreau!"

(Women about a man.) I love what you've done with him.

Couldn't be more right if you were me.

Darkness revisited.

Skilled labor to unskilled management.

Surreal: The beach is rolled up like a rug.

French Army knife showing just 12 corkscrews.

(Talking toothpaste tube:) I gave 'till there was nothing left to give.

(Buying a tie) I'll have something that doesn't scream "tie."

I'm neither republican nor democrat, but bi.

There is this one path to adulthood. You are here. (Shows x at beginning of long, steep curve.

Rooting for the Red Sox is a disease.

They don't have the secrets to anything. They are just old.

Highway sigh: Last chance to defile the wilderness.

Oh, no. Not again. (Shows two eyes in a rug.)

Let's eat a whole lot of meat today 'till we can't.

Fun can happen to adults too.

(Job applicant) Will my office be near an ice-machine?

No matter how bad things are we manage to keep our sense of spending.

Could you recommend a large-breasted Burgundy?

I'm at home in a fired capacity.

Now that the kids have grown and gone, I guess I'll be shoving along too.

C. Analysis of the Cartoons of Gary Larson by Type(1984) (The Far Side)

Larson's cartoons are especially original and creative. Some of the major techniques used are as follows as I have classified by type. Some examples are academic paraphrases of his and others are the sort of humor he might use.

Black Humor (naive disastrous or fatal mistakes)

Area of quicksand is shown on which one sees the hats of a scout leader and five scouts.

Skier: "Please stop me." (Thurber, but could have been Larsen)

Snake hangs itself with its own body as a noose.

Alligators after eating boaters: "That was incredible. No fur, claws, horns, antlers, or nothin'...Just soft and pink." (personification and reversal)


Moose and man pushing each other: Carl shoves Roger, Roger shoves Carl and tempers rise." (personification)


"Darrell suspected someone had once again slipped him a spoon with the concave side reversed. (reversal, ignorance)

Deviation from Desires

Shows liver and onions truck instead of ice-cream truck. (substitution, deviation from tradition)


Boy tries to get turtle to jump through a flaming hoop.

Cave men try to fly a dead tree like a kite.

Couple in bed: "Wake up, Herold, we've got bed buffaloes."

Butterfly on its way to a star. (Thurber, but could have been Larsen)

Irony (dramatic)

Catch fish by shining light in eyes, as light shines in eyes of fisherman. (self-reflexive, black humor)

Literal (taking metaphors or language literally)

Water buffaloes shown standing around a water cooler.

Personification / Depersonification (often reversals)

Snakes at table: "Oh no, not hamsters again."

Furniture walks in door and says, "Well, we're back."

Wolf chases sheep in taxicab.

Fish food fed to humans who are swimming underwater. (Reversal)

Cow that just realized it was eating grass.

Reversal (often personifications)

Monsters under child's bed afraid of the child.

Moose to rabbit and bears jokingly mimics "screams of man lost in the woods." (personification, black humor)

Shows diver emerging from the waterr carrying in a speared fish and a sea, and a sea monster going into the water carrying a woman.

Shows fish looking at people in a glass bottom boat.

Dog scratches man's belly and man's foot moves up and down as a dog' would.

Unnatural food shop. (substitution and vice.)

Witch to another: "Ugh, your breath is fresh and minty."


Little bang theory.


Child to parents: "The nose fairy left me a whole quarter!"

Alexander the pretty-good. (sinking)

(Dogs at table) "I am not warning you again, Spark! You chew with your mouth open. (personification, reversal)

Young bird: "Its time I spread my wings and left." (literal)

Kangaroo at dance: "May I have this jump?"

The cook always goes down with the ship.

Surreal (thus "Far Side") (deviation from normal or real)

"Billy, don't play under the anvil tree." (substitution, black humor)


Boy tries to make a goldfish talk by draining the tank.

D. Analysis of the Cartoons of Abner Dean by Type

Abner Dean (1963) cartoons are philosophical insight cartoons. Their messages are deeper and stronger than those of New Yorker. Examples of captions by Dean (1963) (cartoon not shown here):

(Blatant) vice humor: "The patient suitor." (He holds flowers for her as he serves as a bridge over a chasm so she can walk over him as she chases other men.) (1963)

Caricature. "You're the only one who understands me." (Shows man who says this swinging from braids of woman who is hanging on to trees leaning over chasm.) (189)

Connotative humor: "This is good food." (Shows a man in a restaurant eating his heart. Restaurant food is typically high in fat.) (112)

Deviation from desires, familiar, ideal, practical, role, purpose, rule, tradition, the usual: "Your set of values is different from theirs." (Shows man happily bouncing on a spring while others carry heavy stones.) (1963:133)

Escape humor: "Escape into reality." (Person escapes from ball of people rolling along cliff edge.) (171)

Exaggeration humor: "Music is good." (A woman in the form of a harp is being played by a man in ecstasy.) (75) "I made a fool of myself last night. (Shows man with seven-foot rope nose being laughed at by a group of people.) (77)

Hopelessness humor: You laugh at a hopeless situation you are in, e.g. failing an exam or breaking a leg skiing. "I've lost something." (Person walking under large wishbones. Suggestion is possibility of hope.) (111)

(Expose) Hypocrisy humor: "Just beginning to understand herself." (Shows woman sitting on pit of destroyed men. Of course, it could have been a man who was sitting on destroyed women.) (205)

Ignorance humor: "You're new, aren't you." (Shows a happy person skipping and throwing flowers through corridor formed by serious, motionless, gray, nondescript people.) (147)

Improbable humor: "Optimism." (Man, while hanging, tries writing an appeal.) (1963:18)

Insight humor: "You make so few demands on yourself." (Shows a tree eating all of its apples.) (158) "We need just one more war monument." (Shows monument of two people being killed by each other's sword.) (162) "The glorification of the mediocre." (Shows blindfolded Pegasus type of horse pulling chariot filled with popular books, media, singers, etc.) (199) "It's just a knack." (Shows man walking in air above people who have blinders on. Suggests the mental freedom which comes from being an inquirer.) (87) "I always see her at a distance." (Shows distant opera box. One suggestion is that romantic love is based on pure idealization, rather than on knowing anything about a person.) (109)

Ironic humor: "Date with destiny." (Shows woman knocking on freestanding door on top of cliff.) (11)

Cosmic irony humor: "Everyone has a story." (Shows gravestone writing and statue of odd person with trivial possessions. One suggestion is that in terms of the preciousness of life, people tend to waste it.) (58)

(Blatant) lie humor: "The futile alibi." (Shows three women and a man behind a sheet so they will not be seen, as he explains his innocence to his woman through a rip in the sheet.) (18) "I'll write you." [Shows man walking out of a museum of englassed past lovers.) (71)

(Take) literally humor: "A balanced mind." (Shows a plumb line just above the point of his head as he walks carefully along.) (23)

