A. Contradiction Humor Type I. ANALYTIC (incongruity, contradiction, synthetic contradiction, false statement, hopeless, impossible, logical fallacies, irony, blatant lie, nonsense, paradox)

Wherever there is life, there is contradiction, and wherever there is contradiction, the comical is present, and wherever one is justified in ignoring the pain.

(Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1992:513-4)

Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough.

Mark Twain

Much Madness is divinest Sense / to a discerning eye- / Much sense-the starkest Madness.

(Emily Dickinson 1979:#432)

Contradiction is not contradiction, but a whole philosophy Author

Humor is the least important thing in the world and the most important thing in the world.

Analytic contradiction humor involves verbal contradiction or contradiction in definition. Words or sentences may contradict other words or sentences. The terms combined are thought to be opposite or contradictory. For example, "It s a legal crime," "Beautiful catastrophe, " "He was arrested for driving without a car." Kant regarded an analytic statement as one such that if the predicate is denied, it results in a contradiction, e.g. "She is not female.'' It is like contradicting a circular statement. "He is a married bachelor'' is a contradiction. If we know the meaning of "bachelor," we know he cannot be married. It is true by definition. No further experience or evidence is needed. If experience and further investigation is needed, the statement is synthetic. "The chair is yellow," is a synthetic statement, because chairs are not yellow by definition. Thus, one way of separating out the several types of contradiction is to distinguish between analytic and synthetic contradiction.

a.) Analytic contradiction is contradiction of definition. (self-contradiction)

b.) Synthetic contradiction is contradiction on the basis of experience. It is a relative, not a perfectly sharp distinction.

"A triangle has three sides," may be analytic in having three sides, but it also requires experience to know that or to deduce other properties of a triangle. Thus, it is also synthetic. The analytic-synthetic distinction has not been clearly distinguishable in philosophical literature. However, some statements are more obviously contradictory by definition than others and these will be classified as analytic contradictions.

Nothing need be absolutely and in every way contradictory to something else. It needs only to be thought to be contradictory. Words are too fluid and have too many associations or connotations to be completely opposed or unlike. There are few terms so fixed and stipulated in definition as to be analytic. Just as circular statements also have noncircular meanings, so also contradictions have noncontradictory senses. Each example must be examined separately for its contradictoriness. John Austin (1964:17) wrote, "In general, it will pay us to take nothing for granted or as obvious about negations and opposites." It does not pay to assume that a word must have an opposite, or one opposite. The meaning of "opposite" and "contradiction" must be given concrete meanings. "Opposite" has the metaphorical meaning of "facing each other: in a boxing ring," or "on different sides of a color chart," or "of a different gender." "Opposite" is a synonym of "unlike." ''Contradictory" has the added meaning that the unlike terms cannot ordinarily both be true at the same time in the same sense. "Square that circle," is contradictory. We do not understand such a statement. It short circuits intelligibility and so creates the mistake or deviation from reason which is needed for humor. The deviation is such that it leads to the types of experience involved in nonsense, paradox, hopelessness, and impossibility. We laugh at the hopeless, impossible and absurd. What is presented as if it were intelligible is seen to be unintelligible. What is given as a truth is seen to be false.

When on one level a statement is circular, but on another level makes good sense, there is a humorous contrast developed such that there is unity in difference or truth in apparent falsity. This mechanism is mentioned in Beardsley' s (1962) "logical absurdity" theory according to which a statement must, for clarity, be taken on a second level, because the first level of meaning does not make sense. So also with contradiction humor, there is falsity in truth and truth in falsity. Humor itself may be defined in terms of contradiction. (See also the chapter 4 on reflexive metahumor.):

acceptable fault

answer by not answering

anti-humor humor

arbitrary necessity

ask by not asking

ask what you answer

bad in good

be two people at once

be what you are not

beauty in ugliness

black humor

blame self for another's action

boring excitement

congruous incongruity

controlled nonsense

defeated expectation

defeated truth

denied truth

deviant conformity

deviant directness

deviant traditionality

distorted truth

do what you wish not to

dogmatic intelligence

fallacious truth

false defenses

falsity in truth

familiar strangeness

federhart means literally "feather hard" (therefore elastic)

good in bad

grotesque (humor+horrible)

hopeless effort

important triviality

incongruous congruity

inferior superiority

intelligent dogma.

irrelevant relevance

justifiable belief.

learn the obvious

make differences identities

make identities differences

making likenesses unlike

meaning in meaninglessness

meaningful nonsense

(Dziemidok 1993:91)

meaninglessness in meaning

nondangerous danger

orderly disorder

owe what is undeserved

perfect mistake.

playful abuse

playful pain (Eastman 1936)

playful shock

possible impossibilities

practical impracticality

rational belief

rational belief.

rational dogma

rational god

rational madness (Dario Fo 1987,

in Ruch 1998:273)

real unreal

reason in unreason

reasonble dogma.

right in wrong

saved falsity

serious fun

solve a problem by escape

successful failure

superior inferiority

tactful tactlessness

Tonfarbe means "tone color" or timbre.

Tonmalerei means musical "tone painting."

tragicomedy (tragedy+humor)

true falsity

truth in falsity

ugliness in beauty

unacceptable acceptability

understand the inexplicable

unintelligible intelligibility

unreal real

useless passion (Sartre)

useless practicability

vague clarity

wrong in right

Contradiction humor can easily turn to frustration and anger if taken seriously. On the emotional and psychological level it can lead to double-binds, or conflict with resulting psychosis or shock. The negation of contradiction humor is conflict. People are usually "bundles of contradictions." One of the most classic cases is that of weekday scientists who on Sunday hypocritically abandon their strict demand for evidence. They virtually never look at the critical arguments against religion. They are scientific yet supernatural, kind yet cruel. Another paradigm is normally kind people who, nevertheless, support an aggressive military. Some contradiction jokes make sense if examined further; others make no sense at all. We may laugh at individuals not aware of contradicting themselves. Or we may laugh because language itself, as commonly used, contains contradiction. Humor itself exposes the contradictions in everyday life. On the various levels there are: a) analytic contradictions: verbal, relatively objective contradictions in definition (definitional contradiction). b) incongruity contradiction: connotative contradiction mainly between secondary or remote meanings, actions, and perceptions. c) synthetic contradictions: contradiction based on experience between statements, actions, perceptions.

Analytic contradiction humor deals largely with strong verbal contradiction. It may be created by overtly or covertly combining what are thought to be opposites. The dictionary definition may be looked up and synonyms both affirmed as well as denied (antonym) in the same statement. The technique involved is to think of the opposite of a word and combine them. In this way, the meaning of the concepts is put in question. It is like taking the opposite viewpoint. Contradiction provides a critical analysis of concepts. It is built-in counterargument.

In the literature on metaphor, contradiction is often referred to as "antithesis" or "oxymoron." Eleanor McCann (1961) showed that oxymora such as "dying life," "blind vision," "free slave," and "descend to soar," were logical developments from the Spanish mystic tradition. Harald Weinrich (1963) presented the view that bold metaphors or oxymora are better than feeble ones. Aristotle wrote, "We should give our language a 'foreign air'; for men admire what is remote, and that which excites admiration is pleasant…Antithesis, riddles and humor are closely related and can help us to gain insight…A good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of similarity in dissimilars."

A parallel here is that just as insight metaphors are sometimes regarded as better than others, so also insight humor might be more desirable than noninsight humor. Poetic insight and argument involve the synthesis of pro and con, the reconciling of opposites, as in the tomb-womb poems of Dylan Thomas. William Steinhoff (1961) shows how opposites are reconciled. The philosophy of Unamuno and Aristotle's philosophy are built out of combinations of opposites. Combining and relating opposites is a central technique in both the sciences and the arts. Doing or saying the opposite of what one wants or what is the case, is the basis of most of the defense mechanisms, e.g. reaction-formation, introjection, rationalization, etc. Aristotle employs contraries or oppositions which are conceptual vehicles to attempt to carry a world of change to a world of unchanging actuality. His oppositions are: potential-actual, matter-form, passive-active, privation-formed matter, means-ends, mechanical-purposive. He also divides knowledge from the perspective of the problem of: being-nonbeing, eternal-perishable, fixed-changing, intuition-deduction, necessary-contingent, one-many, reason-sensation, universal-particular. Aristotle presents hundreds of contraries and their analysis is basic to his philosophy.

Examples of Contradiction Humor Type I:

Aggressive passivity.

Agree to disagree.

All sex is rape. (Dworkin 1983)

Apathetic concern.


Brave coward.

Clever bore.

Come on in, the water is dry.

Communication is impossible.

Compassionare conservatism.

Contradiction is not contradiction, but a whole philosophy.

Cruel kindness.

Dead life.

Definite maybe.

Different identities.

Dry tears.

Everything is abnormal. (also all fallacy)

Exact estimate.

Exciting boredom.

Extrasensory perception.

Female uncle.

Good murder.

He boiled an egg without water.

He forgets the present.

He gave up quitting.

He's an intelligent fool.

Honest liar.

Horribly good.

Humor is ridiculous profundity.

I apologize for this announcement.

I died.

Idealistic realist.

I'm sleeping.

Inhuman humans.

Instant velocity.

Intelligent blunder.

I used to talk in clichés, but now I avoid them like the plague.

It was a cliché the first time it was used.

Jest: not meaning what you say.

Let's have an accident.

Living corpse.

Love him to death.

Love your enemies.

Mind is no mind. (Zen)

Minor crisis.

Nauseatingly perfect.

No answer is also an answer.

Nonsense makes sense.

One should never use all statements.

Order is disorder. (Dadaism)

Original clichés.

Planned extemporaneousness.

Plot in a novel: a distorting request for order.

Promiscuous virgin.

Remember the future.

Say it nonverbally.

Selfishly unselfish.

Silent scream.

Schadenfreude ("malicious joy")

She is a nice guy.

She is a "yes" in a "no."

Silent Lecture.

Sloppy formality.

Snow falls still.

Speak silently.

Special Today: No ice cream.

Square circle.

Studied spontaneity.

Stupid genius.

Swift stupidity. (Also pun on Swift's satires.)

Tell a perfect lie.

The best life is the afterlife.

The real is surreal. (Dadaism)

The same difference.

The unborn want to live.

There is no time in the present.

They feel bad because they are always unhappy.

Think of three impossible things.

This is not a sentence.

To do nothing is to do everything.

Tomorrow morning sharp.

Too superior to be superior.


Trust: believing what you don't believe.

Two-sided triangle.

Unequal equals,

Unity distorts.

Unity is not everything.

We must doubt reason.

What is clear is not clear.

What is complex is simple.

Where did you forget it?

Working vacation.

Writers who write who don't write.

"Yes" is "no"

I don't mind global policies as long are they are not in my own back yard. He is so stupid he doesn't know he is smart. I'll have another cup of coffee, only make it tea. In Alice the Dodo says, "Everyone has won, and all must have prizes." (Carroll 1960:33) If you cannot read this you should see an eye doctor. "I'll be surprised if I see the age of twenty-one." In chivalric or idealized romantic love one "suffers agreeably" or "suffers love." "In the midst of life we are in death, so in sanity we are surrounded by madness." (Wittgenstein) "It is difficult to be quiet if you have nothing to do." (Schopenhauer) Irony: meaning the opposite of what one says. BBC rule: There is no universal standard of English pronunciation and we have set it. O. K., get angry if it makes you happy. (Compare Chapter 4, metahumor) "Purposiveness without purpose." (Zweckmässigkeit ohne Zweck) (Kant) "I don't care how much a person talks, if it is only said in a few words." (Josh Billings, in Esar 1978:107) "It never rains in Ireland except between showers." (Esar 1978:111) "If you're going to be a hypocrite, at least be sincere about it." (Esar 1978:175) "Truths are illusions that one forgot." (Nietzsche)

One formula for generating Type I contradiction humor is: X is not X. (Compare also oxymoron humor) For example, Logic is illogical (or not logical), Logic has no logic, In Women's Studies women are taught to be non-women, Females are not necessarily women, it is something they have to learn, or unlearn, to do. This is also a reversal of circularity humor.

It is natural for those who use cosmetics to be artificial. "Some people call a telephone message a 'message on poles' and a wireless message 'a message on poles without poles.'" (Wisdom 1965:133-134) It was hereditary in his family to have no children. I will tell you the truth that cannot be told. Male: "I'm against abortion for others, but not for myself." Only when seeing is no seeing is there real Zen. Philosophy perverts the minds of students by getting them to inquire. (Socrates was accordingly condemned to death for "perverting the youth of the state.") My statement is so profound, that even I don't understand it. The caterpillar in Alice talks of "one side of a mushroom," though they are round. (Carroll 1960:52) "The reports of my death are grossly exaggerated." (Mark Twain) There is an exception to every rule, including this one. To say anything about Zen is to misinterpret it. We ought to keep the land, we stole it fair and square. When you speak literally, why are you being so indirect? "The best kind of revenge is not to repeat the injury." (Marcus Aurelius) Q. "Do you want to be buried or cremated?"-A. "I don't know. Surprise me." (cf. A. Klein. Humor 13, 2 (2000) 239.)

B. Contradiction Humor Type II. Incongruity and Inconsistency (most types of humor, conceit, deviations, cosmic irony, hypocrisy, juxtaposition, substitution, value deviation)


Incongruity is a lesser degree of contradiction than analytic contradiction. It may be called subjective or apparent contradiction. It may involve action, as well as verbal contradiction. Incongruity is inappropriateness, contradiction of values, or a lack of harmony. Connotations or associations may be similar or dissimilar. Incongruity is largely a conflict of connotations rather than of central meanings. Several examples are: "No one has ever been truthful about what truthfulness is." (Nietzsche) "Distance is a great promoter of admiration." (Diderot)

Whereas analytic contradiction tends to involve contradictory modifiers or connectives, incongruity involves covert or indirect contradiction. Incongruity contradiction humor is a type of connotation humor.

A test for incongruity humor is to ask, "Do these terms or actions go together compatibly or harmoniously? It is not necessary that there be opposition or strict contradiction. Incongruity humor deviates from synthetic contradiction which also is more contradictory. Synthetic contradiction requires experience and involves contradiction of the verbal with actions and imagery. It may be difficult to separate the three types of contradiction in some cases and there is necessary overlap. On the other hand, the three types of contradiction may help classify the more general category of contradiction humor.

Other than its use as a technique of inquiry, incongruity humor may be used to hide comments one wishes to make, or subtly show how others deviate from one's own values. It is used in New Yorker cartoons or where the rich or upper class wish to show how poorer or lower class activities contradict their own. That lower class values are better or worse is only suggested. It is a subjective or arbitrary contradiction, a type of value deviation. For example, an upper class person at a hot dog stand asks, "But don't you have any Grey Poupon mustard?" or lower class member asks for catsup in a gourmet restaurant. Two New Yorker cartoons read: "Fabian and I have been dating for two seasons." "Upper class" should not imply educated or intelligent. "Class" is not a scientific or precise term. In fact, the poorer or middle class (middle income) members are most likely to be the best educated. But see also the following paragraph for a critique of "educated." "Upper class" often means self-centered, spoiled, republican-conservative, irresponsible, unhumanistic and uneducated. New Yorker humor reflects this but in such a harmless way as not to offend.

The fact that the definition of class is unscientific can be exposed by means of humor. For example, so-called Standard British (Received Pronunciation, RP) is spoken of as the speech of the "educated classes." This widespread belief does not constitute a genuine description, because neither "educated" nor "class" are precise terms. "It is misleading to call RP the accent of educated people." (Abercrombie 1965:15) Gimson (EPD14:xi) says he doesn't know what "educated" means here. The Macquarie Dictionary (1981) notes that it is hard to know what "educated Australian" is. Those who are educated and those who are uneducated may or may not speak RP, assuming there were such a thing. (cf. EPD14:xi) Abercrombie (1965:15) says that educated people who do not speak RP outnumber those who do. Wells explicitly excludes educated non-RP from his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Because necessary links between education and manner of speech do not exist, one who is educated in some field or other does not entail that one speaks in a certain way, or even that one speaks at all. It is a non-sequitur. Would a professor of athletics or Russian necessarily speak RP? Would all or even most "educated" people speak in the same way?

Who is to be included in the group "educated": The Polytechnic student, graduate, the engineer, the Oxford scholar, a business executive, a Dublin or Edinburgh University graduate? One may be educated in mathematics, but not in language pronunciation. Thus, it does not follow to say that because one is educated one speaks RP. This may be true only as a question-begging circularity: "By RP is meant the pronunciation of the educated." Thus, by definition, if one is educated, one speaks RP, even if it turns out to be Liverpudlian or Russian. If so, standard English would be spoken with a Russian accent! On this view, if one is not (formally?) educated, one can never speak RP no matter how much education in pronunciation one has unless one first becomes "educated." But then one will not need the pronunciation training because, by definition, if one is educated one speaks RP. Contradiction insight humor is used here to expose the misuse of "educated."

Note that "educated usage" is sometimes used as the standard as in BBC Pronunciation Policy and Practice. (1979:7) This is not the same as "usage by the educated." It is circular to say, "The best usage is the educated (best) usage." Also, insomuch as the BBC has the ability to reach the majority of people, it has unofficially served as the standard of pronunciation. It is claimed that BBC has never set a standard although this point is controversial. BBC Handbook (1970:110) states, "The policy of English by Radio and TV is to teach the everyday usage and the pronunciation of educated English people." They spoke also of "the importance of maintaining universal forms of English." It does produce its own pronunciation guides. In sum, the BBC rule seems to be: There is no universal standard RP, and we have set it. The situation is concisely exposed by means of contradiction insight humor. We see that contradiction goes together here with hypocrisy and blatant vice.