Metaphorical humor: "What am I doing here?" (Shows man in an igloo at a party.) (56) "Family conference." (Shows family members trying to walk in tar.) (25) "Sometimes everything's unreal." (Shows man with head, neck and legs.) (173)

Mistake humor: "Very bad memory." (Shows bird in a nest on a rock. Next is another rock with her egg on it.) (15) "It's new…it's good." (Shows person with the latest fad.) (136)

Nonsense humor: "This thing has meaning." (Shows people in various streams, happily floating through the air.) (65)

Paradoxical humor: "Sanctuary." (A man hides in a dinosaur's skeleton. The suggestion is that we take sanctuary in unlikely places: in nuclear weapons or superstitions.) (33)

Pretense humor: "It's better to pretend." (Shows a person being thrown up in the air. Suggestion is that there is great pressure to conform.) (100)

Reduce-to-absurd humor: "Accumulated virtue." (Shows person tied up in a large ball of yarn.) (14) "Anyone can make a decision." (Shows people irregularly and dangerously shooting arrows in all directions.) (161)

Reversal. "Don't anyone weep…the tragedy is all ours." (Could apply to disaster in military involvements because if the "just war" requirements were strictly adhered to, no war would be justifiable.) (165)

Ridicule humor: "Inspiration." (Shows man with head in slingshot made by his legs which the sling is tied to.) (26)

Satire: "We're all in it together." (Shows people sleepwalking. Suggests enculturation rather than real joy and inquiry.) (57) "Return to normal." (Shows men with heads buried in sand.) (13) "Shhh…they've been successfully analyzed." (Shows people sleeping in nests on top of rocks.) (205) "Just practicing." (Shows man with slingshot busting statues of people. Suggests critique, for example, of nuclear testing.) (202)

Self-deprecation humor: A person holding a large sling shot with his head in it. (26)

Stereotype humor: "Gregariousness." (Shows people packed into a square shape, and nearby a skeleton.) (16)

Synecdoche humor: Substitution of part for whole or whole for part. "I once won a prize." [Shows confined person holding a (military?) ribbon. One's life is stuck on one event.] (113)

Uselessness humor: "Let me give you a piece of advice." (Said to room full of sleepy people.) (76)

(Blatant) vice humor: "A man can be wrong for fifty years…or more." (Shows fountain-bust of man with water pouring from his mouth.) (141)

Circularity Humor (See also circular definitions of humor in section on theories of humor and circular theories of humor in Chapter 8..)

I know nothing about the weather when I know that it is either raining or not raining.

(Wittgenstein 1968)

'A thing is identical with itself.' There is no finer example of a useless proposition, which yet is connected with a certain play of the imagination. It is as if in imagination we put a thing into its own shape and saw that it fitted. (Wittgenstein 1968:#216)

Isn't the day as short as it's long? I mean, isn't it the same length? (Carroll 1966 Sylvie and Bruno)

With circularity, there are two words or phrases with the same meaning. With pun, there are two meanings for the same word. Puns often have incongruous meanings of a single word to yield incongruity in congruity. Circularity yields congruity or identity in seeming incongruity. It gives the analytic (what is true by definition) in place of what seems to be synthetic (what is true only on the basis of experience or observation). "Circularity" is a metaphorical way of relating the figure of a circle to repetition, or not advancing beyond one's knowledge. The circle is itself a conceit or farfetched metaphor. It was seen earlier that humor itself was defined circularity, for example, "Humor is what is funny," or "Humor is what is foolish," "Humor is so silly, it is funny." We thus have a humorous definition of circularity as a circle, and circular definitions of humor. As will be seen in the chapter on theories of humor, most theories of humor are circular.

The opposite of circularity humor is contradictory humor. Circularity, as circular, cannot be wrong. Contradiction, as contradiction, cannot be right. The shift from contradiction to circularity may be easily made by adding a negation such as "but" in, "I like eating, but it spoils my appetite." The circular joke would be, "I found that eating tends to spoil my appetite."

It is a metaphor to repeat things not usually repeated, e.g. one poem consists of the word "cricket" repeated seventy times. The lyrics for an erotic song consist of the repetition of the single word, "push" (also connotation humor). Artists say, "The sky is the sky," "Art is art"; and "A = A" in logic. A number of psychiatric terms involve repetition phenomena: "perseveration" is fixed, persisting assessments or words, for example, every object shown to one is identified as an orange. "Stereotypy" is constantly repeated speech or actions, e.g. one may constantly put out one's thumb as if hitchhiking. Ideas or tunes often recur constantly, or the first reaction one has is inappropriately used in all subsequent situations. "Verbigeration" is a meaningless repetition of words which lasts for hours and days. Ritual, compulsion, and obsessions are repetitions. "Echolalia" refers to abnormal repetition of the same words the questioner uses. It is like a leading question, but such repeating recurs more often. Use of repetition is partially the method of developing habits and learning. "Echopraxia" is the abnormal repetition or imitation of another's actions, and relates to the metaphorical device of parody or mocking.

Circular statements repeat the same thing in synonymous words. Circular arguments assume what they are supposed to prove. Note that circularity is better if it is only covertly circular. "The corpse was brought in dead." Less humorous is: "The deceased was brought in dead." Even less humorous is the version: "He was pronounced dead, because he was not living." Circularity is also based on not realizing that the two terms are synonymous, and is thus a type of ignorance humor.

EXAMPLES: "At the moment it is just a Notion, but with a bit of backing, I think I can turn it into a concept, and then an Idea." (Woody Allen) Sick people do not feel good. The rich are wealthy. You cannot believe liars. Crooks cannot be trusted. Your everlasting patience will be rewarded sooner or later. The poor person eats potato soup, the rich person, vichyssoise. (Esar 1978:147) Death is fatal. Strange people are odd. Cows give milk because that is what cows do.

Such sentences seem to say something, but do not. They make no gain in our knowledge. It is like Brer Rabbit setting out on a trip by running around in a circle. After awhile, Brer Rabbit will discover that the scenery still looks very familiar. Many things we say seem to give us new knowledge, but are actually circular. "I ought to do my duty," is circular. It says only "I ought to do what I ought to do." Such a mere verbal mistake has needlessly cost thousands of soldiers their lives, e. g., by fighting in an unjust war.

Nearly everything we say can be circular. "I see the tree," can be circular because we cannot see without seeing something, and there cannot be something seen without seeing. Both are needed. The statement is noncircular, also, because I see a tree rather than something else. The trick here, then, is to make sure we do not confuse the circular sense with the noncircular sense.

"A readable book," is circular in that most books have words in them. It is noncircular in that "readable" also means an enjoyable book, or a book which is easy to read.

For example, it is no good to try to define "time" in terms of other time words. It is circular to say, "Time is minutes, hours, days, past, present, and future." If we do not know what time is, we do not know what any time word means. We need to define "time" in words other than time words.