"Class" in "educated class" is also unscientific. If by "educated class" is just meant "Those who are educated," it adds nothing to the "educated." If it means more, it is imprecise. "Upper, middle and lower class," are not clear categories. Andersson & Trudgill (1990:129) even give: Upper middle, lower middle, upper working, lower working. Presumably there are Upper upper, and lower upper (working or nonworking?) classes. With the variables "working and non-working" for six classes, this would yield twelve possible "classes." This creates reduction to absurdity humor.

Class can be determined by any criterion whatsoever, for example, the class of people who wear bowlers and carry umbrellas. One could say that these are the people who speak RP. Class may be determined by wealth, group membership, profession, power, behavior, etc. It is an open-context term requiring clear specification for intelligibility. But even if class is clearly defined, it does not mean that any class, just because it is a class, speaks RP-except the class of people who speak RP. Wells (1982:II, 297) gives three types of RP: Conservative (older generation), General (BBC), and Advanced (the young and upper class). Such a hybrid of vaguely defined "classes" does not make "class" much more clear. Wells, himself, notes that the "upper class" standard breaks down, especially because of the influence radio and TV (and one could add computer word processing programs with their grammar checking) which are accessible to all of the "classes." Gimson (1984:46) believes that RP is no longer defined by class or education.

Wells (1990a:xii) defines RP as a "social accent associated with the upper end of the social-class continuum." This sounds partly like, "RP is the language spoken by those having the power and persuasion to require that their dialect prevail over all others." Jones (1991:x) says that RP is determined by upper class speech. This is also called "upper crust" by Wells. (Macaulay 1988:120) "Upper," here, is a value term. Thus, "Received Pronunciation is that spoken by the upper class," means "Accepted 'Accepted Pronunciation' is that spoken by the accepted class." Here is circularity humor. And why should not the standard be the language spoken by the "lower classes" or the rustic country language, as was done in Norway? Because, by definition, "lower" means "not acceptable."


Do you speak BBC, Liverpudlian, or Pub?

"I'm from the north of England."

"Right. That's whe(r)e they mispronounce every bloody wo(r)d in the language.

(Because so few people speak "standard British" and the rest speak dialect, people are embarrassed and the "standard" ensures that they will "mispronounce" English all of their lives.)

It is incongruous that poems often do not contain the accustomed sequence of cause and effect. There is temporal and spatial distortion, and actions seemingly follow one another without a shade of reason. And out of this incongruity can come truth and insight. EXAMPLES:

Adoring battle.

Adults playing with toys.

Affectionate hatred.

Beauty in the beast, and beast in the beauty.

Brilliant mediocrity.

British spell humour, but write humorist.

Cheer for the other team.

Dear scholars and shoppers.

Each poem has its own logic.

Feminists and Women's Studies teachers are women who harass men.

Gentle war.

Happy death.

Happy war.

Happy slaughter.

He is an accomplished loafer.

He is first-class at saying nothing.

He likes me for my hidden qualities.

He managed to achieve the highest level mediocrity.

He was lonely in the packed subway.

Heterosexual lesbian.

Hide cookies behind the toilet.

Honest ignorance.

I am now going to be spontaneous as planned.

I listen to the news because it is bizarre.

I love to be neglected.

If a theory is not fascinating it is not true.

Iowa porch pigs.

It is a privilege to see so much confusion.

It is decadent to go to battle without music.

It must have taken a lot of work to make that mess.

It's awfully good.

It's not easy to be irresponsible.

Life is too short for long faces.

Look at what interesting problems I have.

Love of war.

Lovely heap of garbage

Loving war.

Never misspell "stupid."

One may work to play or play to work.

Oppression by women must be used to end male oppression.

Optimistic vengeance.

Philosophy is honest, open and controversial.

Precisely vague.

Rational norms of the comic.

Rational person with an irrational spouse.

Rocket named "Empathy."

Senseless act of kindness.

She only falls for people who dislike her.

Silly love.

Stony people.

Tender anger.

Tender bombing.

Vicious love.

Women Studies teachers and feminists are supposedly antisexism, yet attack or hate men.

unverified poem.

You don't even know how to spell "misspell."

You're the boss, just do as I say.

During the anthrax mail contamination scare the Post Office still advertised: " Postal Service: Let the monkey business begin."

I would not want to be there when I die.

In Cervantes, Don Quixote: Contrasts given between: fat-thin, short-tall, illusion-real, art-life, charity-malice, asceticism-sensuality.

Es ist schade, dass man die Städte nicht auf das Land hinausbaut, wo die Luft viel frischer und gesünder ist. [It is too bad they didn't build the cities in the country where the air is more fresh and healthful.]

Convict on the way to the gallows in winter asked for a scarf to prevent his neck from getting cold.

Convict on the way to the gallows: "My bra is killing me."


First snow, then silence,

this thousand dollar screen dies

so beautifully.

Oscar Wilde, as one walked in the rain handcuffed: "If this is how Her Majesty treats her prisoners, she does not deserve to have any."

Small child speaking of things such as "the whole world."

He was struck by reason.

Children, behave or no one will be able to have fun at the funeral.

Sign in foreign grocery store: We recommend courageousness and efficient self-service.

A six year old French child must be taught manners, e.g. "Don't gulp your wine."

succès de scandale (wins success because of scandalous nature) succès d' estime (wins critical, but not popular success)

Q. Can I just say one last word before you punch me? A. Sure, what? "Bye."

Congratulate the opposing lawyer for winning the case.

It's lovely that I am having these peculiar thoughts.

People have a prejudice against holes in their clothes.

The lazy person is one who tries to accomplish nothing.

Morning sickness that lasts through the afternoon.

Q. Do you love me? A. Yes, but not when you ask, Do you love me?

Person who needs nothing, but is satisfied with everything.

The following poem, joie de mort ("joy of death"), analyzes connotation-contradiction insight humor in a humorous-serious style. All three types of contradiction are used.


Commissioned to kill with a

misfired education

uniformed thoughts

lined up in a row

skewered by false belief

we target the heart.

There are bomb hungers and winged symptoms,

let me count the ways,

we build torpedoes for fish

give rifles to lovers

are generous with ammunition

and embrace the world with such arms.

We know the beauty of the hunt

under a silver-plated sky,

provoke the sunset

with unnegotiated fire

escalated to the mirrors of the stars

and in our sights

see faces in our shoes

and salute our dead.

Who kills

can never live to die,

must self-destruct

before it is too late

to win a death.

Warren Shibles

C. Contradiction Humor Type III: Synthetic Contradiction or Contradiction of Experience [falsity, false blame, false reason, false statement, (expose) hypocrisy, impossible, informal logical fallacies, improbable, blatant lie, mistake, trick]

As it becomes warm the iron crow sweats. (Koan saying)

Imagine someone saying: 'But I know how tall I am!' and laying his hand on top of his head to prove it. (Wittgenstein)

[Alice] holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing.

(Carroll 1960:23)

As soon as thought reflects on itself, what it first discovers is contradiction. (Camus)

Type III (contradiction of experience or experiential contradiction) differs from Type I (contradictory definition) and Type II (incongruity contradiction). Here are some Examples of Type III. There is an overlap between these types.

Sometimes our experience is contradicted by what is done or said. Now suppose Brer Rabbit were to refuse to eat carrots and lettuce, and eat nothing but blueberries from now on. Can you see it sitting there with its blue teeth and blue, furry mouth? It's not likely. It contradicts what we know about rabbits. Our knowledge of cause and effect is based on experience, not on mere definition. David Hume said that we couldn't be certain what will happen next. All we know about cause is based on past experience. Certain things usually go together. Thus, he said that cause is just constant, contingent, conjunction. In short, maybe tomorrow rabbits will eat steak instead of carrots. But our experience is that carrots, so far, are what rabbits prefer. This knowledge is not gained by definition, but only by observation and experience. When something different than, or contradictory to our past experience happens, it leads to humor. It makes as much sense as foxes giving birth to rabbits. Experiential contradiction may involve a contradiction between a statement and reality (false statement), or between a statement and: intention, desire, action, expectation, goal, need, reason, emotion, understanding, wishes, perception, and so on. Most of the types of humor are in general also examples of Contradiction Type III humor.

Synthetic contradiction humor may be characterized as: 1. Contradiction based on experience rather than on stipulation or mere verbal definition. 2. Contradiction between statements and actions and/or perceptions. 3. It involves more subjectivity, interpretation, and a lesser degree of contradiction than analytic contradiction. 4. Performative contradiction: when the statement is contradicted by what the statement does. For example, "I'll bet $10 I can quit gambling." Here the language-game played contradicts the statement. One says something, but takes it back in the saying. 5. Synthetic contradiction is logical contradiction in that one statement or action does not follow from another. All of the fallacies of logic could be used to explicate synthetic contradiction humor. (See "logical fallacy humor" discussed later.)

Synthetic contradiction violates the correspondence theory of truth (statement directly refers to a real event), as well as the coherence theory of truth whereby one term or statement must cohere with another term or statement but does not refer directly to a real event. The latter is like circumstantial evidence. Thus, synthetic contradiction involves experimental falsity. By taking the reverse or opposite of a desire or action, it is as if one is criticizing that action. We similarly ask, "What if the reverse case were true?" in order to gain insight. Conflicts and paradoxes combine opposites. The combination with the antithetical case forces critical examination on us. There is a kafkaesque contradictoriness of life. We are often thought guilty without knowing what we are guilty of. We are hated for no reason (though, strictly speaking, hatred is always dysfunctional). We strive to work harder than we can. We complain about things beneficial to us and demand things which are harmful. The harder we try the less we succeed. If we want to go we are not allowed. If we don't want to go, we are compelled. We can only eat as much as we do not want. In Kafka's (1988:243-277) story, "A Hunger Artist" a man purposely starves himself for little reason and in a self-defeating way. In "First Sorrow" a trapeze artist complains bitterly because he cannot be up on the high wire all of the time. (231-234) In "A Little Woman" a woman is angry with her man yet does not know why. (234-243) Contradiction yields the truth of reality.

Split personality involves two opposed personalities such that the individual, while being one type, does not remember being the other type. One personality may be shy and inhibited, the other bold and aggressive. Dunlap's "Beta Hypothesis" and V. Frankl's "Paradoxical Intention" involve doing the very thing which one is afraid to do, but with informed assessment so as to dissipate the fear. It may involve many acts, not just fear, e.g. squinting, tics, nail biting, smoking, etc. Patients may also be asked to imagine things they fear or dislike. Freudians state that dying and killing, giving and receiving, and other opposites are equivalent in the "unconscious." (The device of interchanging opposites may take place, but psychologists and philosophers often regard the "unconscious" as a fictive entity.)

Feminine coquetry involves alternate "yes" or promise and "no" or withdrawal. The male is rejected, but never deprived of hope. On the other hand, for the radical, anti-patriarchal feminists, MacKinnon (1989) and Dworkin (1983) and as typically taught in Women's Studies programs, a woman's "yes" always means "no" and all sex is rape. (cf. Beard & Cerf 1989) The result: a double bind. The following examples of Type III Synthetic experiential humor also overlap with various other types of humor.


A juvenile may like being bad.

A parent teaches manners rudely.

A perfect man.

A perfect woman.

A prisoner petitions for harsher punishment for criminals.

A successful war.

Adopt mystical rules because of insecurity.

After you die will you still love me?

Are we having fun yet?

Are you sleeping?

As an infant, I had few hobbies.

As your leader I will follow the wishes of the people.

Be a child in your adulthood.

Be in a hurry for no reason.

Belief in a god which does not exist.

Can you "think" without the word "think"?

Can you doubt doubt?

Car salesperson: It musr be good or they would not have kept it so long.

Casket with an adjustable bed.

Caution to slow sign "Baby an Bord" ("baby on board)") in window of Mercedes travelling at 90 miles per hour.

Cemetery with a view.

Compensations, such as weak people acting strong.

Critical Christian.

Death with dignity.

Dislike pleasure.

Do the reverse of what is expected of one.

Do you believe in evidence?

Do you believe in knowledge?

Do you believe in proof?

Do you believe in reality?

Do you believe in truth?

Enjoy being hostile.

Enjoy pain.

Everything I say is a lie.

Forget memory.

Happy as a fish in mercury.

Have a drink for me, will you?

He built the house spontaneously.

He doesn't know it, but he loves it.

He gets to stay in bed until 5 A. M.

He is prejudiced: fishbelly white.

He was even late to his own funeral.

He was faithful in his own way.

How many things do you know?

Humor is out of date.

I can't stand intolerant people.

I did it for no reason at all.

I don't care about the game. What's the score?

I don't like working between meals.

I have no knowledge.

I like to die.

I love criticism.

I loved her for one minute.

I was rejected even before I was born.

I will not be me.

I will still be me after death.

If you push it hard enough, it fits.

If you want to know the truth, ask someone.

I'll kill you if you die.

I'll never accept a date with her as she has bad taste in men.

Adult: "I'm a professional child."

I'm extremely humble.

I'm losing control of the world.

Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.

"Indefinable" is indefinable.

It felt like a heart attack in my shoulder blade.

It makes me angry to have people bury me.

It was a joyful war.

Kill for self-defense.

Life is absurd.

Life is just too time consuming.

Never eat anything on an empty stomach.

No one wins a war.

Poetic diction requires, requires…

Powerful Mercedes in 5 mph traffic slowdown.

Protester with sign saying, "I want to stay neutral."

Religious belief must be based on faith (bias).

Should cats be punished?

Speed limit by cemetery: is 10 mph.

Stop sweating.

Tell a joke with a serious face.

The more I try, the worse I get. (cf. paradoxical intention)

The universe abounds with invisible colors.

Theoretically, I'm very healthy, but actually I don't feel so good.

There are no answers to questions.

There is a story in it, but no one knows it.

This is absolutely safe.

Treat people with respect, moron.

Very unique.

Wanted: Meaningful overnight relationship.

Wash shadows from trees.

We blame people for things they can't help.

We can never know reality in itself.

We kill to end killing.

We live to die.

We must ban media obscenity, except, of course, for world news reports.

We must use force to end force.

We must use hatred to end hatred.

We must use humor to end humor.

We only kill to preserve peace.

We serve breakfast all day.

We sometimes have false likes.

What about the unborn people?

What was the world like before it was created?

When was time created?

Will you still eat honey after death? (Some cultures think so.)

Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations showed the absurdity of symbolic logic.

Write the first of the book last or the last first.

You always hurt the one you love.

You are eating too close to your face.

You have erudition.'' "What's that?"

Your heart you hope is there.

"As it becomes warm the iron crow sweats." (Koan saying)

He's not an incurable alcoholic. By the way, what happened to the mouthwash?

I was in love for two months before I realized it.

We'll hang him. That should teach him a lesson.

"I have an inferiority complex." "Then stop bragging about it."

Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.

If you do not stop the violence, we will destroy your country.

I can only stay just long enough for a couple of drinks and a meal.

He is honest, but you will have to watch him a little.

We live in an imaginary house with real people in it.

I've never been knowingly deceived by a con artist.

People have little knowledge because they think so.

Be careful! I don't want you to hit your head, fall down, hurt your back, and receive a painful bloody gash in your abdomen.

That doesn't mean anything to me. It really doesn't. Nothing at all. If it did I would be the first to say so, but it doesn't, I can assure you of that.

After I am dead I will have a funeral. I know that.

It's not that he is cautious, but he reads a book before he buys it.

She was engaged to two or three people at that time.

He proposed to her as he eyed the other women behind her.

Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask: and as soon as he did he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. (Joseph Heller Catch-22 )

"Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first." (Josh Billings)

"Why does it sound queer to say: 'For a second he felt deep grief?'" (Wittgenstein 1968:174)

Superman is not powerful enough to write his own comics.

In Waiting for Godot they often say "Let's go," but no one does.

Everything in the world has a real order-we put it there.

"Did nothing in particular. And did it very well." (W. S. Gilbert)

"And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?" (Carroll, Alice, 1960:17)

"I like to walk alone." "So, do I.'' "Great, let's walk together.''

I don't feel good now, do I? (Often heard in England.)

He would die for her only for one reason: to save his own life.

Suicidals sometimes think that by committing suicide they will just rid themselves of all of their problems.

Reaction-formation involves expressing the opposite emotion one is experiencing.

Negativism involves saying and doing the opposite of what is requested-severe form of stubbornness.

To obtain a desired response, one must ironically often show interest in the opposite of what is desired.

A repressed person sometimes weeps when praised.

Manic-depressives alternate from one extreme state to its opposite.

Refuse to take part because of fear of not succeeding.

Double bind: holding contradictory views at the same time.

Feelings of guilt if one does not perform an act and feelings of guilt if one does. (cf. Ziv 1986:8)

One may be disliked for one's jealousy and at the same time be said to be inattentive if they are not jealous.

Intonations suggesting the reverse of what is said.

The more one is asked to be composed, the less one is able to do so.

Rape and murder are often committed by friends.

He removed my appendix twice and did a beautiful job both times.

Metaphysician: One who studies a circle with one line missing.

Q. What was the world like before people came? A. What was it like afterwards?

Why don't you go to him in a perfectly straightforward way and lie about the whole thing?

He hasn't an enemy in the world, but all his friends dislike him.