Circular statements are humorous because they seem to say something, but do not. It is a trick. And the joke may be on us when we do not realize that our own statement is really circular. EXAMPLES:

Whatever happens at all, happens as it should, or as Marcus Aurelius (1873:36) says, "Everything which happens happens justly." It is wrong to x too much. (For instance, it is wrong to talk or do anything at all too much.) "Everything is what it is and not another thing." (G. E. Moore, philosopher) Morphine puts me to sleep because of its soporific quality. (Molière) If you don't finish, you will never be done. "Smart stuff, Chip, but wise up and dumb it out." (New Yorker 5/28/2001) Boys will be boys. Hot water heater. I listen to hear what is said. All of her acts are good because they are virtuous. He stole it because he is a thief. She did it because that is just the way she is. He was mean because he is a bad person. "You are superficial."-"Yes, but only on the surface." The walls are rather perpendicular today aren't they? You are the true daughter of your mother. Q. "Why couldn't you sleep?" A. "I had insomnia." "Did you know that everything is made of "stuff?" "Everything possesses being." ( cf. Absurd metaphysical argument about "being.") You get to see a lot if you keep your eyes open. Have you ever noticed how round circles are? He who stays in the same spot does not get anywhere. Q. "What is Jim's last name?-A. "Jim who? I missed my nap; I slept right through it. Sick humor is terrible. "Lovely day."-"Yes, but it was quite dark last night." The only difference between a beautiful man and an ugly one is just the way they look. That ice cube is really cold. "Things seen are things as seen." (Wallace Stevens 1957:162) "Why is the train late?"-"Because of its speed." Q. "Which president wore the largest hat?"-A. "The one with the largest head." If there is a tree in the forest and no one sees it, does it exist? (This already states that there already is a tree in the forest. It assumes what it is supposed to prove.) If there is a tree in the forest and no one hears it fall, does it exist? (Already presupposes a tree.) Monday will not happen again until next week. There is nothing to eat but food. There is nothing to wear but clothes.

Alice asks, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" The Cat replied, "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to." "I don't much care where-," Alice said. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat. "So long as I get some-where," Alice added. "Oh you're sure to do that," the Cat replied, "if you only walk long enough." (Carroll 1960:62)

"'It's long,' said the Knight, [about his song] 'but it's very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it-either it brings tears into their eyes, or else-' 'Or else what?' said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause. 'Or else it doesn't, you know.'" (Carroll 1960:212)

All works of art are realistic, because if a work of art isn't realistic, it isn't a work of art. "The schizophrenic feels humor oddly." "What's the difference between a woman?" "None, all are the same especially the top and bottom." Death for traitors is properly justified because it is right to put people to death who betray our country. He is innocent for the simple reason that he isn't guilty. I like good things. Marriage is the main cause of divorce. "A is A" (e.g. Art is art.) and other tautologies and either/or statements are often circular. I believe that people should get what they deserve. (Advocates severe punishment because of implied truth of the circularity.) It's wrong because it's immoral. Women are feminine. Cows are bovine. His solution is both false and wrong (repetition type of circularity). Why does a piece of paper have two sides? This is the warmest July we've had in nearly a year. If it wasn't for war, we would have peace. I want to hear the truth no matter how flattering (false assumption that it will be flattering). He always acts out of order when it is not his turn. "Are you tired?" "Yes." "I get that way sometimes myself." I love you very much. Murder is bad. I'm not drunk; I just had a few too many. I don't mind being lost, but I hate it if I can't find my way. "Good is a pro-attitude." (A. Ewing, philosopher) Yellow is colorful. He wins all the time.-That's just because he comes in first. The man is right; when the man is right, the man is right. I want to live until I die. Show me someone who loves and I'll show you someone who cares. Mother's love is better than father's because what is needed is mother's love. Q. What defeated you? A. Too few votes. Well, yes, our climactic predictions have been off; but we can at least say there was weather out there. I just can't help using words when I speak (insight humor showing primacy of language). I hate weird people. Perverts are unusual. Q. Why isn't life perfect? A. Because no one has come up with a definition of "perfect." "If you don't fail now and again it's a sign that you are playing it safe." (Woody Allen) Auction: "If you don't want to buy it, don't put the last bid on it." White people are so colorless. Humor is wit. An often used argument is.....repetition. Therapist: "So you're still feeling guilty. You ought to be ashamed of yourself." Your patience will be rewarded sooner or later.


The word 'comedy' is notoriously difficult to define. (Purdie 1993:73)

Humorous genre of plays, films, opera or literary forms. Contrasted with tragedy, often refers to humor generally, e.g. something comical. There are thousands of books on comedy without much agreement as to what it is or what humor is. Study of comedy is usually a literary approach paralleling the study of humor. The "comedy of humors" refers to the eccentric unbalanced personality, a view deriving from the physiological theory of humors which stresses the well-balanced personality. (cf. Ben Jonson, Everyman in His Humour.) Humor itself may be defined as the comedy of errors.

"You are superficial!"

"Yes, but only on the surface."

CONCEIT HUMOR (farfetched descriptions, extreme humor, exaggeration)

Conceit does not refer here to being egotistical. It refers to the combination of very unlike things, such as a sky which looks like spaghetti, and ears which look like a bicycle wheel. These things are so unlike that it is hard to know how they can be related to each other in any way whatsoever. But they often can. Conceits are just metaphors which combine very dissimilar things. The technique is easy. Just combine opposite things, or the most dissimilar things thinkable. The result, of course, may be curious nonsense.

According to Baltasar Gracián (1642), wit or conceit (Spanish agudeza) is the agreement between two or more extremes or knowable contrasts, contexts, or antitheses, expressed by an act of the understanding. Gracián wrote: "Mere understanding without wit or conceit is a sun without light, without rays…What beauty is for the eyes and harmony for the ears, the conceit is for the understanding." (MB:119) He believes that the conceit reveals reality rather than mere appearance. Reality is conceited, a mass of contrasts and oppositions. The conceit is a profundity or subtlety which gives life to every form of expression. Gracián gives four kinds of simple wit: 1. correlation: similitudes, rivalry of opposites, disproportions, proportions, comparisons, contrasts, etc. 2. ponderation: paradox, exaggeration, maxims, satire, moral criticism, all witty observations. A ponderation is a solution to a metaphor or paradox. 3. ratiocination: riddles, retorts, illusions, proofs, a way of linking extremes by rational process. 4. invention: plots, tricks, inventions in action and speech, a linking of extremes in a single concept.