There is only one description of human behavior: The lawyer's, the poet's, the philosopher's, the novelist's, the biologist's, the sociologists,…

Woman to divorce lawyer: We've always been incompatible, like now, I want a divorce and he doesn't.

The Swazi leave meat, food, and beer for the dead: "The dead are hungry."

He was unhappy all of his life, but didn't know it.

Answer the following question as objectively as you can: "Are you sane?"

I'm not guilty! That is wonderful, judge. Does that mean I can keep the loot?

She was sad because she thought she lost her smile.

I would really laugh if when I pass into the hereafter, there is nothing.

I'd like to do something, then I just don't feel like doing it. Once I do what I want to do, I don't want to do it.

When you achieve your goals you don't need them any more.

Can you "do something," without saying something?

They held a closed session on the freedom of speech.

It's not hard to give up smoking. I've done it dozens of times.

The fact that I am so objective and descriptive bothered me for centuries.

Bergson and Plato warned against the inadequacy of language in their many volumes.

"This board is too long." "Then cut off the bottom." "But it's the top that's too high."

She is working on a theory that there are no theories.

The Freudian "unconscious" is that of which we can never be aware.

He is working on a theory that there is no universe.

Why should I join an organization which would admit a person like me?

It is unbelievable how superstitious you are about black cats. All you have to do is make three "x" marks and it breaks the spell.

A person sues spouse for divorce because the spouse was too kind.

Judge uses strict rules of evidence, then decides the case on the basis of demeanor.

In law, the judge can decide to ignore all of the evidence presented.

First imagine you are married. Then imagine that your spouse runs around. Then become very jealous.

The time is 7:12. I have the feeling it will be 7:12 all day.

Q. Shall I cut your cake into four or eight pieces? A. Four, I'm on a diet.

I don't have controversial views. But all people are one.

He tried to communicate with a cow. (Nietzsche tried this, perhaps because the Swiss farmers talk to their cows.)

I only drink on special occasions such as when the sun comes up.

He spends days sitting around reading books on how to exercise.

I don't drink much alcohol, for example, never during a total eclipse.

This exquisite house is rent-free as long as you kill the rats.

He says he has no time to do the dishes because he is too busy relaxing.

People who wish to steal the magic from poetry.

Q. Is the second row behind the first row? A. I don't know, I've never been here before.

Let's pour some wine in glasses for the brothers who aren't here.

If he found a ticket to somewhere, he would take the trip.

The best way to learn this is to forget all you know.

I learned less in this course than I knew to begin with.

To do well on the philosophy exam, just put the opposite of what you usually think.

Of course, I'm not violent. Do you want to fight about it?

"'Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else-if you ran very fast for a long time as we've been doing.' 'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!' 'I 'd rather not try, please!' said Alice." (Carroll TLG 1960:145)

"Now we have finished. Everyone stand up and we will bow to the Buddha three times to thank him. We thank him, because even if we did not have a great enlightenment, we had a small enlightenment. If we did not have a small enlightenment, at least we didn't get sick. If we got sick, at least we didn't die. So let's thank the Buddha." (M. C. Hyers 1974)

The following poem illustrates incongruity to give insight into character and situational description. It combines humor with seriousness.


She faces them

back to back,

like a shopkeeper

serving all who enter.

And as one who had

the wrong baby pictures,

she cannot fight in battle,

but marches nightly in the park in her

invisible bikini,

her atoll,

earrings catching

on her bayonets,

smoke behind flowers,

facing the men

to unblast

her firing squad.

Warren Shibles

Defense Mechanism Humor: Psychiatric Logic

Humor is considered the highest and most mature of all forms of defense mechanisms.

(Buckman 1994:xvi)


A. Introduction. Defense mechanisms, in one sense, are not at all humorous. People involuntarily have defense mechanisms which seem be an to attempt to cope with their insoluble problems and frustrations. The problem with them is that they seem to defend, but do not. It is like committing suicide to solve one's problems, or curing one's illness by cutting off one's head. With "rationalization" we lie to others and possibly to ourselves. Religion is an institutionalized form of rationalization. It is taken seriously. We deny reality, exaggerate, do the reverse of what is desirable, inflict pain on ourselves, hallucinate what we desire, imagine what does not exist, dissociate thought from feeling and action, and generally deceive ourselves. When nonconscious defense mechanisms are used consciously, they cease to become defense mechanisms and are candidates for humor. As a joke, we may deliberately and consciously rationalize. Ellis (1962) says that, psychopathic people cleverly avoid facing basic issues and avoid long-range views of life. This "brilliance" is the source of humor to the outside observer. It is the mechanisms which are humorous, not the people who unknowingly and seriously use them. Ridicule of psychiatric patients must be avoided. But the mechanisms involve contradiction and deviation humor, just as do logical fallacies and ordinary mistakes. There is tragicomedy or the grotesque in those who are mystical, irrational, dysfunctional, illogical, or those who do not inquire-which means most living people. In this sense humans are absurd.

Defense mechanisms are allegedly "unconscious," illogical, or distorted ways of speaking, acting, and perceiving. The other kinds of psychiatric disorders could be added here as well, but as they are taken seriously they usually are not sources of humor, but rather of ridicule. Humor itself may be used by the psychiatric patient (or client). The Ganser syndrome, or "nonsense syndrome" involves humorous replies in order to escape the seriousness of bad news. For example, the doctor may be called just a "friend." The patient/client, if asked who he or she is may reply, "A famous bullfighter," or give obviously incorrect replies. Humor itself is sometimes a defense mechanism. One may focus on the humorous to avoid the painful. The list of defense mechanisms begins to overlap with the informal logical fallacies to include: blaming, minimizing, diversion, irrelevance, disassociation, incorporation, etc.

Humorous laughter is a sign that something went wrong, that something doesn't fit. It is the false which seems to be true, or the wrong which seems to be right, as it is with rationalization. It may, with such mechanisms as paranoia, be the true which seems false, or the right which seems wrong. Humor is a defense mechanism against what is perceived to be impossible, contradictory, or unacceptable. It comes as a correction of a shock to our reason or expectations. Humor allows us to overcome the impossible and elevate ourselves above it. The comic involves cheerful acceptance and adaptation by an intelligent person. In both humor and schizophrenia there is failure to differentiate between the abstract and the concrete, the figurative and the literal, the relevant and the irrelevant, symbol and object, form and content. Both involve contextual confusion. The difference between humor and defense mechanisms is that with humor one must be aware that there is a contradiction, deviation or mistake. On the other hand, the conscious humor may be used unknowingly for perverse purposes or to relieve frustrations or hostilities. Masha Mishkinsky (1977) sees humor as a "courage mechanism." We supposedly use humor, as we use courage, to modify, reorganize, criticize and depart from the customary, in order to deal better with conflict. In the following account, however, the defense mechanism is not being regarded as pathogenic, but rather therapeutic.

B. Types of Defense Mechanism Humor

1. Acting out. An example would be to go for a drink as soon as one starts studying; or dating anyone at a bar instead of trying to solve one's marital problems. Wearing tattoos may sometimes be a type of acting out, a way of revolting against the rules of society or purposely doing what one knows others do not accept. Acting out, a type of behavioral humor, is a way of attempting to solve one's problems by irrelevant action, rather than by discussion of the problem itself. It is often self-defeating and may not alter the source of the problem. Suicide and excessive drinking may be regarded as types of acting out. In acting out, a destructive action takes the place of the talking-out of the problem. It is humorous to the outsider because it is such useless behavior and because the actor does not realize its futility. It can also be tragic.

2. Compensation. An incongruous attempt to make up for a fault. A cruel act may incongruously be followed by extra kindness. A weak person may try to act especially strong; a less intelligent person more intelligent, etc. A smoker says, "Sure, I smoke, but I eat strictly health foods."

3. Conversion. A conflict or unresolvable problem is converted to or affects one's body so as to result in physical malfunction or paralysis, e.g. psychic blindness, paralysis of a limb, inability to move (as in the state of shock). Sometimes, as with conversion hysteria, as soon as truth serum is used to eliminate the psychological block, the patient can immediately move again. One may be unable to move when in shock. Thanatomimesis involves pretending to be dead, or at least being motionless, thereby possibly avoiding a predator. We find it humorous for a human, insect, or animal to pretend to be dead, or for a person to be able to move an arm which, a few minutes ago, one could not move.

4. Denial. A kind of blatant lie or escape. A problem or undesirable trait is denied. The term itself suggests that one denies what one knows is true. It is treating the true as if it were false or trying to change reality merely by wishing it were different. We deny death often and treat it as a taboo topic, or develop a mystical metaphysics to deny that people die. Religion has often been regarded as a defense mechanism of death denial. Denial involves unwillingness to discuss or inquire, amnesia, leaving a situation, intellectualizing, rationalizing, withdrawal, lying, etc. Alcoholics blatantly deny that they are alcoholic, the angry person immediately denies being angry. Several Examples are:

The goal of life is sex-or its denial.

And I suppose you think I have a sex drive too?

Quiet, I don't want to know.

"You think I have a gun in my hand. How mistaken can you get?" "But I can see it." "Oh, how did that get there?"

5. Depersonalization (compare "Personification") A person gradually develops a feeling of unreality, self-estrangement, or multiple personality. Irrational statements and assessments lead to depersonalization.

6. Displacement. This is another term for transference, symbolization, or metaphorization. An object or thought is taken out of its normal context and so displaced. Displacement may refer to the breaking of an association or connection between feeling, and thought. One's desire for a romantic love relationship is displaced to a "romantic" love of cats.

7. Escape. (See "Escape or release humor" listed after defense mechanisms.)

Sei gefühllos. Ein leicht bewegtes Herz ist ein elend Gut auf der wackenden Erde. (Goethe) [Be emotionless. An easily moved heart is a miserable possession in a wavering world.] Jewish humor is often especially characterized as being survival or escape humor. (Ziv 1993:vii)

8. Fixation (See "Stereotype humor" and "Taking literally.") A person has fixed and inflexible ideas. Although this sometimes means fixation at a certain stage of development it is more useful to think of it as one's being captivated by a metaphor, linguistic statement, image, perception, or motor behavior (cf. habit). Behaviorists might refer to fixation as strongly reinforced conditioning. Psychiatric patients are often obsessed with a belief, statement, fear, persecution, etc. Even scientists and researchers in other disciplines are often captivated by or fixated on some theoretical model or metaphor, as Thomas Kuhn (1962) has pointed out in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Science is, like other disciplines, taken in by fashion and current trends. Scientists may literally see the world in terms of their limited models in almost the same way as perhaps a schizophrenic sees a schizophrenic world. Supposedly, by means of fixation one has security and a way to cope with and organize an otherwise incoherent accumulation of problems. But if the model fixated on is mystical, unrealistic, or confused, the fixation becomes maladaptive. Fixation may involve perseveration (repeated to an exceptional degree, repetition for no reason of a single phrase or behavior), recurring ideas or tunes, repetition of first reaction learned, verbigeration (the meaningless repetition of words or phrases), compulsion, obsession, echolalia, (repetition of answers in the same words the questioner used).

9. Identification. Identity may involve taking on the properties of others or even objects, as one's own. It may be subtle and may involve role taking, identifying with a character in a film or novel, acting like one's friends or parents, imitating, etc. The problem of identity also involves equivocation because it is not clear which types of identity are referred to: psychiatric, sociological, psychological, philosophical, racial, social, sexual, biological, political, power, etc. One may reject racial and other identities in favor of personal identity. As a defense mechanism, one may identify with the deceased person as an attempt to compensate somehow for the loss, or identify with someone wronged to thereby punish oneself, or identity with a person who has the qualities one lacks. Identification may be a conviction that one is other than one is so as to deny one's unacceptable qualities. Knowledge of oneself, one's language, others, and the environment determine the kind of identity assumed. As discussed earlier, a person is the assessments or metaphors they have of themselves. Examples:

Ever since she saw "Love Story" she keeps wanting to find her man and die.

A nonparticipant says, "We won the game."

He never held his cigarette like that until he met Helen.

10. Intellectualization (Compare informal logical fallacy of "abstractionism.") Intellectualization involves the use of abstract or metaphysical terms, ambiguous, or overly theoretical terms unrelated to concrete experience. By the use of such language one may avoid facing one's conflicts and problems. Intellectualization is also a kind of rationalization. Thomism is such an intellectualization. By speaking abstractly with others, meaningful communication and personal contact may be avoided. Examples: Does it make any difference? Isn't it all relative, so we should just do what we want. Why move at all? If you keep going in the same direction you just end up in the same place.

11. Introjection. An attitude of the patient toward another is unknowingly changed into an attitude towards oneself. One may fear or hate oneself when it is actually someone else one hates. This may be because they do not want to hate others, or because they learned to blame themselves rather than others.

12. Metaphorization. (See "metaphor humor.") Patients use metaphors to attempt to avoid their problems, an issue, or an argument. They may use metaphor because it gives pleasure and avoids the pain of directness. Examples: Q. Why did you rob the store? A. Well, life's a big apple and I'm nibbling at it. Q. Why were you flirting with a married man? A. I guess I just lost control at the wheel.

13. Projection. The reverse of introjection. One's own qualities are unknowingly attributed to others, especially the negative qualities. For example, a woman who does not eat fish or okra because it is slimy. Unsuccessful people may try to find fault with others in an attempt to deny their lack of success, to show that others have failed also, or to attack a quality in others and so vicariously express a dislike of the quality in oneself. Projection is an attribution to others of that which is subjective. Hallucinations may be thought of as projections of subjective states onto reality. The scientists' models are also theoretical projections imposed on reality, but they are often deliberate projections.

14. Rationalization (Compare "wishful thinking.")

I started with nothing and still have most of it left.

An attempt to justify an unjustifiable act by unknowingly finding reasons other than the actual reasons. It is a type of deceit of others and oneself. Rationalization is a distortion of truth and falsity. The false is seen as true and the true is seen as false. Examples: Often rationalizations are put in the form: The good news is..., and the bad news is... For example: The bad news is that gasoline has now doubled in price, the good news is that those wonderful crispy chips you buy at the station still cost only fifty cents. Trickle down economics: If we give to the rich it will trickle down to the poor (also blatant vice). I'm not too short, you're too tall. It's my job to be leisurely. An alcoholic says that alcohol fights tooth decay. I'll just have one more 'lil drink. Smoking helps keep flies away. "At least anyone who gets refuted isn't being entirely ignored." (Pullum 1991:139) I couldn't help myself. The fact that no one understands you does not mean that you are an artist. From the cosmic point of view, it doesn't matter how horrible I am. We only kill in self-defense, or at least defense of our way of life, our needed tea routes, etc. I never realized before just how nutritious and chocked full of vitamins jelly donuts really are. It's bigger than both of us. I know I could get all "A's" if I studied. I'm not flirting, I've just got an outgoing personality. I'm not in the mood. I'm not fat, I'm just a little rotund. I'm not fat, I'm just Madonna-like. He had me feeling so young, I wasn't old enough to know any better. Well, I didn't want it anyway. Why study, what do you have to find out about everything for anyway? You may have the gun on me, but a special force could make that gun drop out of your hand, or remove the hand from the gun, or the hand from the arm, or maybe just leave me the bullets. Life is absurd anyway, so I can do as I wish. "Since my storehouse burned down, I now have a better view of the rising moon." (Masahibe. Blyth 1965)

15. Reaction-Formation (Compare "contradiction, compensation," reversal humor) This involves doing or saying the reverse of what one would wish to do or say. In place of expressing hatred one may show extreme kindness, as if to compensate for the desire not to hate. Projection and introjection are also reversals as are many of the defense mechanisms. Negativism involves doing the opposite of what is requested. Reaction-formation may be thought of as the metaphorical mechanism of antithesis or oxymoron. This account expands and redefines the traditional view that reaction-formation is a transformation of one "drive" into its opposite. "Drive," however, is a pseudopsychological term.

16. Regression (Compare "act out," "escape.") Acting as one did in a previous stage of development, such as childhood. One cannot actually ever regress or go back to childhood, but rather merely act like a child in some ways. So actual "regression" is a misnomer. Also, pseudopsychological definitions of regression such as, "The ego attempts to return to an earlier libidinal state," should be avoided. One among many unconscious reasons or assessments involved in regression is to try to be in a previously relatively problem-free, secure and protected state where all of one's needs are taken care of by one's parents. We wish to regain the happiest moments of our lives. Transactional analysis stresses the view that there is the "child" in us. But this view is obscure and seems to be a form of restated Freudianism. Examples: When things get tough, I just put my thumb in my mouth and cry. General, would you stop playing with those toy soldiers? Adult says, "Gimme dat." The military treats a battle as merely a child's game.

17. Repression. Repression is traditionally described as suppression of "ideas" or emotions. This is unacceptable because it presupposes unfounded mentalistic entities. One may be afraid of discussing or facing a traumatic event because one finds it too painful to do so. To repress is to avoid or forget painful experiences, or to be unable to describe them. We tend to repress the fact that we will die. Repression is a way of lying to ourselves without being aware that we are doing so. Examples: I was a perfect child. I never told a lie.

18. Sublimation. (Compare: substitution, synecdoche, connotation, metaphor.) Sublimation is substitution for, and distraction from, a major need or desire, especially, sexual desire. Intellectual and physical distraction may serve as substitutes for wishes, needs and wants. For example: sports, dancing, alcohol, conversation, humor, motion pictures, television, eating, etc. Things merely associated with sexual activity, because socially acceptable, may become desired in themselves, e.g. dancing, flirting, music, etc. Sublimation is a form of metaphorical transference or substitution. Humor also has the function of distracting us from our unfulfilled desires. Examples: When he reads a book, every third line he looks for a woman. I'm not sure if he is lonely, but he writes love poems every day.

19. Superiority. (Name calling, practical joke, ignorance humor, satire, trick, ridicule.) An inhumane mechanism whereby one is made to feel good, often at someone else's expense. We feel good because we see that others are suffering or more ignorant than ourselves. Hobbes' theory of humor is that we laugh because of the sudden glory at the infirmity of others. Plain looking people may feel good at seeing someone even more plain than themselves. Ignorance humor involves laughing at people less intelligent than ourselves. Women, because of their greater sex power, may laugh at men regarding matters of romance. There is also a sudden good feeling at a brilliant discovery, triumph, or success. However, for this to constitute humor the superiority must involve the positive emotion of acceptance. Examples: I'm wonderful. I'm gorgeous. I have so much to give. You are really lucky to have me to support.

20. Symbolization. Symbolization may be a misleading and unnecessary term for association, synecdoche, transference, substitution, metaphor. It should not be used in the sense that some concrete object represents a metaphysical or transcendent entity. An object comes to "stand for," or represent another. But one object cannot descriptively and literally "stand for" another. It is either only stipulated that one object is to represent another or two objects have properties so similar that one suggests the other. Stars do not look like or suggest states, but might be stipulated to represent them on a flag.

In human thinking one thing or statement may similarly come to symbolize another because of stipulation, or similarity of qualities, or associations. Some of the associations are subjective, e.g. two things may be regarded as being alike because we are unfamiliar with either one, even though their qualities are entirely different.

For normal and abnormal thinking, symbolization is a common device. It allows a single image or object to represent a complex situation or series of objects or problems. A house comes to represent what happened in it, e.g. discord and conflict, a death that occurred, a traumatic experience, happiness, etc. This is partly the basis of emblems. Because of such fixed associations one may find one has to move away from the house, or greatly alter assessments.

The specific symbols may be understood by analyzing one's assessments or associations. It is unscientific and harmful to claim there are symbols, without having concrete evidence in terms of associations and assessments present. Freud commits this error in seeing every room as a womb, and every object or statement as a symbol of a childhood or traumatic experience. This turns symbol into conceit or farfetched metaphor and commits the fallacy of taking one's metaphors literally. Also, symbols cannot represent metaphysical or transcendent entities. They cannot represent more than we can concretely know. Examples: Look at those chewed erasers!-We know what Freud would say about that: sexual frustration. The symbol for the spirit is ¿, therefore the spirit exists.

21. Transference. (Context deviation, connotation, substitution, metaphor) "Transference" is the translation of the Greek word for metaphor. All kinds of transferences are possible between object, word, statement, thought, behavior, people, problems, emotions, etc. One's problem may be transferred from a cognitive impasse to a physical symptom such as colitis, ulcer, paralysis, etc. An emotion toward one person may be transferred to another object or person. Transference sometimes refers to the attachment a patient begins to feel toward the therapist.

The notion of transfer may be further clarified by relating it to the types of metaphorical transfers and types. Transference relates to learned associations, stimulus generalization, or conditioning. Example: I would only date someone who likes cats.

22. Wish Fulfillment. This is the simple matter of taking a wish and claiming or believing that it is true or will be fulfilled no matter how unlikely it is. Examples: I will be very rich some day. I'm going to be the next president. I'm going on a diet. I'll definitely stop smoking by next week. I'm beautiful. I will live forever.

DeviatIon Humor

"Well, then," the Cat went on, "you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now, I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore, I'm mad" (Carroll Alice. 1960:63-64)

Humor in literature is a departure from a recognized norm viewed by the author with detachment and playfulness. (Louis Hasley in Pratt 1993:111)

Dziemidok (1993:61) argues that all theories of humor reduce to the acceptable deviation from the norm. We notice deviations from what is familiar to us. If someone deviates, we even say they are mad or crazy. Suppose Brer Rabbit were to start meowing and acting like a cat. It would be strange. It would be humorous depending upon how we take it. Some kinds of deviations which produce humor are: Deviation from: desires, the familiar, grammar, the ideal, the practical, pronunciation, purpose, rules or standards, the usual including obvious lie, unexpected honesty, and even deviation from humor itself.

A. Deviation from Desires. What is desired least is what is offered. What is most desired is taken away. Desired expectations are not fulfilled. Others desire things we do not think are desirable, for example, the book of buttons, spinach milk and fried bread, or a book on the history of mouse tails. "This is a hold up. Give me all of your spam."

B. Deviation from the Familiar. It is not a familiar sight to see someone raise green pigs, or play the vacuum cleaner as a musical instrument. Anything surrealistic deviates from the familiar. What Alice regards as her awful three inch height, the Caterpillar finds most satisfactory. People sometimes say, "The people next door are not like we are. They must then be crazy." We tend, erroneously, to think that what we are familiar with must be true, and so we laugh at what we are not familiar with. We may call this the "fallacy of familiarity." Most of the words with which we are very familiar, such as mind, time, good, bad, idea, emotion, and exist, are the most obscure words in the language or even lack a referent at all. They are too familiar to us, so much so, that we take them for granted. We assume that we know what they mean. It is important to treat such words as if we had never heard of them. It is important to ask questions about them as if we were children just learning the language. This is exactly what philosophers, scientists, and others do when they wish to be careful and critical in their thinking. We may call this "strange-making." We make familiar things seem peculiar so as to gain insight and create humor.

Viktor Shklovsky (1966:50ff.; 1919, in MB:261) presented his concept of ostranenie, (Russian) defamiliarization or estranging of a certain word in a context by its becoming divorced from the context. The German, Verfremdung, refers to an alienation effect or placing something in a foreign category. The ordinary is thus made to seem mysterious so that we notice what we habitually ignored. He regards it as an omnipresent principle of imaginative literature. "Strange-making" is also the central technique of a number of the French structuralists, such as Derrida.

C. Deviation from the Ideal. (Impossible, cosmic irony, value deviation) "Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be." (Hazlitt) This is deviation from what should be the case. Deviation from the ideal is especially appealing to Platonists, who have the view that there are two worlds, an ideal world; and a world of mere illusion, and sense appearances which we know. James Feibleman (1972) is such a Neoplatonist. He presents the expected view: The comic is that limited reality which comes short of the ideal. All humor, then, is satire because it is all is criticized as a deviation from the ideal. Comedy is criticism because it is not ideal. He gives the following contrasts: ideal vs. real, perfect vs. imperfect, actual vs. possible, world as it ought to be vs. world as it is, complete vs. incomplete. The contrasts read exactly like Plato's distinctions which characterize his dual world theory of the illusory world we know and the true ideal world. Humor is supposedly produced when the ideal is deviated from.

Putting this on the everyday level, deviating from the ideal means deviating from the best one can be or have. It is the humor produced by something being other than it should be, taken in a nonserious sense. It is tea that tastes like dishwater and hamburgers which are like cardboard. It is striving to be a medical doctor, but ending up selling hot dogs. Taken negatively, deviation from the ideal leads to inferiority assessment-feelings or anger. Deviation from the ideal is a kind of fault. It is also a fault and laughable for one to expect perfection, or to expect the ideal to be achieved absolutely and always. Almost by definition, the ideal cannot be reached. This commits the fallacy of a false demand for perfection, such as expressed in:" Everyone must be as expert as I am," or "I must never make a mistake."

D. Deviation from Language (See also ambiguity humor, puns)

Few scholars...have worked on the linguistic aspects of the comic mode. (Delia Chiaro 1992:1)

Q. How do you tell a Tory? A. You must add an "s" at the beginning.

All the jurors were writing down "Stupid things!" on their slates, and she could even make out that one of them didn't know how to spell "stupid." (Carroll 1960:102) Translation from foreign languages is often humorous, such as the following: "Pepsi comes Alive" was translated into Chinese and unintentionally read "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead." Elevator sign in foreign country read: Please leave your values at the front desk." In Japan a room sign read: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid. Delivery womb (also substitution).

1. Deviation from Grammar (Ambiguity, context deviation, deviations, defense mechanisms, fallacy of accent, metaphor, misclassification, substitution, wrong use)

"Why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep? (And that is what the depth of [metaphysics] is." (Wittgenstein 1968:#111)

Grammar may be purposely deviated from, e.g. nouns used as verbs, punctuation omitted or misused, etc. As discussed earlier, our language largely constitutes reality. The Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis suggests this, as well as does Wittgenstein's work in ordinary-language philosophy. A whole philosophy is contained in every part of speech and drop of grammar. Grammatical deviation humor explores the limitations and possibilities of language. Poetry, philosophy and science come together here. All essentially involve clarifications of language. Here, all we have to do is not know enough grammar, have poor punctuation, spell badly, and misuse language. For this we may consult the expertise of young children and students. It is to break grammatical rules. Goldstein (1990:39) even argues that the rules of language are often only realized or identified when they are deviated from by means of humor.

Now, we have been translating into good English what Uncle Remus said. What he actually said about the laughing-place was:

"Brer Rabbit show Brer Fox de place, an' den tell 'im dat de game is fer ter run full tilt thoo de vines an' bushes, an' den run back, an' thoo um ag'in an' back, an' he say he'd bet a plug er terbacker 'g'in a ginger cake dat by de time Brer Fox done dis he'd be dat tickled dat he can't stan' up fer laughin.'" (Harris 1972:69)

In England one may hear such language as: "Aye, lass, ah does indeed speak t' Queen's Anglish." This is also insight humor which raises questions about there being a standard English. Randolph & Wilson (1953) wrote, Down in the Holler: A Gallery of Ozark Folk Speech. It is a collection of sound, grammar, and semantic deviation of slang and dialect. The examples are aesthetic, amusing or give insight: The cucumberest year. I ain't said nothin'. "Hasn't" is pronounced "hain't." The chores done been done. We can veal two calves and meat the family easy. They don't neighbor much. How many time you been aunted? Don' angrify 'im. I aim to print the news, all of 'em. He had a good recommend and a good handwrite. Tooth-dentist. Flesh-meat. There is not ary-un fur us-uns. He is the askin'est, worsest, man as I met. Bill tried to educate for a doctor, but he warn't thoughted enough. He went away over yonder somewheres down there. I'll have you under-God-damn-stand that I'm the super-by-Jesus intendent of this place, an' I won't be dic-hellfire-tated to by nobody. Them tourists put donk (alcohol) into their sody-pop, constant. Some examples of contemporary Liverpudlian Scouse (Liverpool, England dialect); and Tok Pisin of New Guinea follow. They deviate from standard English grammar, lexicography and pronunciation. The metaphors used may be found entertaining. Words in brackets are English meanings:


Standard English








that will


here you are


give me

go ed

go on

I'll marmalise yer.

I'll really hurt you.




wine drinker






any subject

this avvy.

this afternoon.


what will…



Yer gorra cob on.

You are in a bad mood.


you (plural)


Tok Pisin





become, get


belly, thought

bel (think with belly?)


basket belong susu


namba wan tumas

(number one too much)

desire for

krai long




gras bilong pisin (bird)



bel i gut (belly is good)

bel i nogut

male dog

dok man

medical assistant

liklik dokta




haus pepa (house of paper)


tasol (that's all)


aitingk (I think)

point out

makin long pinga (finger)






tok tok

The truck will leave now.

Trak i laik go nau.

to spy


walk around


2. Deviation from Style.

One of the most distinctive aspects of any person's style is the use of humor. (Tannen 1984:130)

The following is from a handwritten letter from a lecturer of English in Basra, Iraq:

Dear Sirs.

I am immensely delighted and profoundly honored to send you this letter. Please accept my deepest esteem, my warmest, kindest regards, and sincerest wishes of constant happiness, good health, and ever-increasing prosperity and success in all your endeavors.

I would be greatly in your debt if you could graciously send me, if that is possible for you and not too inconvenient, the catalog of your recent publications in linguistics and communication studies. It is my profoundest wish that my request would not cause you too many inconveniences. In fact, I do feel extremely hopeful and absolutely confident that it would receive your most gracious kindness and most generous response.

Deeply gratified to you for each second you have so graciously spent reading my letter, I re-express my deepest apologies for any sort of inconvenience I may be causing you. Please, sirs, do accept once more my profound esteem, my deepest thanks for your gracious attention and consideration, and my most genuinely sincere wishes for constant happiness, success, peace, and prosperity, now and in the future.

Most sincerely yours,

Lecturer in English

[The tragicomic irony of this extremely courteous style is that it was after the Gulf war in which America had just annihilated 150,000 (now over a million) of their people, they faced mass starvation, and he was asking for a book on communication from a people for whom communication had almost totally and fatally broken down.]

The following two vignettes give an example of a flavor of the French by means of humorous style.


What do you expect?

That I will have my money

go up the chimney keeping the room

warm just in case you should decide

to come today? Do you not understand

that I cannot be bothered? I have

suffered revolutionary shocks.

(His lips curl as if to say "O")

Ah, non, our shops are like cats' eyes,

they open and close as they wish.

C' est la liberté, Monsieur.

We fight for beauty.

Non, You cannot have a heated room.

That would be in bad taste. It is 10 p.m.

- Yes, but do you have perhaps another room?

-Yes, but I am not going to give it to you.

-May I ask why not? We will gladly pay

the full day.

-That does not matter. This is no hour

to be getting a room. It is worse than a crime; it is an erreur.

-Well, then, as we are quite hungry,

perhaps we could be served

in the restaurant. We see that it is still open.

-One could, one could. But which one? I do not even know your name. Do you think we package le rosbif with machines? Ah, non.

When we cut a piece of meat we must discuss...

for whom is it...the father...

the sister...the mother...?

And we must know where they are from.

-But our friends ate here yesterday

and the meat was tough.

-The meat...the fresh, Monsieur, and for this reason it may seem a little less than tender.

-And the coffee was bad.

-Of course, it was. Stupide!

We are known for our wines.

What is good, we grow. French coffee is almost never any good. Monsieur, we have our pride!

Warren Shibles

En style français

I have been thinking to write, turning ideas, wondering if I understand well, if I project my fantasies on you, hesitating, deciding not to decide, and not doing anything. Do I really wish to tell you about my "thoughts," "emotions," "feelings" - and there is no real border between all these - or if I want to just "drop it all" because "all" has no use? That "all," that "rest of the world," where can it be met? Is the feeling too wide for me?

It is not so easy to write, so I am happy when it is behind me. I must drink coffee, aperitifs, and eat many biscuits to put some order to my mind to write. And that is what I call being vicious. Next time I will be in a civilized place, i.e. le Quartier latin, I will look for "The laugh of Medusa," to read.

The more I tell about myself, the more I feel linked to the one who possesses some knowledge about me. Just now I am ink. I let my pen write by itself. Do you know of me? Perhaps I am a small girl in a woman's body. If you ask me to define "woman," I don't know. I am not a dictionary. Is this writing male or female? Make a test. What do you feel as a man when you begin to write? What before? When you put ink to the page? When you pull the paper out of the typewriter? When you say, "It is done"? I do feel a kind of deep calmness of the ultimate punctuation of a letter.

To understand what people (tout le monde) say, even if "understanding" is as meaningless as "meaning," I read a romance this morning. It made me quite confused, hesitant in front of it. It touched quite a number of points-sensibles, soft points in my anti-bullet jacket I have built up. I wonder if others have such jackets too? Then what can you do with my thoughts? This is my first thought: There is no interest in them. Second thought: Would you be interested in me? Third thought: impossible! Sometimes I thought some people were, but I had to admit later that their interest was as deep as a slice of bread.

I see we arrive to speak of friendship. I will try to remember the theories I built when I was younger. I have not forgotten about trying to answer my childhood questions. In primary school I hated the number 49, but loved 42. I once wrote: 7 x 7 = 42 and the teacher was not happy. I did not follow the rules. I am perhaps too enthusiastic about a "friend." I shiver sometimes when I think of this word. So I end up giving everything to the wastebasket. But not now, pas du tout! I will keep you. I even think to perhaps be on vacation with "you." Who knows? Where? I have no favorite place, only favorite persons. A place with sunshine near the sea? Does the scenery matter? Is it inside us? J would like to hear your dreams too. I wish to be clear. But I like things fuzzy, blurry, also. Will you come?

Do I push you to react, make la provocation? It is a French sport. So I have to say…do I go too far? Perhaps you have already a man, your priorities and pretty possessions - your rules. I don't know if I like rules or not. They have given me some trouble for some time. I could say I hate any kind of rule that I did not make, but that would not be quite exact.

I could also say that I love someone else trying to impose rules on me: it is a proof of interest. That would also not be quite exact. Suppose you say what is "propre." "Yes, I have a man, but we can still be friends." You could also say friendship is more important than sex. I persist in not understanding you. Good, so we cannot play with friendship because it is too important, but we can play with sex. What does it matter? Monsieur, if we cannot be friends, I will have to be content to just sleep with you.

Am I bad? I would be quite glad if someone explained something about "good" and "bad" to me, because I do not well understand such words. I know a good wine, a good table, and good sunshine and bonjour. What else? What if we were to meet, and what if I were not as "good" as my writing-could not surpass myself?