The term semejanza (comparison) refers to metaphor or simile. Metáfora refers usually only to an extended metaphor or allegory. Mistro, mystery, is used at times in the more religious contexts. Here, especially, the conceit applies. All wit is a harmony of extremes, a concord and dissonance. The greater the disparity between extremes, the greater the conceit of improportion. He states, "Contrast is a magnificent foundation for all wit." He thinks that conceit renders truth and reality. It is the best means of rendering truth because reality was thought to be conceited. Others might think of conceit as farfetched metaphor. Gracián (MB:121) gives the following examples: "O snow, my flame." "Watching the light, but blinded by the light." "Past joy and present grief." (time contrasts) "Make haste slowly."

About paradox he states, "A paradox is a miracle of truth," e.g. that sadness gives pleasure (compare masochism); and dying can give one life. A conceit may be a striking remark. The conceit is based on the belief that there is a universal analogy of all things, thus justifying even the most farfetched conceits. The conceits supposedly interpreted and described reality and the universal analogy of things. The faculty of ingegno (Italian) is supposedly a metaphysical intellect able to create extreme word combinations yielding insight, beauty, wonder, the marvelous or extraordinary.

Matteo Pellegrini, in Delle Acutezze (1639), gives twenty-two topics and derives conceits from each. Jokes may be derived, as Quintilian says, from the topics in the same way as arguments. For Tesauro (1968/1654) the world must be investigated or overcome by wit (ingegno). God is supposedly a witty creator and wrote the book of nature in metaphors or conceits (acutezze). God, then, is a comedian! The world is a mysterious, universal correspondence and analogy. Conceits are real laws of nature, not just ornaments. To observe nature is to read off the metaphors of a divine comedian. Good metaphor needs a little mystery or obscurity. A similar view was held more recently by Ian Ramsey (1964:69) who wrote: "A metaphor is always a signpost of some disclosure…What is not verbally odd is void of disclosure power."

The above work led to the metaphysical conceits of the metaphysical poets, such as John Donne, Carew, Cowley, and the seventeenth-century conceits of Góngora. (Gates 1933) Conceits, then, are seemingly extravagant and farfetched metaphors which give profound insight into reality in a way nothing else could. Mario Praz (1958) summarized it this way: "Seventeenth-century men saw instances of 'argutezza' [agudeza, wit] in every aspect of the universe…Everything was subservient to wit…Emblems, devices, anagrams, riddles, puzzles were accounted sublime achievements of art." (MB:229-230)

Conceit is a farfetched, exaggerated, or bold metaphor, a hyperbole. It may, however, be well-founded in some ways and give great insight. Hyperbole and conceit may, for example, express exaggeration of emotion. The lover says, "You are the only one in the world for me." Adults, as well as children, exaggerate illness to obtain love. One may hallucinate or exaggerate normal imagery and perception to obtain desired objects or goals. Egomania, grandiosity, paranoia, megalomania, hypochondria, overcautiousness, excessive fear, mood swings, magnification of one's faults, are all exaggerations or hyperboles. Conceits may name and create new emotions, e.g. "My love is like a jolly cow that gambols in the meadow."

Emotion may be thought to be an extreme experience or extreme behavior. Reporting the cause of an event is often merely a report of the most unusual or extreme factor involved in the situation. We say the oil rags caused the fire. The presence of the oil rags is only an unusual or dangerous factor. The fire was also caused by the presence of oxygen, other combustible material, etc. Our everyday experience involves incongruous juxtaposition. We see a work of art, pigeon tracks, a dog, then a piece of gum, etc. While in love, we smell the typewriter ribbon.

Farfetched metaphors are like the dissociated thinking and remote associations of the schizophrenic. (Shibles 1994d) There is over-suggestibility, hasty generalization, probability is taken for certainty, etc. "Redintegration" refers to the total experiencing of a past event on the basis of being confronted with a single association. Zen Buddhists employ conceits as in the following: "There is nothing you see that is not a flower; there is / nothing you can think of which is not the moon." (cf. Blyth 1965) The conceit relates each thing to everything else. This yields unifying metaphor. It gives the misleading impression that "all is one." Ecstatic states of acute schizophrenia, religious mysticism, as well as certain drug experiences, often give the feeling that all is one, that opposites are reconciled and that there is a mystical unity of all things (unio mystica). It is a form of psychosis. Freudian psychology is based on conceit or farfetched metaphor. (cf. Sarbin 1964) For Freud, all of one's life is related to three childhood stages, every object is given a sexual meaning. But behaviorists and other psychologists unwittingly use farfetched associations also and do so as if they were normal literal relationships.

Connotation Humor (free association, conceit, all types of humor, metonymy)

In literature the connotations of a word are "liberated,"

especially by the power of metaphor. (Gudas [according to Beardsley] 1965:151)

A. Introduction. We find that everything we see or think, has many things which we associate with it. When we see an apple, we associate with it things such as: red, green, cider, teacher, orchard, worm, crunch, and so on. Even a period at the end of a sentence has associations. A period may be thought of as an end, a pause, death, raisin, an eye, the head of a nail, a nut, a hole, and so on. Connotation humor works by: a) deviating from usual associations. Example: Cats are meow boxes. b) combining unlike things on the basis of one or more similar connotations. Example: Your eyes are like jello. c) showing that similar things are really unlike. EXAMPLES:

A foot which goes numb or "falls asleep" may feel like it is full of soda water.

Kimono language (instead of the Japanese language).

Q. What does cheese say when it has its picture taken? A. Camera. (also reversal)

Burp gun.

They are talking together. (Ribot)

We leave for the ski slopes at 7:30 on the snowflake.

Growers of tea in Taiwan will taste a tea and say, "Oh, it was raining the day the leaves were picked."

As a test to show that we make associations which we are not aware of making: Give one of the following nonsense names to each of these figures: a) "krick", b) "boang." Which name goes best with which figure? The figures are: # and

It would seem that nearly everyone associates only one figure with "krick." The reader must determine which figure that is. You may ask if other people agree with you. Much humor works mainly because of such connotations. We would not understand some jokes unless we knew about connotation. But virtually all humor involves connotation. Because of this, we may relate anything with anything else. This is especially the basis of metaphor, humor, and poetry. The following short line illustrates: He speaks too much about everything; a gigantic wrench screws trees into the ground.

B. An Association Theory of Meaning. By "connotation" is meant nonmentalistic association. Also, we associate things which we are not aware of associating. When we deviate from such associations or when the associations are incongruous it can produce humor or irritation, depending on how we take it. Virtually all language involves association, so connotation relates to virtually all types of humor. Connotation humor may seem false in the main meaning of the terms, but true in the connotative or secondary meanings. It is truth-in-falsity humor. Or, people may seem to be doing something meaningless or absurd, but be seen, on associative analyses, to be doing something meaningful. Part of the interest in connotation humor is that it is sometimes puzzling and, like metaphor, must be figured out.

Connotation is extensively used in advertising to persuade people to buy products. The Coca-Cola bottle is shaped like a woman. The more we know about connotation the less suggestible we will be. Connotation can mold one's thinking without one being aware of it. Ivan Fónagy (1963) has shown that people regard front vowels as being light, and back vowels as dark. His surveys have shown that the "r" sound is more wild, rough, swirling, less smooth, more masculine than the "l" sound; "m" and "1" are sweeter than "t" or "k."

The associations reach beyond each sense to another sense (synaesthesia). It is shown that books on phonetics and linguistics, as well as books for singers are rich in metaphors. Every sound has its own color; pitch is "high or "low." The voice is: neutral, white, hard, brown, red, majestic, thoughtful, tart, cutting, trailing, broken, or wet. Vowels are light, dark, sharp, thin, wide, feminine, masculine, hard, strong, fine, high, deep. Poetry is usually only understood because of such subtle or secondary associations or connotations. The result is metaphor humor or poetic humor.

Fónagy is a Freudian, but that theory is found unacceptable in view of contemporary philosophical psychology and behaviorism. Instead, we may explain such concepts as the "unconscious" by suggesting that all we mean by them is the subtle associations and connotations we make, which we are aware of only by experiment or when they are pointed out to us. Do not ask, "Where are the associations when we are not thinking of them?" Would the answer, "In a box," do? Behaviorists often regard the mind as a mysterious "black box" to be opened sometime in the future. We need not wait. We may open it now and suggest that what we basically mean by the "unconscious mind" is not an invisible, mystical entity behind the scenes, but rather nonmentalistic associations we make. In short, the "unconscious" is merely associations. We do not need to know where these associations are when we are not thinking them. It may be a faulty question. It is like asking, "Where is your smile when you are not smiling?"

An example of associations we make which we are not aware of until they are pointed out to us is the following: We showed earlier that we associate "krick" with sharp objects, and "boang" with smooth, round objects. So also, if asked "What vegetable are people most like?" it is found that in a large sample, the most common reply is "carrot," the second most common is "potato." It is an association most Americans have. If, then, we can find out most of the associations we make we can find out both how we think and how deviations from such associations can create humor.

By "nonmentalistic association" is only meant that we do in fact relate, for example, the sound or marks "eraser" with the object eraser we see. It is something we can do. Mentalistic or atomistic entities behind the scenes need not be presupposed. No fairy machinery of the "mind" is assumed. Rather, it is a clear behavioral, observable paradigm for association or connotation. Wittgenstein's ordinary-language view of meaning as a language-game in a concrete context, gives further clarification and support to the view of association as something we do in everyday life situations. Free association in dreams may also be analyzed in terms of such associations. The more we know about associations, metaphors and jokes we make, the better we will be able to understand dreams.

Among the thousands of examples of associations we make which we are not usually aware of, are the following relationships with lines:

-- is rational

is emotional

/ is happy

\ is sad

ªªª is active

is pleasure loving (and computer friendly)

Each color has similar associations. Now, humor is produced by deviating from such associations. For example: Let: -- be emotional, let be rational.

By becoming more conversant with of these associations we are also becoming more conversant with our language use generally. This allows us to be less captivated by implicit association as in advertisements and other persuasions, and more able to reason clearly and create humor and metaphor. In addition, we may propose that this nonmentalistic theory helps to explain how metaphor works. We have now a number of general theories about the mechanisms involved in metaphor. But a theory needed to explain it in greater detail would have to be based on knowledge of the specific associations people make. We have as yet no comprehensive analysis of such associations. Frederick Michael (1973) stated that our present understanding of semantic analysis is inadequate to allow us to grasp the meaning of metaphorical expressions. He instead argues for the notion of "associating relations." An "associating relation" is defined as obtaining between senses of expressions instead of between individual ideas.

What, then, are some paradigms for association? The first is that we in fact relate the sounds "eraser" with an eraser. It is a clear paradigm because it is something we can see and do. So far, no more than this is meant by association. But what explanatory values does it have to call this association? It is a way of learning. How, for example, do children learn words? It is a complex process. It is to let the sound refer to the object. The heard sound stands for a seen thing. We extend the paradigm by noting that we make associations such as krick-boang, which we are not usually aware of. We extend association by means of the paradigm of "seeing-as" or seeing in terms of a model or metaphor. These have explanatory value. They show that our way of assessing is by means of verbal and visual (marks and sounds) models, etc. We extend the paradigm of association by noting that perception is never without linguistic association. Whatever we see is never seen alone. It has associations. As was argued earlier, assessment is basically language-use; and perception always relates to it. There is, as pragmatists would say, a "cash-value" to speak of meaning as association. We may also speak of patterns of associations as we earlier spoke of meaning as patterns of marks. In terms of explanatory value, we found that some jokes could only be explained and understood if we see that subtle associations are implied and being deviated from.

In therapy, we have the paradigm that patients associate certain objects with traumatic experiences. It is then necessary for the patient to reevaluate that experience and dissociate. Cause-effect and stimulus-response are paradigms of association. But our epistemological starting point is not with associations of atomistic entities or ideas. The paradigm is ordinary-language associations in everyday contexts. We should always be able to reduce the association to a concrete statement or descriptions of sensation in everyday experience. Associationism here intends to eliminate mentalism and metaphysics in favor of operational definition. It is also to realize that the explanation given here is itself a language-use and mere perspective. Its use concerns the problems it can solve and clarifications it can make.

Would it be possible, intelligible or useful, to find the answer to the question, "What are all the things you associate with x?" (e.g. love, dentists, soldiers, etc.) It is a paradigm to be deliberate. When deliberate, we are more aware of cause-effect, consequences, and are more in control than we would otherwise be. The more we know about associations, the more we know about what influences us. Then, if we know what one associates with a word or thing, for example, love, the more deliberate we can be. "Yes, this seems true. But how can we possibly obtain all of the possible associations? Isn't the request to do so a misconceived demand for evidence? We would have to associate the word or object with every other word and object in the world!"

We do not give ourselves an easy task here. One possibility is to have one free associate with the object or word. This may tell us what is now knowingly associated, or what the person is assessing. But it does not tell what the person unknowingly associates. And it does not bring the unknown associations into awareness. Another method might be to write a story about a subject, talk about it, recount experiences of it, take visual association tests, etc. And simile and metaphor are techniques used to test associations. "What is x like?" we may ask. Or, we may relate the word to words and objects from each of the different senses. In therapy, we may only ask for associations meant to solve the problem at hand. But, then, the unknown remote associations may be relevant. We need all of the associations reasonably obtainable in order to know whether they are relevant or not.

Some things are central. If, for example, we know people are religious, military minded or Freudian, we know a lot about their associations already. They are examples of root metaphors and are permeating patterns of language use and behavior. What we want, then, is to know a person's basic metaphors. As an extension of this we want to know what a person's "set beliefs" and intentions (self-talk) are. The problem still remains that we cannot know all of the statements people say each day to themselves or aloud. We cannot know all of their perceptions. Yet, such knowledge is crucial for an adequate understanding human behavior. It is an advance to at least know that this is the sort of problem which has to be solved.