"I am my words." How far these words can echo. "The empty room echoed." Who is the empty room? For a long time I maintained that if it cannot be said, it does not exist. Even sex had to be commented on to be really interesting. Well, little by little I grew silent. Since a few weeks I talk silently to this paper. But, not now. Oh, yes, the style is the person. (Le style c'est la personne.) Have I said this already? It is the way I am. "Good?" So I do have rules: I behave - grammatically. I bathe myself in words. And at the same time I am so happy when I have the feeling that I can behave simply, just be spontaneous (not to say, "naturelle"), say what I please to you in just that precise moment when I speak. Do you see that my arms are held open for you-like thighs.

Warren Shibles

Colloquial style is often humorous and is rich in value laden terms. The following are examples of colloquial student speech from Bern, Switzerland, which were published by D. Gruner. (1980, my translation)


Bern Swiss Meaning Meaning

Kommagärtner comma gardner German language teacher

Greslipilot grass pilot nature teacher

Halbschue half shoe not intelligent

Nasevelo nose bicycle glasses (looks like two wheels over the eyes)

Zwänzabachti-Muul 20 past 8 mouth bad mood

der Muni mälche steer milk an impossibility

Güggelifridhof baked hen cemetery large person

Chuesaft cow juice milk

Pantoffuchino slipper theater TV

Chrüttliprediger herb preacher nature teacher

Dä louft näb de Hose. You walk next to You are not very clever.

your trousers.

3. Deviation from Pronunciation EHB´FDƒçOØøP

a. The Valuation of Dialects

In the section on Contradiction Humor Type II, it was shown that the notion of a Standard British reduces to absurdity in a number of ways. The country dialect, the farmers-at-market dialect, may be thought of as vulgar, or on the other hand, as rustic and quaint. Consider the following reports: "I do not regard RP [standard British] as intrinsically 'better' or more 'beautiful' than any other form of pronunciation." (Jones 1967:xviii) Giles, et al. (1990:194) found that, in fact, seven-year-old children "found RP to be rather amusing, and not at all statusful." Welsh adults found RP to be arrogant, snobbish and conservative. (ibid. 95) "Its aesthetic merits are…dubious." (Abercrombie 1965:13) "We…happen to dislike the old-fashioned and very posh RP." (Andersson & Trudgill 1990:7)

Typically, whatever is unlike one's own pronunciation is going to sound to some degree strange or weird even though it may be regarded as having more prestige. We often speak our own dialect as well as the standard, just as the Swiss-German learn a dialect at home and then later in school are required to learn the standard German, Schriftsprache. The standard for Swiss-German is actually a foreign language to the Swiss. They typically report that the Schriftsprache sounds "wooden."

A change of perspective is required in art appreciation allowing us to appreciate in as many ways as possible. Similarly, we can come to value and esteem each dialect and not regard them as intrinsically inferior, any more than one language is inferior to another. We only have our own preferences. We may prefer German over Spanish, or East Indian English over American pronunciation. Cockney is poor RP, but RP is poor Cockney.

Do Cockney speakers mispronounce standard English or do standard English speakers mispronounce Cockney?

Rather, Cockney can be seen as a beautiful and interesting orchestration of sounds. There is great and innovative verbal music to be heard at Petticoat Lane and the markets throughout England, some of which I have myself, taped, transcribed and enjoyed.

Many, if not most, feel inferior because they speak dialect rather than the standard language. The following statements reflect the devaluation of dialect: "Ridicule of the old people by school children is not uncommon…The children find these errors [e.g. dir for dich] very amusing and heartwarming." Dialect connotes "country bumpkin" among the parents. On a Berlin dialect: "A mixture of wit and humor…self-assertive aggressiveness and badmouthed behavior." The Westfalian dialect is said to be "simple" and "coarse." (Deutsche Dialekte 1979:81) "Danish has…a pronunciation which positively lends itself to comedy." (Walshe 1965:13) Andersson & Trudgill (1990:167), on the other hand state: "It will be very important…for local traditional and nonstandard dialects to be seen as objects of interest and value rather than ridicule, and the usage of local speech forms should never be actively discouraged." They speak of the necessity of having the "freedom from condemnation of nonstandard dialects." (80)

The public often thinks of a dialect as a source of colloquial and vulgar language, and sees dialect as a form of amusement, rather than as a language to be proud of. In Germany, where one has dialect in the media or theater, one expects to hear something humorous. In the bookstores, dialect is often classified under "humor." In England and Germany, in place of humor books are found vulgar and abusive language dialect dictionaries. Such dictionaries tend to devaluate dialects. One swears in dialect. But it may be noted that one can be vulgar and swear in standard German or standard English as well.

b. Examples of Deviation from Pronunciation:


"Well, suh, dar dey sot an' dar dey stood. Dey ax Brer Rabbit how he know how ter fin' his laughin'-place, an' how he know it wuz a laughin'-place after he got dar. He tap hisse'f on de head, he did, an' 'low dat dey wuz a heap mo' und' his hat dan what you could git out wid a fine-toof comb. Den dey ax ef dey kin see his laughin' place, an' he say he'd take de idee ter bed wid 'im, an' study 'pon it, but he kin say dis much right den, dat if he did let um see it, dey'd hatter go dar at a time, an' dey'd hatter do des like he say; ef dey don't dey'll git de notion dat it's a cryin'-place." (Harris 1972:64-65)

Pronunciations may involve, among other things, the following. "You've had tee many martoonis." British Snail for British Rail. "I'm afraid I'm going to put you under mouse arrest."

1. Cognates. 1. German ist "is" and ißt "eats" are pronounced the same (i.e. are homophones) and so can generate puns. Example: Wer ist, ißt; wer ißt, ist. ("Who is, eats, who eats is," but the German form shows it better because the same pronunciation is given for both "is" and "eats.") 2. A New Zealand place name of Scandinavian origin, Snefjellnes, has become Snufflenose. 3. In popular French, /a/ becomes /æ/ (as in English apple), thus French péri "perished" and Paris are both pronounced in the same way, making a sinking pun possible suggesting that "Paris perished." [See Boch (1988) for false analogies and cognates between French and Italian.] 4. German geil in Vienna means "rich," but in Berlin means "lustful." 5. Spanish papa means both "potato" and "Pope." 6. French bière means both "beer" and "coffin" and are pronounced similarly. 7. The Japanese word for "lion" is raion , which rhymes with the English name "Ryan." 8. An East Frisian complained [in a typed letter] to a shop about his typewriter: "Dei letztne Buchstabne sidn immre vertauscth!" (English translation: "Teh lats lettesr aer alwasy reversde.")

2. Pronunciation deviation from one's own language (dialect, colloquial, idiolect)

At the phonological level there is humor involving homophone (similar sounding words), alliteration, voice quality clash, word boundary sound shifts, features of rhymes, etc. (cf. Alexander 1997)

What is the difference between a girder and a joist? Goethe wrote Faust, and Joyce wrote Finnegan's Wake.

It is not bad coffee considering that it was ground this morning.

Hare today, goon tomorrow.

asterisk = ass to kiss.

Robin Hood had an arrow escape.

How do you tell a Tory? You add an initial "s."

3. Other Language Comparisons. 1. Scottish pride is pronounced like English "prude," about like English "a boot," and town is like "tune." Example: Scot: "What's that about?" English reply: "Yes, it is a boot, but you have to buy both boots." 2. Cantonese "very good" is like English "ho! ho!" 3. Because the Northumbrian dialect of English has a uvular r, it sounds as if the English r is spoken with the French or German uvular r. The result sounds humorous to an English speaker. 4. The Hausa word for "cream" sounds like English "no, no." Irish Gaelic bláthach "buttermilk" sounds like an exclamation of disgust to an English speaker, thereby connoting a dislike for buttermilk. 6. It is said that the Spanish are likely to pronounce English sink for think, chopping for shopping, choke for joke, sheep for cheap, sip for zip, jail for Yale. (Nash 1977:100-101) 7. The Ga (of Ghana) pronunciation for "duck" doh koh doh koh sounds like English ducko ducko. 8. Collins & Mees (1981:167) report that the insertion of the schwa "uh" sound is used for comical effect in Dutch, e.g. helpen ("help") = "hell.uh.puh." 9. French téléphone is pronounced as the English "tele-fun." 10. British (and parts of New England) drop the r and h, and India English speakers use a distinct back retroflex r, making the pronunciation seem amusing to standard American English speakers.

Spelling Errors. A class of U.S. Military Reserves I taught gave the following misspellings: seams for seems, deterants for deterrents, obiedeance for obedience, pease for peace, are for our, write and wrong for right and wrong, aginst for against, affraid for afraid, ect. for etc., sujest for suggest, nigitive for negative, theorey for theory, manegment for management, synamims for synonyms.

4. Onomatopoeia. The best examples of this are to be found in poetry. Several linguistic examples are: 1. Danish "lamb" lam sounds like the bleat of a lamb. 2. The Chinese word for "bus" sounds amusingly like a steam engine, or like English "gung gung chee."

5. Creation of Purposive Distortion (insight humor, rhetorical devices, metaphor) The circular criterion is: Any dialect may sound strange except one's own. Ramondino (1968:116, 549) states that ceceo [Te"Te.o] refers to speakers who regularly pronounce [T] for z in all positions, and for c before e or i. Seseo [se"se.o] refers to speakers who regularly pronounce [s] in these same places. Ceceo is said to be Castilian and seseo Latin American. The use of these two words is interesting because they contain the very sounds they describe. To use Austin's (1961) terms, they are performative utterances. (cf. Shibles 1993) That is, seseo speakers would pronounce both ceceo and seseo in the same way, as [se"se.o]. Thus, they could not intelligibly verbally state, I am a seseo, not a ceseo speaker. Ceceo speakers, however, could intelligibly utter the statement because they make the T\s distinction.

Ceceo may be thought to be strange to seseo speakers and vice versa. Obaid (1973) found that phonologists, among others, typically fail to properly describe ceceo and seseo; that the terms are not used as consistently as thought, but rather quite chaotically. He characterizes this by a humorous deliberate cross spelling of the terms as follows: "Ceseo* or seceo,* whichever you prefer. [* means purposive humorous misspelling.] It is an absolutely chaotic way of mixing up the sounds of /s/ and /th/ whichever form it strikes the fancy of the speaker first." (Obaid 1973:63) In this regard, one Spanish speaker in his usual way pronounced the name of his town six times, but never the same way twice in succession! (Obaid 1973:63)

What is a Jewish rabbit called? A Rabbi.

6. Rhyme (Deviation from usual conversation/prose)

I never take time to make words rhyme.

In order to make words rhyme, verse coerces us to put surprising words together, forces the creation of metaphor. An example of an insight rhyme is: Miracles grow on what we don't know. Miracles are, by definition, based on ignorance, not a special form of evidence. If we do not know how something works, we say that it is a miracle, and believe that it is evidence for a prevalently believed in supernatural power. A simple rhyme can begin to dispel the myth. For another example see the poem "Religious Doggerel" in the chapter on insight humor about religion. Anti-rhyme humor is illustrated by: Mary ate cake and Mary ate jelly. Mary went home with a pain in her-head. Snail Mail for regular mail. "Amphigory" is nonsense writing or verse, with a semblance of sense. For satirical verses about religion, see the philosopher Richard Aquila (1981). Jonathan Swift wrote: "What Humor is, not all the tribe / Of Logick-mongers can describe," and "'Tis never by invention got, Men have it when they know it not." "When you look in a mirror, it is not yourself you see, but symmetry." (Alexander 1977:22)

E. Deviation from the Practical. (deviation from purpose, escape or release, impossible, improbable, nonsense, pretense, wrong use, useless) We laugh at the impractical, for example, a drive-through maternity ward. Games and play are typically useless, trivial, and impractical activities. Baseball, football, golf, tennis, etc. involve things like trying to put a ball in some place or small hole that is too hard or prevented from being put there. Playing cards is also a singularly useless activity. They are trivial. Yet, these activities are singularly enjoyable. Art is almost defined by being impractical, useless and pointless. In terms of critical inquiry, religion is seen as being unreasonable, hopeless, ineffectual, futile, in vain, impractical and useless. Thus, it is the paradigm source of satire and humor (See chapter on insight humor). We play the game of "Trivial Pursuits." "Why can't my right hand give my left hand money?-My right hand can put it into my left hand. My right hand can write a deed of gift and my left hand a receipt.-But the further practical consequences would not be those of a gift." (Wittgenstein 1968:268) Humor itself is thought to be useless.

One purpose, however, of such activities is social interaction. It must, however, be accepted and enjoyable to constitute humor. Additionally, acceptable deviation from the practical can produce enjoyment and humor. "Today, I will sort of follow these rules: Do nothing useful, concentrate on the useless, abandon all ideas which work, avoid all practical activities, say only that which is trivial, and follow belief systems which are pointless. In short, do what people usually do."

F. Deviation from Purpose. (accident, ambiguity, circular, contradiction, defense mechanisms, deviation from ideal, defeated expectation, hopeless, trick, uselessness, wrong use, useless, joie de vivre) Purpose is an intention or goal. Humor is created by harmlessly contradicting or deviating from purpose. Each type of humor produces a different kind of emotion. Purposelessness, if taken seriously, may lead to absurdity, aimlessness and depression. If taken humorously it may lead to giddiness, a goalless state where anything or nothing is done for no reason at all. We give up.

In one sense, purposelessness defines "fun." "Fun" is enjoyment rather than work. No goal or definite intention is required except that of enjoyment. "Fun" is also an attitude suggesting ability not to be serious or overly goal oriented. Sensitivity training allows one to stop long enough from goal oriented behavior to appreciate the diverse perceptions and perspectives of things surrounding one which before went unnoticed because they were discounted as nonpurposive. Our perception is colored by its selectivity toward narrow goals. We see a bus only as an object to bring us to work, not as an interesting, object in itself. We become an appendage to the typewriter, computer, or telephone. But when we deviate from purpose the world changes color, we see different worlds. The computer becomes a toy. The screen is made to show goldfish. Deviation from purpose and from our habits produces insight humor and expands our ability to experience. We deviate from purpose to stop to enjoy. Examples: Youth's letter to the Library of Congress: "I would appreciate it very much if you could send me anything about anything." (Gerler 1972) Kant: Art is "purposiveness without purpose." Take a bus without looking where it is going. Put a window in the middle of a field and look out through it. See how far you can spit. Take a different, longer route to work. Spontaneously bring a friend a gift as if it were a special holiday.

G. Deviation from Rules or Standards. (context deviation, escape, false statement, grammar deviation, informal logical fallacies, misclassification, mistake, pronunciation deviation, trick, wrong use, value deviation).

A wise fool is one who deviates from the rules of society.

Rule: Put i before e except after c. For example in the word "conceit." But note the exception in the spelling of the word "weird." Words such as "mischief," "naughty," and "escapade," suggest rule breaking, or doing what one should not do. The rules violated may be social rules, such as, eating with only a knife or with one's fingers. In India and some other countries, however, one is often expected to eat with one's fingers. To misspell a word is to violate a rule. To create this kind of humor we need only deviate or break any kind of rule in a harmless way. If breaking rules is cruel and unintelligent, it will not be seen as humorous. Sometimes the rule is cruel or militant and should be broken.

"'I wonder, now, what the Rules of Battle are,' Alice said to herself....'One rule seems to be, that if one knight hits the other, he knocks him off his horse, and if he misses, he tumbles off himself....Another Rule of Battle...seemed to be that they always fell on their heads.'" (Carroll TLG 1960:204)

"'But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' Alice objected. 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.'" (Carroll TLG 1960:186)

"Can I say 'bububu' and mean, 'If it doesn't rain I shall go for a walk?'" (Wittgenstein 1968:18)

The following prose relates to the rules and instructions people give when asked for directions.

1. You Can't Get There from Here

The "way" was not so easy to find. It was not only the fog that was the problem. In foreign countries, as well as my own, I find that instructions are themselves the foreign language. It does not matter how fluent one s the translation can never be made. I think it has something to so with the unbridgeable gap between the ideal and the real. I admit that I think that north is a relative, not an absolute value. I have been sent to addresses which no longer exist, or whose street name is now incomprehensible Gaelic, or houses with no number on them. I have been given street addresses, but in the wrong city. When one genuinely understands what giving directions and instructions and instructions is really about, one understands the road map of the mind.

I now use the schizophrenic advice: If you can go wrong, you will go wrong. The first right you take is really a cow path and not the paved road you expected. It is especially ironic when they begin, as they usually do with, "It's simple, you just...and the light...and then...O.K.? Can't miss it." Well, I did miss it. I saw the church and the chickens and even the street sign, but no number 5/2. And what kind of numbers were these anyway? Perhaps 5/2 = 21/2? I have always enjoyed houses numbered 1/2. In trying to find such houses you feel almost there, but not quite. At first I saw some very old stone and board and mortar houses-mediaeval looking and very interesting. The address did not apply to any of these or other houses on the street. My first clue was the parking lot. There must be more than cows here. I parked in someone's private stall (car stall) and then noticed that behind the ring of mediaeval houses was an inner ring of recently built houses-but "house" is not the correct word: the roofs were all especially radically steep and there were small balconies and roof gardens giving the appearance of a magical towered town. After reading all the wrong house numbers, I found 5/2. I had only to ring-but which buzzer? One had the professor's name and a man's name, but she was single; and the mailbox had another confusion of names-but, in any case, I could not ring the mailbox. In cases such as this I usual just ring one buzzer after the other from to bottom. It is a small community and they will all soon know that a stranger is here anyway. One could see their curtains move. I sometimes feel that it is right to announce myself by taking a bow in the empty courtyard.