Humor and metaphor themselves are ways of telling us what we regard as normal or usual associations and what to regard as a deviation. One paradigm of association is preference and normality. To ask for associations is to ask for usual, or primary, as opposed to remote, or farfetched associations. That is, we can ask what one most closely associates with a word or thing. Note that what is literal to one person may be deviation to another.

Another model for considering association is that of rules. Is association guided by rules? Rules are like directions. We have rules of learning. But a rule of how we associate "eraser" with an eraser is more of a given. The rules build on a given ability. A rule of memorizing might be: The more we associate a foreign thing with familiar things, the more easily we can remember it. The rules specify techniques and conditions. Rules involve statements and actions to perform, exercises to carry out. The methods given earlier for creating humor and metaphor may be thought of as rules of association. The list may be extended by the actual statements we make when we seek to carry out an action or solve a problem.

MacGill (1838) gave four laws of association as the basis of the figures of speech. (These laws could be extended to apply to humor also.): Association by cause and effect (metonymy). Association by contiguity (synecdoche). Association by resemblance (metaphor and simile). Association by contrariety (irony and antithesis).

The types of humor in the present book greatly extend such associations. The association theory had been based on an expansion of atomism, treating each idea as an atom to be associated. It was also mentalistic, and assumed the existence of invisible, presupposed entities such as ideas. The theory we present here is nonmentalistic.

It is noted that MacGill (1838) points out that metonymy is association by cause-effect. Metonymy, a type of metaphor, is also the substitution of an attribute or association of a thing for the thing, e.g. "hot" for "angry." In New Guinea Tok Pisin, one says, "Mi ketch faiah [fire], maan" [= I become angry]. In illogical thinking, metonymy may involve identifying two things on the basis of a single quality, e.g. "She must be a scholar, look at her thick glasses." In our classification of types of humor, metonymy is a type of association or connotation humor. Substitution of cause for effect is classified under false cause humor, or reversal humor. The false cause, or post hoc fallacy, is an association involving the false conclusion that because one thing occurs before another, it is its cause. Other examples of metonymy are: Irritation is a buzzing fly. Sadness is walking down a long, gray tunnel. (Wittgenstein) He sees red. Swollen with pride. Heat of passion.

The psychiatric expression "flight of ideas," involves metonymy also. An understanding of such association and connotation humor would be helpful in therapy. One of the most striking examples of connotation humor is by Abner Dean (1963: signed frontispiece). This cartoon would be nearly unintelligible without an understanding of connotation or association. It has no caption and shows a woman standing on a large egg. She is playing catch with a man and using six large eggs at a time to do so. The meaning of the cartoon is only its suggestions or connotations. A caption for the cartoon might have been, "A fragile relationship," or "Birth control is a touchy matter."

Some other paradigms for "association" may be indicated by the following synonyms: link, connection, relation, bond, tie, join, stimulus-response, correlation, combine, unite, equate, relevance, depend, cause, connect, integrate, touch, concern, compare, etc. When we say the German word Tasse means "cup," we can mean that we use Tasse as we use "cup." "Association" means "use" here. When we "think," sentences and images come. This, also, is a paradigm of association. To ask a question is to ask for an association. One problem with the above view of association is thinking that it involves merely relating one word with another word. Associations are too severely limited in doing this. In experience we relate all that we sense, whole sentences, selected items, past experiences, etc. all at once. Life is not merely relating one word with another.

But now isn't this just making the matter worse? We can't find the associations of one word with every other object, but we can't simplistically associate one thing with a second thing. This is just the point of the epistemological primacy of a language-game isn't it? We can use and understand the language in a situation, but cannot expect to analyze it further and still have the same thing. The analysis is itself merely another language-game or perspective. On the other hand, word association tests do tell us something. Patterns of behavior can be found. It is the basis of intelligence tests and examinations of all sorts. We may not find all of the associations of something, but we may now assert that the more we can find, the better.

We have said enough now to show our method of analyzing association. We do so by examining various paradigms. We need no longer generalize over all of the quite different sorts of paradigms. And we conclude that to ask for all of the associations would be a misconceived demand for evidence, because we would never be able to find them. New paradigms can always be constructed. We do not effectively choose a mate in an hour. We must live with the person for a year or longer until we get to know him or her. How much can we learn of associations?

We may, on one model, define "denotation" as what we sense intersubjectively, and "connotation" as our subjective valuing or desires regarding the object. Denotation, here, is not an expression of value, connotation is. By "association" or "connotation" we may sometimes mean "evaluation." Value deviation humor may be produced when our value associations are harmlessly deviated from. Osgood, Suci, & Tannenbaum (1967) used this in their " Semantic differential" techniques of association. One may scale any term as follows: good 1. 2) 3) 4) 5) bad. For example, one may associate "tree" with #1, or very good. The associations Osgood et al, bring together are so deviant as to create humor. They ask, for example, "Is a boulder red or green, hot or cold, pleasant or unpleasant, happy or sad, wet or dry?" Instead of comparing polar opposites, one could have simply asked, for example, "What color is a boulder?" They had the problem of determining what questions to ask and what categories to use. Their chart basically consisted of opposites. To test a term for associations between opposites is a serious restriction. It is to compare. This chart may be improved and made less restrictive by the following. Instead of taking opposites such as "bitter 1)-2)-3)-4)-5)-sweet," one may take negations such as "bitter 1)-2)-3)-4)-5)-not bitter."

In order to learn more about associations we would have to deal with the most fundamental terms in human experience. Some of these terms are listed below. One model for analyzing humor is to think of it as a mistake, or deviation from what is expected, or desired in terms of polar opposites, e.g. "clear 1)-2)-3)-4)-5)-ambiguous." A joke may be rated in terms of the amount a person thinks it deviates from "clear" (the term in the left column). vs. ambiguous. The terms in the right column are undesirable, unexpected, or deviations. The following list is based on the types of humor presented in this book. The list is incomplete because everything, it would seem, can have an opposite, or be negated.

accurate exaggeration

actual cause false cause

actual guilt false blame

actual reason false reason

adequate simplistic

appropriate inappropriate

better worse

blame ridicule

classify misclassify

clear ambiguous

common farfetched

conformity deviation

conformity violation

consistency incongruity

consistent contradictory

conventional free association

correct deception

uncritical satire

desirable undesirable

expected surprised

familiar strange

flexible stereotype

genuine hypocrisy

genuine ironic

genuine pretense

genuine trick

grammatical ungrammatical

harmonious chaos

honesty lie

important trivial

informative circular

intelligent ignorant

intelligible paradox

intentional accidental

logical illogical

take literally metaphor

moral vice

objective understate

personify dehumanize

positive negative

possible futile

possible impossible

practical impractical

probable improbable

rational irrational

real fiction

reality appearance

relevant irrelevant

same different

sense nonsense

sensible absurd

straight reverse

success failure

tact tactless

traditional deviant

true false

understand misunderstand

useful useless

usual unusual

valid invalid

valuable valueless

EXAMPLES: In his unpublished notes, Wittgenstein gave the diagram:

This may be seen as a soldier and a dog going through a doorway. Wittgenstein states that it is important here to know that the soldier is in red and blue. That is, the rifle seems to be of a certain antique type. The example is humor and riddle which works by association.