The buzzer unlocked the door and I quickly pushed it open before it locked again. I knew one had to be quick-I had problems with that once when I visited a prison. One can tell about the freedom of a place by the number of keys one has to carry. Here there was a key for the outside door, the apartment door, basement door, garage door, mailbox, car, bicycle lock, etc. "Gay and carefree" were not words which crossed my mind at this time. I have even been given keys to houses only to find myself between two locked metal doors with no key among them which fits.

2. Rules of the House

Now, I have been in several German houses and am quite aware that one does not there just enter a pleasant and comfortable home where one can enjoy company and the pleasures of relaxation. It is rather like entering a book of rules or even a law book. It is a book that might be entitled, The Rules of the House.

We may start with the kitchen. The basic rule is that everything must in every way be perfect. Being very considerate I tried as a houseguest to do my part in washing dishes. I had already known some useful rules from my own experience, such as: self-cleaning pans do not really clean themselves. I also learned that the dishes are always to be washed, but the coffeepot, never. I had already also learned that once seated at the table one is never to get up to get something needed. One's feet must be as if glued to the floor. And, of course, the eternal rule: never touch objects with jam on your fingers.

Normally, I would at home wash dishes and let them air dry, then put them away. I soon found out about the rule that silverware must be dried by a certain hand towel or spots would appear on the silverware. The question then arose as to how long such knives and forks could lie around before spots would appear? Would they appear even as one used them? How long should they be left in the sink? Well, after the meal I would try to wash immediately. However, one morning she came into my study with a look of daggers and pointing to a spot on a knife. Well, I had tried. The rule must have gotten away from me somehow. Was it really a knife that I myself had washed? Could I really stay in a place where rules and spots are more important than people? "Are you sure that is one I washed?" I asked humbly. "Perhaps that is not my spot." I then checked all of the silverware and found many spots. They could not all have been due to my washing because I was only recently a guest and had only used several knives and forks. The rule seemed to be that if she saw a spot anywhere, it must be due to the quest. I mentioned that and further asked about how long the used silverware can lie around. "Not long," she replied, "but I put it totally underwater if it is not washed immediately." The additional rules became unclear and I was soon obliged to follow rules I had no way of knowing about in advance. I thought I would just put all the dishes underwater and let her do them in her own way.

Then, upon her return late one night, her first comment was, "Oh, I see you have not done the dishes." "Well, I'm not very good at it," I ventured, "so I decided not to do them anymore." Although she had mentioned it cheerfully, here is a place where one can sense a certain moral duty, as if it pressed in from the atmosphere itself. A while later when she headed toward her study she said, "Oh, by the way, I'll do the dishes." But, I wondered why if one wants perfect silverware without spots, one would buy silverware which is spot-prone. Why would one choose to be a slave to one's own tools instead of the other way around? I realize that I will never have an answer so I will discuss the sink.

The sink. It seems so clear and familiar. We wash things in the sink, and then the water flows out without going all over the floor. It is quite simple. The sink is stainless steel. Beside it is an inserted chopping block. Now, the rule is that no water can touch the chopping block or it too will make a water spot. But water is bound to regularly fall on this block, so it must be immediately dried. Nor is the chopping block used to chop on. Another chopping block is placed on this chopping block for that purpose. In short, the inset chopping block cannot be used-has no purpose except to have one never use it and never get it wet. It is an antichopping block. It is a chopping block in one sense only: if you break the rules, you get chopped.

Now, it seems the stainless steel sink also produces water spots every time water is left on it. I once noticed this when the professor returned before midnight, took a towel and began vigorously removing the water spots. The words "chromium-slave" came to my mind, but when she was done I also noticed the great feeling of satisfaction that seemed to come over her when she was finished. I thought that perhaps having such a sink was worth it for her. How else would she have that kind of enjoyment?

Now, I admit that I have an extreme pragmatic bent and have been known, for example, to dispose of large piles of office work in record time. When this valuable ability was turned to the washing of dishes I admit I must have tested the aesthetic limit a bit. I was first aware of this when she strode up to me and thrust in my face the underside of a saucer which looked brown as if stained by coffee: "Don't you wash the bottom of dishes?" she asked. I replied defensively, "Are you sure that is one I washed?" I was though quite sure it was mine. Who eats off of the bottom of plates anyway? I, however, got my revenge when we had breakfast together. I put together cups and saucers which did not match. I also have the defense that dishes are washed by the most poisonous substances in the world-so toxic that from now on dishes should be washed without soap. I am, of course, still worried about the water. I have thought of just using my Swiss knife with its collapsible spoon and fork and avoiding the kitchen entirely.

To continue with the teutonic tradition, or fun in the kitchen, I will turn my attention to the refrigerator. It is, of course, to be expected that it is neat. There are plastic trays for everything including eggs. Triple trays sort meat from cheese and all bottles are in straight rows. The rule is: If there are two or more objects they must be lined up. I learned about this rule after watching her line up the remaining crumbs on her plate.

One glance could tell one that the professor was a rational person who led an exemplary life. I thought of the phrase, Alles in Ordnung ("Everything in order, or O.K."). Unfortunately, I took a second glance. It was required because as a guest I had to know what I was allowed to use and what I wanted to use. Surely, I could use the jam if I used a clean spoon. At home, of course, few bread crumbs in the jam wouldn't hurt anything and may even improve the jam, or one could even scoop out a dab with a bent forefinger. When I opened the top of the Waldpreiselbeeren, however, there was nothing to see but mould. I put the jar back into the neat row, then tried the next jars. More mould. It was summer 1999 when I checked the dates on the jars. But on these jars were the dates: June 1997, and May 1996. Vintage. I moved to the salad dressings: Curry sauce, February 1998; Mayonnaise, April 1997. At this time my curiosity arose about the single remaining egg. I remember the professor's words: "I like to keep at least one egg in the house." I gently lifted it out of the special plastic egg container only to find that it was a lot lighter than eggs usually are. What kind of egg was it? I put it on the counter. It did not lie on its side as a normal egg would, but on stood on one end. Then I knew. It must have been over a year or two old. It was an artifact. With permission, I was later allowed to open the egg. The white was completely dried out and the yolk was at one end dried to a deep yellow. In its own way it was a perfect egg. Since then I have developed the practice of writing a date on each egg. In this way, I have come to realize that I also eat fewer eggs than I intend to. In defense of the professor I do wish to say that she has a special needle egg puncher one must use to prevent eggs from cracking should one decide to boil them.

In contrast, it is the strict policy to eat vegetables only the same day they are purchased. And contents of partially filled cartons or jars must be consumed, whether one is hungry or not, in order to dispose of the container. There must be order.

The stove. The stove has the most modern, flat surface and it is quite nice looking. But everything has a price. There are white circles around each burner to indicate the heated area. In this kitchen, however, the circles have become rules: no pan larger or smaller than these circles goes on the burner. I am not yet instructed as to whether after I remove the pan from a large burner I can temporarily rest it on a small burner. So far, I seem to have a relative amount of freedom in this matter, although I would not go so far as to include it in the category of the joy of cooking.

The real problem lies somewhere else. What if, as always happens, something spills on the cooktop. This is where the real danger lies. Anything at all seems to form some kind of amalgamation when it even comes close to the cooktop-and that includes water. Should this unacceptable event occur it would require a great amount of scrubbing to remove. The scrubbing must, however, be firm yet gentle, for if it is not, the expensive countertop might be permanently scratched. However, before it is scrubbed the burner must be completely cool. One reason is that otherwise the rubber sponge would melt. I had once thought I would like to have such a beautiful flat cooktop. Now I think it is like a cat in some ways. You obtain it for your pleasure and end up being its servant. Now, in most places, doing dishes (including cleaning the stove) is more or less a chore. Here, you can perhaps see why if one is eventually allowed to do it, it is an honor.

On some of the kitchen shelves the tea is kept. It is kept in tins acquired in England. Each one is colorful and has advertisements on it: Ocean Queen Tea, Manning Cough Drops, McDinwoodies Boiled Sweets; one from America in the shape of a stage coach with wheels-in the coach is pictured a man shot by arrows with his six-shooter hanging limply by his trigger finger. Now in these containers are not cough drops or boiled sweets, but rather tea. I am not sure what kind of tea because most are not labeled. I had thought that tea must be relatively fresh, but around each can was dust which had become part of the shelf itself. If a can is removed one sees the white, clean, original shelf where the can was. This may be an indication of how old the tea was. I wonder if some of the tea came originally with the cans. That could make it around the 19th century. In any case, the metal tea ball never closes and so the kettle becomes filled with loose tea. Although I have now repaired it and bought a larger tea ball, I noticed also that the professor's favorite teapot is cracked. On the appropriate occasion I casually brought it to her attention and upon receiving such information she replied, "Well, I understand that gradually the tea will block the crack."

When the tea was brewed, the used hot tea leaves were to go into the plastic coffee filter container-in fact, all moist organic and rotting waste went there. It dripped dry so it could be safely put into the proper garbage container. I usually like German coffee, but seemed to always detect a strange flavor of vegetable whenever I drank it there-and it never seemed to be quite the same flavor from one time to the next. In any case, the organic garbage is properly kept dry, the proper garbage is separate, and the plastic and metal is put in yet another container. One took the mere single garbage concept to the new upscale garbage classifications of three, four, five, and as I counted, seven classifications of garbage. This progress has led to what we might well call "perfect rubbish."

There is another rather large object in the kitchen which should be mentioned: a washer. Not a dishwasher, but a clothes washer. It fits nicely under one of the counters. When it is in full operation, however, it vibrates and as it does so it moves forward out into the kitchen itself. I was once asked if I would hold it back during the entire gallop until the clothes were washed. This was a time when my well-developed, natural awkwardness was at its zenith and so the request was withdrawn. I'm afraid, however, that it was too late for the wash. In Germany they do not just use warm water or hot water, they also cook clothes. Perhaps that was why it was in the kitchen. When I saw the steam coming from this kitchen appliance, I thought it was some kind of large cooking pot and suggested that we might throw in some carrots and potatoes. When the wash was removed it was put into a large plastic dish. Steam rose from the pile and the appearance was that of a stew bubbling in a cauldron in preparation for a large number of guests.

There was a dryer in the basement, but it had hardly been used. The professor owned it, but did not seem too clear about which buttons to push and, admittedly, some of the buttons did cause unusual growling noises. Being a guest in the house and as a traveler having very little to be washed, she offered to dry my clothes in the dryer. There was a lot of knob turning and adjusting, but the machine began working and on its way. When she returned to get the clothes in several hours, so I was told, there were flames coming out of the drier and many of the few very special, selected clothes I had brought were melted or burned to a crisp. We did manage to sort of save my only sweatshirt by scraping it extensively. I knew that washers there cooked, but I had not known until then that driers were ovens which baked. Fortunately, there was a local thrift shop where I was able to obtain some relatively well-fitting clothes at a good price. I had a new slant on the Irish question: Who put the overalls in Ms Murphy's chowder?

The dust patrol. We come now to what is perhaps the number one rule of the house: It is actually not one, but a book of dust rules. It is connected with the rule: nothing hits the floor. If clothing, blankets, towels, etc. touch this floor they must be boiled twice. To understand these rules it might be well to imagine the floor to be one of those seldom cleaned men's lavatories in a large city railway station, the floor being always wet and smelling of urine. We must imagine that because the floor is, in fact, dry, and furthermore if water were to be dropped on the floor it would warp because it is an artificial veneer of wood on some glued particleboard. If a window were left slightly open the floor would warp up looking like long stalks of bamboo. As one walks over the floor one can hear the creaks not of solid wood, but of the veneer which has in places separated already from its underlying particleboard. Normally, of course, we do not think of the floor as a disease. We walk on the floor in socks, or even without shoes. We even lie on the floor sometimes. Some even eat sitting on the floor as if it were a table. We do not normally think that this will cause us to have an emergency hospital visit.

I cannot say that I am entirely clear about this rule-that is, what is supposed to, in fact, really happen if one touches the floor? I only know that the reaction is something like touching the wet, smelly floor in a public city urinal. It may, of course, somehow be connected to the excessive fear of germs (see also the origin of the word "German"). The point is that in this house one must first find out what the rules are. Slippers must be worn. Walking in socks is not recommended, but can be allowed because socks are things close to the floor, yet not directly on the floor. Therefore, never put socks on a bed or chair, etc. after they have been worn. Problems arise as to how one can put on one's socks in the first place without the feet touching the floor. If a sock should fall on the floor it would have to be boiled twice. How is one to get out of the shower without touching the floor? How many times would a foot have to be boiled if it touched the floor? What if a newspaper falls to the floor? Should one then buy a new newspaper, or read the old one at a distance? Suppose one drops a book. Should one throw it away and buy a new one? How do we know the book did not touch the floor or the bookshop? So the rules become quite intricate and complex. It is difficult to know how to handle each new situation or how it will be viewed. On the other hand, it is simple. If you break a known or unknown rule you will be verbally punished. You will know and remember that rule for a long time. You will also learn that you cannot predict the next rule violation-or what you should do about it.

One might imagine that one could just vacuum fairly often and the dust problem would vanish. (The German for vacuum is Staubsauger, literally "dust sucker.") There are two reasons against this possibility. The first is that even if all the dust were gone and not one fine dust particle would ever land again on the floor, the floor would still be a no-woman's land. The floor as floor must be feared. It is, so to speak, in itself evil. One could even imagine it as a swear word: "You floor, you!" It also gives new meaning to the expression, "He was floored."

The second reason is that the professor, for whatever reason, almost never vacuums. On the one occasion which I can remember it happening, a heavy choking smell of must (both an odor and a compulsion) pervaded the house. No, the dust, the most feared object in the world remains to fall everywhere. It, so to speak, makes itself at home and integrates with the milieu.

Now, dust falls on chairs as well as everywhere else whether it is a floor or not. Dust does not care. It has no heart. It responds to a higher being. But it cannot be vacuumed from chairs or radiators or tables, etc. because the vacuum wand has once touched the floor-it is not a magic wand, but an evil wand. It was proposed to obtain therefore a second vacuum cleaner for non-floor objects. In any case, ironically, the dust in this house seems to fall at a faster rate than anywhere else I have been. On one occasion I took great delight in writing her name in the layer of dust on the piano. I began to wonder what the dust rate per hour would be. Perhaps somewhere there are some statistics. At home I have an electronic filter to remove dust that no one can even see. Admittedly, on a really sunny day, with a certain slant of light, one can see thousands of particles of dust in the air which we breathe.

There are large rugs. As is well known, rugs are jungles of microscopic and not so microscopic living creatures. They can live from the crumbs humans continuously drop even by just walking across a room. A large magnification of a rug would show one of the most horrifying, nightmarish worlds imaginable. Creatures which have beaks to saw off legs, arms and necks, and a thousand and one other ways in which to torture one another and cut through things. Bed sheets and pillows, etc. are not unsimilar. But these do not seem to be such special objects of fear as floors. Now in spite of the concern with dust there is no dust mop to be found in the house. To removed dust between the occasional vacuumings, it is done by hand with little pieces of toilet paper. Admittedly, only several tiny areas are cleaned each time this way. I can well understand, of course, that it would be a problem to figure out the rules for shaking out a dust mop.

A certain linguistic source of the fears may be ascertained by examining some German expressions: paß auf sonst staubt's meaning literally "watch out or there will be dust," but meaning colloquially "Watch out or else." That one expression may be one source of the fear. Another is aus dem Staub zu machen meaning literally "get out of the dust, "but meaning colloquially "leave, or hit the breeze."

Now, of course, the above is speculative at best and only, after all, a narrow view regarding the rules of the house. Nevertheless, I can imagine the professor envisioning herself quite ill in a hospital bed, and at the foot of the bed her medical diagnosis reading: Disease: "Dust in the blood. Has nightmares of spots on silverware. Teutonic fever."

H. Deviation from the Usual. (accident, conceit, incongruity, contradiction, defense mechanism, exaggeration, defeated expectation, free association, unexpected honesty, mistake, sinking, trick, wrong use, value deviation, blatant vice)

The clown gets everything wrong: dress, decorum, logic, speech, movements; yet in this wrongness is a rightness of another sort. (Hyers 1974:55)

Laughter is an affect that arises from the change of a tense expectation into nothing.

(Kant 1990:190)

He doesn't think like I do. He must be crazy!

Ripley's (1985) book, Believe It or Not, is a record of examples of the unusual. If taken seriously, this kind of humor is regarded as odd, strange, weird, or unusual. Deviation from the usual is a breakdown of routine, habit, fixed thinking, or perception. Both metaphor and humor are based on deviating from the ordinary. They, thus, produce creative insight, as well as humor. It should, in fairness, be mentioned that such deviation can also produce trouble. Some examples follow: Have supper at 8 a.m. Love cloudy days. Eat pudding with one's fingers. Fry eggs in the shell. Make a potato sandwich. Cocoa skin on crackers. Buy flowers for a stranger. Fried eggs with ice cream. In Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, the garden is measured with a dead mouse.

"Yellow meat and blue potatoes would find few takers." (Benarde 1971:75)

"'What are tarts made of?' 'Pepper, mostly,' said the cook." (Carroll 1960:106)

"'How do I know that this color is red?'-It would be an answer to say, 'I have learnt English.'" (Wittgenstein 1968:#381)

"All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera-glass. At last he said, 'You're traveling the wrong way.'" (Carroll TLG 1960:148)

At the first battle of Marne the French troops were rushed to the front by taxi cab to stop the German invasion.

Who is this strange person? She should be locked up.

1. Deviation from Truth: Lies and Obvious Lies

The big lie is more plausible than truth. (Ernest Hemingway)

'The more articulate, the less said,' is an old Chinese proverb which I just made up myself.

(Don Herold)

Love is all truth, Lust full of forged lies.



Lying may be best defined as "saying other than what we think." The definition of lying as "an untruth told with intent to deceive" has been shown to be unacceptable. For example, if we say what we think it may be untrue, but not a lie because we believe it. An example is if a child says that Madison is the capital of Japan, it is untrue, but the child may believe it. It is not a lie. If, however, the child says other than what is believed, then it is a lie. Humor, except for standard irony, may involve saying other than what we believe where all know that it is not said seriously, e.g. I caught a fish two miles long.

When we tell an obvious lie it is humorous because it defeats the whole purpose of telling a lie. Lies are supposed to be taken as being true. Obvious lie is a lie which is not a lie. The contradiction and deviation can cause humor. It is a defeated expectation, also, because we do not expect the lie to be given away at the same time. Humor is not lying because both know it is not true (except in the case of standard irony).

One interesting thing about an obvious lie is that we can lie to escape or avoid punishment, but at the same time, show that we are lying. This allows us to avoid being dishonest. We lie and tell the truth at the same time. Like, irony, it is saying one thing, but meaning another. Another interesting thing about lying is that, in some ways, everyone lies much of the time. If we greet someone with "How are you?" the answer might be, "Fine," even if one is sick. We lie by not telling the whole truth about some things, such as sex. It would turn society upside down if everyone always told the complete truth in every way. In the courtroom, one is not allowed to tell everything, but only to answer the questions asked. And not all evidence, or truth, is even allowed to be considered. If one always tells the truth it may be impolite. We select things to say.

However, this does not mean that it is acceptable to tell a lie. If a lie is told, one should be able to clearly show that the effect of telling the lie is justifiable. For example a doctor may tell a small lie to save the life of a child. It is not acceptable to lie merely to escape punishment. Some ways of lying are to misuse language, be illogical, use vague words, believe things without evidence, or believe in mythical or mystical things. Examples: "The big lie is more plausible than truth." (Ernest Hemingway) "'The more articulate, the less said,' is an old Chinese proverb which I just made up myself." (Don Herold) I wrote the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The fish was so big that the lake sank two feet when I caught it.

It is honesty humor to say what you are really thinking, instead of covering it up, or pretending. For example, we may speak of "cancer cigarettes," or stated honestly, "I admit that I do not know who or what created the world, or if it was even created. Maybe it was always there."

a. Lying Humor Classified by Type

The following are examples of humor created by the language-game of lying. They are classified by type.

1. Accident

He tells the truth-but only by accident.

In politics, honesty can be an occupational hazard.

Now and again we all say something true, even if by accident.

2. Ambiguity. "Waiter, there is a fly lying in my soup." Reply: "I'm sorry, it's hard to find an honest fly." He who never lies, sleeps standing up. I know a tailor who fabricates all of the time.

"When you said you were under your car, you weren't. You were lying." "No, I was underlying."

3. Behavioral. Coquette (a deceit in luring without serious intention) Vamp (a woman who has sexual advantage takes advantage of men)

4. Caricature. The word "lies" coming from the barrel of a handgun to illustrate war propaganda.

5. Circularity. Mendacious people make the best liars. I only lie so that I will not have to tell the truth. It is my personal belief that liars should not be believed. Truth is the problem. If there were no truth, there would be no such thing as lying. Lies are truths in disguise. Q. "If there is a tree in the forest and no one sees it, does it exist?" A. "Yes, unless you lied."

6. Context Deviation. 1. Basically, I am honest. 2. I only lie about one thing-the truth.

7. Contradiction (cf. Liar paradox) I really enjoyed my stay in this dump. I'll promise you anything except honesty. Helen, I love you alone; and you too Mary. I can resist everything except temptation. I can stop lying whenever I wish; I stopped twelve times in the last seven days. I am really telling you the truth this time. I promise never to make promises. I always believe the truth no matter how false. I'm not sure what love is, but I promise to love you forever. Believing makes things true. Tell me what you really think of me-lie as much as you like. Q. "Are you asleep?" A. "Yes." An honest liar is one who unknowingly tells the truth. I will tell you the truth that cannot be told. The truth is that no one would ever set off a nuclear bom******* He told me himself that he believes that all communication is impossible. I am not lying when I tell you that I never tell the truth. "…belief in things he does not believe." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason) Everything I say is a lie. "I don't mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy." (Samuel Butler, Note-Books) I truly believe every lie I tell. Plato said again and again that all language is misleading. I may be a bit mendacious, but I never lie. Q. "Bill, are you here?" A. "No." The most important thing in acting is honesty; once you can fake that you have it made.

8. Deviation from Desires, the Familiar, the Ideal, the Practical, Purpose, Rules, Standards. Whatever you do, do it well; be the best liar who ever lied.

9. Exaggeration. I exaggerate when I tell you that I am exaggerating. The fact that I am so objective bothered me for centuries. The truth is, the fish was two miles long. I cannot tell a lie; I ate the cherry tree.

10. Hypocrisy. "I would never lie to you…" (to yourself: "…except daily." Method called "mental reservation" employed by the Church to allow lies to others, but not to god.

11. Illogical fallacies. Excuses or Rationalizations.

Easy to put together.

Everyone does it.

I am a good cook.

I can stop drinking whenever I wish.

I don't know.

I have never done this before.

I have only dated a few women.

I have to work late at the office.

I know how you feel.

I promise.

I understand.

It is in the mail to you.

It is no cause for concern.

It is O.K. I did not want it anyway.

It is really quite simple.

It was the nicest gift I ever received.

It was wonderful.

Just one more.


No hidden costs.

No problem.


Not a fake.


She is not home.

Trust me.

We are just here to help you.

Women are caring.

Women want it as much as men.

Would I lie to you? No.



You can count on us.

12. Impossible or Improbable. I'm going to stop smoking, exercise regularly, give up alcohol and go on a diet.

13. Insight. If I knew what a lie was, I would know if I lie or not. In advertising, we use humor to get around the truth. With truths like these, they would do everyone a favor by lying. Social lying is antisocial. "The aim of my life is honesty in all things, even if it means being politely ignored by all of society." (Source unknown) Pet store clerk to customer: "My animals make good friends and not one of them ever told a lie." The reason I lie about my age is just to tell the truth about the way I feel about myself. "One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives." (Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar)

14. Irony. "Truth is stranger than fiction." (Mark Twain)

15. Irrelevance. I'm lying if you believe this.

16. Metaphor Humor. The reason I lie is so as not to hurt the truth. White lies do not bother me. It is the black truth which I fear. These lies will be O.K. I'll just paint them white. I didn't lie, I just bent the truth.

17. Miss the Point Fallacy. "Waiter, there is a fly in my soup." Reply: "How did you know I was an entomologist in disguise?"

18. Reduction to Absurd. One way not to lie is not to believe anything. Another way not to lie is not to say anything. I have solved the deep riddle of how never to break a promise: Never make one. I promise to feed your cat forever.

19. Reversal. A liar seldom stoops to telling the truth. I say the opposite of what I believe, and get "A's in the exams. "My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world." (George Bernard Shaw) "Can you trust that politician?" "Put it this way. He will fail any course on lying." Truths are just lies gone astray. Air Traveler: "You told me I could sit in first class, and besides there is a fly in my soup." Flight attendant: "What is an honest lie between fliers?" (Reverse of "fly between liars.)

20. Riddle (Faulty questions and/or answers)

Q. How did the patient take his liquid medicine without drinking it? A: He drank it.

Q. But I thought you said he didn't drink it. A: I lied.

Q. How do you know when a man lies through his teeth? A: He does not write it down.

Q. How can you tell a lie when you hear one? A: The same way you can tell a lie any other time.

21. Sinking (Switch high and low values) I pledge to love you forever-or at least until next week. If you always tell the truth it will destroy our social life as we now know it.

22. Understatement. It is a good car: It goes forward and backward.

23. Uselessness. "The only form of lying that is absolutely beyond reproach is lying for its own sake." (Oscar Wilde) (Also blatant vice)

24. Value Deviation (Blatant vice) I only lie when I know I will not get caught. Book title: How to Lie to Your Best Friends to Get What You Want. I will not believe a lie unless it is big enough. Why don't you go to him in a perfectly straightforward way and lie about the whole thing. "Waiter, there is a fly in my soup." Reply: "Ah, you cannot tell the difference between a fly and a mere reflection." It's your fault. If you hadn't found out I was lying, no one would have known. Stranger: Do you mind if I sit here, I won't smoke. Traveler: No. Stranger: (A few minutes later as he lights a cigarette) Ah, I have only known you a few minutes and already I begin to lie.

b. The Liar Paradox. (See also self-referential humor) Logicians and mathematicians, especially, have been deeply puzzled and disturbed by this paradox. The literature on this subject is vast and increases regularly. The logicians are so threatened by this single paradox that they believe that unless it is resolved it will seriously undermine logic, the basis of mathematics, as well as thinking itself. "The most secure foundations of science, indeed, of reason itself, seemed to be undermined." (Koyré 1946:344) Quine (1966:7) wrote, "The paradoxes…bring on crises in thought." He speaks of the paradox as a "catastrophe," "dangerous"; and it is also thought of as "terrifying." (Koyré 1946:344)

The titles of journal articles suggest that the paradox is a kind of ghost which stalks logicians in the night: "Return of The Liar," "Drange's Paradox Lost," "The Revival of the Liar," "Paradox Without Tiers," "The Strengthened Liar," etc. (Martin 1970:bibliog.) And, of course, it kills: "Traveler, I am Philetas; the argument called the Liar and deep cogitations by night, brought me to death." (Bochenski 1961:131) Unless Philetas is speaking from the dead, this last statement is also itself a Liar paradox. The famous "liar paradox" is exemplified by rather simple self-referential statements such as, "Everything I say is false." We expect such statements to be fully intelligible and to make sense. As we suddenly discover that they contradict themselves, we are surprised. With the proper attitude this creates defeated expectation humor. We expected it to be true, yet it surprisingly turns out to be contradictory. It is amusing to imagine that if it is true, it is false; and if it is false it is true. It is like mirrors which reflect each other "infinitely." One has the feeling of some strange, enjoyable or paradoxical experience, but I think no one has yet disappeared into the glass or escaped into infinity in this way.

In the journal Analysis (June 1983) a similar problem was analyzed as to whether when looking at myself in a mirror I am directly facing, I see myself looking at myself. And if so, would I also see myself looking at myself looking at myself, etc.? The case is similar to the story of the dog with a bone in its mouth that seeing and desiring the reflected bone in the water, drops its bone into the pond. In seeking an ideal logico-mathematical language we can undermine and lose touch with our ordinary language. The problem is that the logicians have looked at the Liar paradox incorrectly-as if it is supposed to make literal sense. It is not. It is, among other things, supposed to be a disguised joke. The average person would not take it so seriously. "Liar-type sentences may be used in jest, or for some other non-truth-claiming purpose, but if someone seriously wished to assert one of them we should have to declare him semantically incompetent." The Liar paradox is also "logically absurd." It deviates from rules, intelligibility, the expected, etc. We must, then, look for another interpretation for what could be meant. A veridical paradox packs a surprise, but the surprise quickly dissipates itself as we ponder the proof. Taken literally, the paradox comes to nothing. How are we to take the Liar paradox? Why would one utter it? It has apparently no intelligible literal use. It consists of mistakes, equivocations, and nonsense.

But the Liar paradox does have uses-for example, as a joke. It is a riddle for us to enjoy. The Barber Paradox also is such a riddle: "If a barber shaves all people who do not shave themselves, does the barber shave himself?" Grelling (1936:23), who is known for one form of the Liar paradox, wrote, "The paradox of the barber is a joke." Such statements are basically self-referential statements. Similar paradoxes would be: This statement is false. All language is misleading. (Plato) Question: "What is a question?" (Wittgenstein 1968:#24) I doubt that I doubt. I am deceiving myself. I do not exist. Honestly, I'm lying. Everything is mere appearance. All is lies. All statements are circular. Will Rogers once said, "Nobody wants to be called common people, especially common people."

Zeno's paradoxes are also amusing and give insight as well. Exploration of his paradoxes can create critical understanding of time, space, infinity, etc. This is insight humor. It encourages us to explore our everyday language. Thus, the Liar paradox does not show the inconsistency of ordinary language. But it shows inadequacies of logic. If the logicians had to improve on their logics to include humor, they would have to invent the Liar paradox all over again.

2. Defeated Expectation and Surprise Humor (Deviations, escape or release, unexpected honesty, improbability, irony, blatant lie, practical joke, pretense, trick, value deviation, blatant vice) With defeated expectation humor, we are led to expect one thing, but are instead given another. Kant (1990:190], cf. 1951:177) wrote, "Laughter is an emotion from a sudden change of a strained expectation into nothing." [Das Lachen ist ein Affekt aus der plötzlichen Verwandlung einer gespannten Erwartung in nichts.] We are surprised in an acceptable way. This is a factor in many types of humor. Suppose a face suddenly appears in the window. We may be surprised or even in temporary shock. It is a strange and threatening face half-seen through a dark window. But then we notice that it is a friend. The shock turns into a laugh. Before our eyes, fear turns into humor. Surprise humor, like other types of humor, must involve a situation assessed as being nonthreatening and harmless. Defeated expectation humor works as if our emotions adjust to one line of thinking, but the story changes so suddenly and rapidly that our emotions do not catch up, and the result is a sudden outburst of laughter. Timing is, therefore, important to defeated expectation humor, and it is characterized by a sudden outburst. It is like being tricked and suddenly discovering it. It is a twist. Dénouement is the unravelling of story or event. The plot turns.

Because the humor turns on surprise, it may be difficult to laugh at the same joke in the same way twice. It is why the joke cannot, after its explanation, have the same effect. If the contrasts are familiar, surprise is lost. "It doesn't surprise me," defeats expectation humor. It is important also to avoid giving the joke away in advance or it will not be taken as a joke. It is one reason why a joke cannot be explained and still be a joke. There must be heightened arousal and sudden reversal. It is like perceptual "seeing-as" or ambiguous figures, whereby one figure is suddenly seen as an entirely different figure. A rabbit is suddenly seen as a duck in the ambiguous duck-rabbit figure. We look for one thing, but suddenly see another.

With taboo or value deviation humor one expects a socially acceptable statement, but suddenly finds a taboo message slipped in. In cosmic irony, the opposite of what is expected happens. Magic tricks are amusing because they defeat expectation by seeming to defy reason.

With defeated expectation the true becomes false, the false true, the wrong right, the right wrong. False appearance becomes reality, there is unexpected logic, and defeated intention, the pleasurable turns into pain and pain becomes pleasure. It may involve anticlimax humor such as the shaggy dog story. We may pretend to be on one topic, but actually be on another as it turns out. There is a sudden contrast. "Caprice" refers to a sudden change or turn of mind, without apparent or adequate reason, a freak whim or fancy. But with caprice, one consciously chooses to bring about the sudden change. Defeated expectation is involuntary, but there remains a sudden contrast in both. This applies also to the type of humor called, "sinking." "We weep at what thwarts or exceeds our desires in serious matters; we laugh at what only disappoints our expectations in trifles." (Hazlitt 1819)

"Surprise" derives from sur plus prendre, meaning "overtake," "seize," or "loss of control." "Wit: The unexpected explosion of thought." (Edwin Whipple) The contrasts presented overtake us. Our "set" or anticipation is seen to be chaotically irrelevant. Future things turn out wildly different than we thought they would. We then let go of our previous thinking. We had a confident knowledge and were surprised to find ourselves wrong. But surprise requires knowledge. Expectation humor is the accomplishment of gaining new knowledge. Surprise raises the question "Why?" or "How come?" We are astonished or bewildered. The more insight such humor produces, the better the humor. Defeated expectation may also be termed thwarted expectation and so result in the pleasure of bewilderment and the pain of having one's views suddenly disrupted. Plato once similarly defined comedy as a mixture of pleasure and pain. Metaphor and defeated expectation may both be based on surprise. Gustav Kohfeldt (1894) related metaphor to the comic and stated that the comic also involves the surprising, strange and unexpected. Markham Peacock, Jr. (1950), says that Wordsworth takes fanciful metaphor as a temporary combination of inessential properties to yield surprise, play, humor, and emotion by means of profusion and rapidity, which then beguiles us. In the Rhetoric, Aristotle (1954, MB:31-32) wrote that in jokes:

"That which one would not have expected to be said is said and recognized as true. Most smart sayings are derived from metaphor, and also from misleading the hearer beforehand. For it becomes more evident to him that he has learned something, when the conclusion turns out contrary to his expectations, and the mind seems to say, 'How true it is, but I had missed it.'"

EXAMPLES: It's safe, you can go through Central Park even at four in the morning-if you are a bullet. Q. Now that I have graduated from law school and learned about justice my goal is to make as much money as I possibly can. The man walked down the quiet street, turned the corner and passed away. [Poet:-One who writes metaphors. Philosopher:-One who writes metaphors. Scientist:-One who writes metaphors (also insight humor).] I learned a lot from this exam-how much I didn't know. The philosopher of mathematics is the kind of person who is surprised that 2+2 = 4.