Here is the green man. (Instead of, "Here is the man with the vegetables.") Name a car, "Pinto." Say something in cowboy. Name a car, "Brat." Tim is a mouse, Humphrey an elephant. Of course I'm a psychiatrist, can't you hear my Austrian accent? He ain't one of them Fe Fi Fo Fum cats is he? Meow Mix (A cat food). Stop saying "Poo bah." (A sound typical of deviant noises heard in rock music.) Anything with the name like "Onkyo" has got to be unusual. (To the Japanese, naming a Hi Fi set "Elmer" may also seem unusual.) The Eiffel tower is the Empire State Building after taxes."

examples: of connotation humor in German are: a) In Butter sitzen (literally "sit in butter") means "to be fine." b) Er hat große Rosinen im Kopf, (lit. "He has large raisins in his head.") meaning "His head is full of fantastic ideas." c) Mit ihr ist nicht gut Kirschen essen (literally "With her it is not good cherry eating.") meaning "She is difficult to get along with." d) Tingeltangel, means "music hall." The sound of the word suggests music. e) blaue Bohnen, (lit. "blue beans") meaning "bullets." f) grüne Bohnen, (lit. "green beans") meaning "French beans" or figuratively, "an inexperienced person."

Music has connotations so as to create tone poems, and by sound deviation and association, creates musical or sound humor. (cf. Shibles 1995b) Music humor is further discussed under "perceptual humor." Connotations and associations communicate in painting, theater, and every aspect of life. The Emcee in the musical, Cabaret, supposedly connotes and symbolizes decadence. He is thin; his knees jangle in sharp, grotesque movements as if he were a skeleton; his face is painted white, giving an interesting and unusual appearance, as well as suggesting death personified. He also took on the role of a female dancer only to reveal his male identity at the end of the dance. He paints his lips in a discordant manner perhaps mockingly suggesting the lips of a woman yet unlike lipstick any woman or clown would normally wear. His voice is shrill and mocking as he introduces and welcomes people to the life and tragedy of the decadent cabaret. No attempt is made here to give a complete or adequate analysis of these associations, but merely to present a few subjective observations. Here was an impressive personage, both bizarre and humorous, who captivates attention, inspires with impressive insight into the life of Berlin and the cabaret-our life.

C. Connotations of Typefaces

Each typeface has connotations which are poetic, mundane, comical, etc. Some are called: Gorilla Milkshake, Ketchup Spaghetti, Rustproof Body, Shoplifters Unite, Sergeant Sixpack, Staggering Bob, Tasteless Candy, 12 Ton Goldfish, Typewriter from Hell, Vibrocentric.

Acquaintance Casket opener

Apple Chancery my Bunny ears have lately become floppy

Aristocrat I may not know much but I an pretty rich and eatGrey Poupon.

Bickley Script for use with ball points

Blair Liar who thus became a politician in England

Bubblegums I just couldn't eat another donut!

Celtic Garamond Guinness Stout

Chicago windy city

Chinese Takeaway Chinese Takeaway

Celestial Official political typeface

Courier bad typewriter

Edwardian Script Keep up appearances

French Script Onion soup or We will meet tonight at the café at 8.

SF Gothican Condensed Anyone got a straight jacket?

Herzog Von Graf cuckoo clock

Inkburrow anyone got a


[ ] Invisible

Jokerman Typeface gone wrong.

Kidprint Preindoctrination

Lucida Handwriting Dear Stranger

Machine For love letters?

Old English Just plain, Bill. Or, fell off back of lorry.

PWSaDCe VBNiM Oh the things you say!

Rabbit ears cat?

Swing for golfers and aviators

Tremor Official Military typrface.

asdf hgjk blnmn vcQW English spoken abroad, or silent pronunciation.


Waves I am seasick already

Context Deviation (ambiguity, free association, logical fallacies, juxtaposition, take literally, metaphor, misclassification, substitution, wrong use.)

My medical prescription for you, Ms. Fitsimmons is to buy some nice perfume.

One of the main techniques of ordinary-language philosophy is to point out when a word is used in the wrong context. On this view, the meaning of a word is its use in a language-game, that is, in the context of the language and the context of the situation. To find the meaning of a word we must find the context in our everyday experience. "Hello," for example, does not mean anything in itself, but is used to greet someone in a certain everyday situation. Context deviation comes about when we use a term in a different context or situation. For example, we say, "Hello" to a wall. Wittgenstein, in his ordinary-language approach, maintains that metaphysics, and much theory in science and the various disciplines consists of context deviations or category-mistakes. Words are there used abstractly in the wrong contexts and cannot be reduced to an intelligible paradigm or use in everyday experience. The original home of language is in its everyday use, and if it is used elsewhere it can be a category-mistake. This, Wittgenstein says, is when language "goes on a holiday." It no longer has an intelligible context to give it meaning. It is like asking what "hello" really means independently of the circumstance of its use. If there were only one body, "motion" would not make sense because "motion," as we ordinarily use it, implies movement of one body with respect to another body. With only one body it is a misuse to speak of it "moving." It is a context mistake. "The sentence only seems queer when one imagines a different language-game for it from the one in which we actually use it." (Wittgenstein 1968:195)

The most central terms in philosophies of being, existentialism, metaphysics, religion and theology are misuses of language, on this view. "I exist" either means something concrete, such as "I was born," or "I regained consciousness," or nothing at all. To say "I exist" in itself, is a category-mistake. It is as if one took the sentence, "I am here," and dropped the last word to yield, "I am." It is an error. "I am" is incomplete. I am what?-tall, here, happy? We do not know. "I am," or "I exist," appear to be an incomplete statements now.

Metaphysics builds on such misuses as "I am," or "I exist," to produce enigmatic philosophies of "being" or "existence."

In science, abstract terms are often similarly misused. Several such terms are: infinity, energy, idea, force, number, mass, inertia, time, mind. They are often treated as entities in themselves, as when we speak of "going back in time," "ideas in my mind," "lose my mind," the future," "infinity," "the imagination," "the ego," "energy can be reduced to mass," etc. One antidote for this problem of abstraction is to reduce all abstract terms to a concrete use in a language-game of our everyday experience. That is, reduce abstract terms to concrete, intelligible examples. If we make a context- or category-mistake without being aware of it, a fallacy, or humor, is produced.

If, however, we deliberately make category-mistakes, it is not necessarily a fallacy, because we may do so in order to gain insight. This is the creative use of category-mistake. We can relate two unlike concepts or contexts to produce novel associations and explore possible new relationships. Kenneth Burke (1954) speaks of "perspective by incongruity" by which he means taking a term out of its usual context and applying it to another, to reveal new and unique connectives. On his view, we should observe the subtlety of language to note incongruities.

As an example of the misuse of language, consider books on metaphysics by Sartre, Heidegger, and Aquinas. If taken seriously, they are metaphysics. If taken as category-mistakes, they yield humor and jokes. So, for Wittgenstein (1968:464), the task of the philosopher is to show that much of what we take seriously is rather disguised humor: "My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense." Walter Kaufmann, of Princeton, wrote (1959:49): "In the wake of Heidegger, discussion concentrated…on his terms and weird locutions. Death, anxiety, conscience, and care became part of the jargon tossed about by thousands, along with Being-there, to-handness, throwness, being-with, and all the rest."

Sartre, Heidegger, and Aquinas present their mystical, metaphysical views seriously without realizing that many of their statements are disguised jokes. Category-mistakes serve as a philosophical method of revealing disguised nonsense, creating humor, and, if creatively done, giving insight. Category-mistakes are also ways metaphors are created. Metaphor is often defined as combinations of unlike terms, or combinations of terms from different contexts or universes of discourse.

Theodore Drange (1966) treats type crossings as a priori falsehoods. This must mean that if we know the meanings of the terms involved, we know the combinations to be false. On the other hand, this is how metaphor and humor are created. He gives as examples: Virtue is a fire-shovel. Color the picture Socrates. Smells are loud. Moral perfection is a prime number. The number five is heavy.

Gilbert Ryle (1949) discusses category-mistakes as a critical tool of inquiry. He says it is category-mistake to speak of mind as an entity in the same way that we speak of a physical entity. If the mind is not in space it cannot be described as being spatially "inside" (a metaphor) anything else, or as having things going on "inside" oneself. He states, "The phrase 'in the mind' can and should always be dispensed with." (1949:40) Other examples of category-mistake given in his book are drawn mainly from mental descriptions or so-called "internal states."

In an important article entitled, "Systematically Misleading Expressions," Ryle (1960) says that differences of logical forms of sentences are disguised by the grammatical form between certain phrases. The task of philosophy involves systematic restatement and the avoidance of systematic language errors. For example, grammar misleads us into thinking that "existence" is a quality. This is also the fallacy of abstraction. The type-crossing, or context deviation, is recognized by nonphilosophers as well. Helen Haworth (1968) speaks of metaphor as "sort-crossing." Barbara Leondar (1968) speaks of metaphor as a transgression of categories. I. A. Richards (1938) wrote: "In metaphor, more narrowly defined, we cross sorts to make new occasional sorts; but the sorting operation is fundamental. In metaphor there is a cross-grouping and a resultant tension between the particular similarity employed and more stable habitual classifications, which would be absent here….What we have to do is watch them [metaphors] tricking us." (MB:239)

Here, attention is called to the fact that when there is mistake, tension is created. Metaphor and humor can both create a category tension caused by the contradiction or inappropriateness of the type-crossing. The tension is supposedly released in laughter or anger. Or the tension may remain unresolved, or as a paradox, or puzzle. How can black be white? How can 3 + orange = chair? How can emotion be reason? Some of the greatest scientific and philosophical insights have been created by tension metaphors. Such metaphors are often taken at first as jokes. "People are machines," was once thought to be an extravagant if not humorous statement. "Humans will fly to the moon," was also a joke which seemed to deviate from or contradict ordinary experience.

Context deviation leads to taking a term literally when it is being used metaphorically in a different context. This creates what is called a "metaphor-to-myth" fallacy joke. This will be discussed under "take literally" type of humor. With context-mistake a statement is taken literally; the false seems to be true. If taken as humor, the seemingly true is seen as false, or at least as a deviation. If there is much difference between the two contexts, tension is created.

The analysis of humor itself often involves context or category-deviation. We erroneously treat humor as identical with laughter. Also, to "laugh at" a joke is not the same as laughing at oneself. Laughing at a joke is humor, laughing at a person is ridicule, a much different thing. As was shown earlier, ridicule is not humor at all. It is a negative emotion. Because the same word or event: "laugh" occurs, we mistakenly identify ridicule with humor. In addition, each type of humor differs from each other type and to confuse types creates category-mistakes. And to treat humor as an abstract thing or entity in itself, is a fallacy of abstractionism, or what Ryle would call a "systematically misleading expression."

To treat humor as an internal feeling was shown earlier to be a category-mistake and mentalist fallacy. Even though we say "I feel x," when "x" is an emotion, it is a mistake because emotions are not just feelings. We should rather say, "I assess-feel." Some other similar examples follow. In some cases they serve as critical tools to reduce faulty notions to absurdity. The humor is better, more persuasive, or at least more provocative when the category-mistake relates to a larger or philosophical issue such as abortion. For example, "There is a screech in your cup" would be more interesting if there were another situational reason for saying it. In a sense, nearly all types of humor are context mistakes, or metaphors:

"Ah, it's beautiful." "No, it's Sunday."

2 girls + 2 boys = 4 problems.

At 2:16 the soul entered the fertilized egg.

Been looking for it for awhile, but just where is my soul?

Call a cat "Bluebird."

Can you hear the silence?

Cells are potential people. The cell is a person.

Cells can be cloned. Save the innocent cells!

Coffee: $ .40 a slice.

Do you believe in peanut butter?

Do you sleep fast or slow?

Dogma makes sense.

False pleasure (Plato).

Forgot to pay the brain bill.

Give him half a thank you.

God created himself.

He created a new pair of shoes, and then created the world.

He wagged "goodbye."

How long did the enjoyment last?

In his last life he was a bathroom.

Intelligent light bulb.

I've never seen a man needing a coat of paint more than you do.

May your adjectives last forever.

Put a quarter into a telephone slot in order to get some peanuts.

Put five cents into a parking meter to see how much you weigh.

Save the innocent sperms!

Save the innocent unfertilized eggs!

Say "goodbye" when you go to sleep.

Spread some jelly on your life.

The fetus is a person-to talk to.

The fetus is innocent most of the time.

The fetus is innocent.

The number "3" is unhappy.

The sperm is a person.

The sperm is guilty.

The sperm is innocent.

There is a screech in your cup.

What do ghosts eat for breakfast?

Where is your mind?

Where is your pleasure?

You can't define a thing, only a term.




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or to next chapter. (Chapter 7b continuing Analysis of Types of Humor.)