Operator: "Number please?" "Number? I'm trying to get some peanuts."

The real truth of life is-to wash your dishes after you eat.

"I don't think I deserve an absolute zero." "Neither do I, but its the lowest mark I can possibly give."

"How do I know that this color is red?-It would be an answer to say: 'I have learnt English.'"

(Wittgenstein 1968:#381)

"This is probably the best joke I have ever heard." "Then tell the worst."

The right tool for the right job-kindness.

The good news is there is no cancer. The bad news is we will have to cut off both testicles.

The bad news is we will have to cut off both your legs. The good news is the man in the next bed wants to buy your shoes

Two men of perfect virtue:-the one dead, the other yet unborn. (Chinese proverb)

My New Year's resolution is to be faithfully carried out and I will do so. It is to be sure to clean the dishes whenever I wash them."

Q. How do you spell "hypocrisy"? A. You ought to know.

Q. Would you like to hear a joke? A. No.

What slander! It is absolutely not true that I dye my hair black. It was black when I bought it.

Alexander invented a wrist cloth which fades so one can tell time by it. He called it, Alexander's Rag Time Band.

Haiku (analogy to computer):

You step in the stream

but the water has moved on

the page is not there.

a. The Yellow Ribbon Story

She was very small when she was born, little hands, little feet. She was just what one would expect: two eyes, a nose where it's usually put, ears, and toes. A good start. Her parents looked through the maternity window and were proud. A beautiful little, baby girl. "I think she is smiling at me," the father said. "Probably just gas pains," his wife added. They had both done their work, nine long months, and here at last the result soon to be gooing and smearing sticky food everywhere, and crying at lung top.

"But what's that?" he asked. "What's what?" "That thing on her wrist?" "It's an identification tag. All of the babies have that. It's so they won't get mixed up, and so the nurses can tell them apart." "Oh." But every detail of a newborn baby is significant. They are examined as if each small characteristic, each lump, were a mystical emblem requiring special interpretation. Babies are compared with other babies in great detail.

"Well, they begin bald and end bald," he said. The occasion brought out the philosopher in him. "Yes," she replied, "they come in as babes and go out as babes." He had stared at the baby so long that it is surprising he could have noticed anything anymore. Then, suddenly, he exclaimed, "Look at that!" "What?" "That yellow ribbon around the baby's neck!" "Oh, that. Did you just notice it. It's been there all along. I knew about that." (Well, at least he got hold of something more exciting than the fact that light shines through the viewing window and the walls are perpendicular.) Latching on to her words he asked, "Well, what does it mean? She is the only one here with a yellow ribbon around her neck-the only one I have ever seen with a yellow ribbon around its neck. It's special. But what is it for?"

"What's anything for?" she responded.

"But it has to have a purpose. Everything has a purpose."

"What's your purpose?"

"I don't know. Looks like it's to have a baby with a yellow ribbon around its neck," he concluded.

"Well, that's the answer then," she said.

Somehow he was not quite satisfied with her argument. It sounded good, but something was missing. It bothered him. He still wanted to ask that question, "What is the ribbon for?" but he was afraid of the answer he might be given. He thought, "Oh well, for now."

The baby came home. The yellow ribbon was still there. He had hoped that maybe it would be gone and he would not have to think about it anymore. But there it was, not just there, but there as he put it: "brightly and 'yellowly'-how do you pronounce that anyway?"

Several days passed as they became accustomed to the new member of the family-several long days for him until he could once again dare to ask. On the third day he said to his wife, "Isn't she beautiful? Oh, by the way, I notice that she still has that ribbon around her neck. Do you know what is it for?" She replied very casually, but quickly, "You always think you have to know about everything, don't you?" He thought to himself, "She did it again. How did she do that?"

Time went by. The yellow ribbon of time went by-it went by, cowardly. He said nothing, asked nothing, was beside yourself in wanting to know something. The infant was older. One day he summoned courage and it burst forth.

"Look, that oatmeal is smeared all over the baby's neck and under its ribbon. This can't go on! Something must be done about that ribbon!"

With her usual composure, she replied, "I use a special soap for that very purpose. You know they even make soap out of oatmeal."

In the years that passed, he tried many times to find out about the ribbon, but without success. The baby, named Alice, had learned to walk and talk and was now going to school. She was chased and teased about her yellow ribbon, but no one found out why it was there, or what it was for. Later on in school she met a young boy who liked her, especially with her ribbon. To say he liked her ribbon does not mean that he was not curious about it, for he was very curious. It would, in fact, be strange to say that a boy went out with a girl just for her ribbon. ("Nice ribbon, baby.") But that is exactly why he went out with her. His name was Bob. He had a romantic attachment with her ribbon. It can happen. The ribbon being so close to her head made it seem to him that it was her he loved. They talked about nearly everything and drew a circle around both their names. They were encircled with each other. But she was, in addition, encircled by a yellow ribbon. What could it be? Was her halo too low? Not good thinking, for one night Bob and Alice found themselves, even discovered themselves, in the back seat of an old Ford. Some of the old Ford cars run better than the new ones. At least, this one did that night and the ignition was the only thing not turned on. While such intimate miracles as this were occurring, Bob thought it a good time to ask, "Alice love, would you tell me what that yellow ribbon you always wear is for?" Her eyes opened seductively, eyelids fluttered and she replied, "Bob, how could you ask a question like that at a time like this?"

Bob went through school with her and they even attended the same college. He studied psychology and thought that in this way he could persuade her to tell him what the yellow ribbon was for. Needless to say, she did not. When they graduated from college and decided to marry. On the wedding night, Bob looked at his beautiful wife, but could not help thinking that having the yellow ribbon on somehow made her look fully clothed. The next day he tried again, "Alice, we are now man and wife. No secrets now. Tell me, please, what that ribbon is for?" She replied, "We are married now, so you really need not ask." "You fool," he said to himself, "One should buy ribbons, not marry them." A year went by. First anniversary. He tried again. "We have now been married for a year. Would you tell me what the ribbon is for? She replied, "I would, but not now. I'll tell you one day when the time is right."

He thought about this. He thought a lot about this. It even obsessed him. He studied the clock to see if he could determine the "right" time. He watched the clock hand move each minute. "Is this the right time? Is this the right time? Is this the right time?" It never was. "What is a right time? If I wear pajamas is it the right time?" He tried wearing different clothes everyday. He even tried wearing no socks one day. That day, as it turned out, was definitely not the right time. He thought of asking about the ribbon on each subsequent special occasion, but felt it would violate her request to wait for the right moment. He said nothing. The situation was that he could not ask and he could not not ask.

The conflict was too much for him. He became depressed and began drinking. He drank heavily for a number of years. He began to go down hill rapidly. Alice stayed as lively as her bright yellow ribbon. More years went by. The two were in their eighties now. Then Alice began to fade. She became ill. She called for him and told him she could now tell him what the yellow ribbon was for. But it was too late. By now he no longer cared. But she was dying and insisted on telling him, so he forced himself to listen. He began to wonder now what might save her and became again obsessed with curiosity about the ribbon. She whispered, "You will see. Untie the ribbon." It reminded him for a second of their wedding night. He looked at her for a moment not knowing whether there was urgency or not. He untied the ribbon and her head fell off.

Analysis: Hate is sometimes the emotion experienced after being told this story. It is defeated expectation and a practical joke. It is what is sometimes called a "shaggy dog" story. (See "shaggy dog humor" under "personification humor.") That is, it is pointless or absurd. It is irrelevance humor and a form of anti-humor. A farfetched or irrelevant solution is given to a built up expectation of a relevant solution. During the story the listeners ask themselves, "Well, what is the yellow ribbon for?" or "We'll have to get Scotland Yard out on this one." It is a long drawn out story such that the listener may well ask, "How long will this go on?" "Can you shorten the story?" "Do you always tell stories like this?" or cry out, "You are driving me crazy, what's the point?" Listeners may then be taunted with "This is really a longer story, but I'll shorten it for you," as one goes on to elaborate the details of, for example, the adolescence of the girl. The storyteller may say, "I'll shorten this and skip two years." The teller sees the joke as humorous, but the listener may see it as humorous or as a pointless elaboration of irrelevancies, or as a pointless punch line. Irrelevance is also classified as an informal logical fallacy, as deviation from the practical or purpose, and as uselessness. The insane ramble on. On the other hand, the story may also be seen as being surrealistic, symbolic and metaphorical, or even, possibly, humorous.

b. Unexpected Honesty Humor. (Deviations, defeated expectation, insight, value deviation)

To be direct and honest is not safe. Shakespeare (Othello 3.3.377)

It can be funny to admit something we are usually ashamed of. For example, "I never was a very intelligent person, or I think I was the least popular person in class." This is unexpected honesty. It is also a way to escape from being criticized. Suppose someone says, "You are not very bright." Then, if true, one can reply, "That's true, I'm not." The reply is unexpected and disappoints the one calling names or criticizing. It is honesty humor to say what one is really thinking, instead of covering it up, or pretending. Of course, people can be criticized for being too honest, even if no one is harmed by the honesty. Socrates was condemned to death for his critical and honest inquiry. Honesty humor can also expose harmful beliefs and dogma.

EXAMPLES: "I like Wagner's music better than anybody's. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says." (Oscar Wilde Picture of Dorian Gray )

I don't know who or what created the world, or if it was even created. Maybe it was always here.

All your friends will be there." "I have no friends.

I wasn't poisoned by education, I never really had any.

I have the world's largest nose.

Cancer cigarettes. Death cigarettes. Tombstone pizza. Death by chocolate.

c. Anti-Humor Humor(Defeated Humor)

Anti-humor creates humor by not creating humor.

Anti-humor is the intentional violation of the expectation of a joke. The joke turns out not to be one. All the ingredients of a joke are clearly there and one is led to expect a punch line, but it is does not arrive, or is somehow defeated. It is anticlimax humor similar to shaggy dog humor (cf. section on personification humor.) Anti-rhyme humor is illustrated by: Mary ate cake and Mary ate jelly. Mary went home with a pain in her-head. It is the humor of a false expectation of humor. It is funny because ironically it is not funny. This underlies especially the humor of Andy Kaufman. Some say that it is dark humor, obnoxious, frustrating, or not humorous at all; others that it is as acceptable as a special kind of anti-humor humor. Anti-humor may be compared with the concept of an anti-hero. It also represents some of the humor of Scott Dikkers and the Wisconsin humor publication, The Onion. The humor is often set up, but with no punch line. Anti-humor is different from humor which is just bad. The latter may result in unintentional anti-humor. One form of anti-humor is also explaining humor which takes the humor out of humor.

I. Deviation from Usual Role. (See also section on Pretending Humor)

Male- female, teacher-student, etc. are reversed or deviated from.

Escape or Release Humor. (Escape involves allegory, contradiction, defense mechanisms, deviations, false blame, false reason, false statement, fallacies, irony, metaphor, nonsense, pretense, reversal (including provocative therapy), satire, value deviation) (Release involves, in addition, defeated expectation, unexpected honesty, mimic, ridicule, self-deprecation)

The truth I do not dare to know I muffle with a jest. (Emily Dickinson 1979:#1715)

The greatest advantage I know of being thought a wit by the world is that it gives one the greatest freedom of playing the fool. (Jonathan Swift)

Humor allows us to do whatever we please. It is the fool's freedom (Narrenfreiheit) It is not an escape from threat, but the freedom to accept it. It can be an escape from ourselves, from truth, reality, problems, thinking, emotions, or from impossible situations. Because humor involves mistake, contradiction, and deviation, escape or release is involved in virtually all types of humor. Humor involves pleasurable release. Escape and release humor are more properly uses of humor than they are types of humor. It is a classification according to use, as well as mechanism. By "escape" is meant, roughly, avoidance of or release from: truth, painful situations and criticism, fearful or negative emotions, impasse in reason or thought, blocks to communication. Tragicomedy supposedly involves cathartic release. With humor we can say what could not otherwise be said. "Release" refers to expressing statements and feelings which are hard to express, or which are unacceptable, yet are allowed to be expressed by humor. It may also refer to the laughter of humor or to the elated assessment-feeling of a "close call," or of success. Elated assessment-feelings of superiority, success, etc. may involve laughter, but yet not be classified as types of humor. They do involve the humor principle of changing the bad to the acceptable, and the seeming contradiction of expecting the worst- yet ultimately escaping from it. "Release" is not meant to imply the ex-pression of, or "pressing out" of internal mentalistic things called emotions, feelings, or atomistic "ideas."

A. Avoidance of Truth. This occurs when we change the subject or regard certain subjects as taboo. It is often not regarded as socially acceptable to talk of death, religion, and sex. When such subjects come up they are often too difficult for people to face or be honest about. Religious people, for example, may be afraid their beliefs will be challenged, so they change the subject away from them: "Well it's become rainier than usual weather hasn't it?"

With truth-avoidance come euphemisms. One does not die, one "goes away," "leaves us," or "departs." At death, the body is filled with so-called "lifelike" fluids and the face covered with cosmetics. With avoidance, we do not admit to our errors, or mistakes. We shun facts and truth. We bestow false blame, manufacture false statements, commit logical fallacies, offer unacceptable excuses. We claim we couldn't write a friend because we didn't have a pen. We present circuitous, meandering answers. We blame those who find us out: "I wouldn't be doing something wrong if you hadn't caught me. It's all your fault."

The humor of truth avoidance is produced by its contradictoriness. An act or statement contradicts what is taken for reality. It is a self-defeating attempt to escape. Unexpected honesty humor escapes from the social pressure to be tactful and to not expose the truth about certain things. In this case, truth is supported rather than avoided, but there is unexpected escape from social restrictions in order to tell the truth. A rebellious or maladjusted person may tend to use escape humor. It allows one to rebel against anything and everything, and avoid criticism at the same time. One may, by means of humor, break rules, attack parents, critics, values, and even rebel against oneself by means of self-deprecation humor. There is a flaunting in blatant vice humor and in unexpected honesty as well. Humor offers a paradigm of rule breaking and rebellion. On the other hand, it is this characteristic which makes it a method of scientific and philosophical inquiry.

B. Escape from Painful Situations.

Wit sometimes enables us to act rudely with impunity. (La Rochefoucauld Maximes No. 415)

Satire and allegory directly and symbolically allow us to criticize what cannot otherwise be criticized. Value deviation humor allows us to express our sexual and other frustrations through partially acceptable humor. Sexual humor allows us to say what is socially unacceptable, but it may also indicate a lack of sexual adjustment. Racial humor may express frustrations about freedom and prejudice. Soldiers, emergency workers, and prisoners use humor as a release from oppressive situations. One may play, joke and cavort, in order to escape responsibility. Wish fulfillment and pretense also produce release. Humor may be used to psychologically or actually escape from tight situations, such as a robbery, rape, or other oppressive circumstances. Humor also produces a release from boredom. It allows us to avoid criticism. "If you are going to lecture me, how about some Novocain first?" A flirtatious person excuses: "I fell asleep at the controls."

C. Escape from Fearful or Negative Emotions. People who live in glass houses "should" make jokes. "Humor saves us from indignation against those who think differently from us on matters about which there ought to be only one opinion, or against those who fail to keep our laws." (K. Wilson 1927:628-633) Humor may help one to avoid becoming angry, indignant, or embarrassed. It allows one to dodge questions, relieve nervous tension, "laugh off" failure. Value deviation and taboo humor allow expression of emotional frustrations. Mental patients escape seriousness. By self-deprecation humor one can release oneself from self-criticism: "Three girls refused to dance with me and I don't blame them."

D. Escape from Reason or Impasse of Thought. Humor is a reaction to or escape from contradictions confronted or situations regarded as improbable or impossible. It is an escape from irrationality and nonsense. It is a kind of defeated expectation, a defeated intelligibility, which results in laughter.

E. Humor Allows Us to Say What Could Not Otherwise Be Said. It is indirect and ambiguous statement. In irony we pretend to say one thing, but say another. In allegory and metaphor we do the same, but possibly clothe it in symbol. With taboo humor we say the unacceptable acceptably. Metaphor and humor both offer escape. Marjorie Boulton (1968, in MB:55) states that metaphors emphasize, clarify, stimulate thought, manifest exuberance, create connections, express what cannot be expressed otherwise. It shades into image and symbol and ranges from seriousness to joke. Michael Osborn (1963, in MB:214) states that metaphor allows us to express what cannot be expressed in ordinary language. Freudians, especially, stress the use of metaphor in therapy. D. Aleksandrowicz (1962, in MB:27) regards metaphor as a method of communicating with the patient, getting at the source of one's problem, and as a method of correcting it. Caruth & Ekstein (1966) similarly state that metaphor may be used to establish communication with schizophrenic patients. They believe it retains the needed distance from facing one's real problems. They hold that a metaphor may even be acted out by the patient, e.g. setting fire to something may be a metaphorical expression of sexual feelings. Wendell Muncie (l937) says that the psychopath shows metaphor disorder and uses it as escape from reality and as autistic gratification. He wrote, "One patient wanted to be an airplane plot in order to get the 'proper perspective on the world.'"

Exaggeration Humor (Allegory, caricature, conceit, defense mechanisms, deviations, blatant lie, metaphor, blatant vice. Compare understatement humor.)

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. (Mark Twain)

There is a mistake of overestimation, a falsity presented as if it were true, resulting in an impasse or kind of contradiction. It is also the farfetched, or a conceit, according to which everything can be related to everything else. It is vices, lies, the excessive, unrestrained and nearly outrageous. If it goes too far it becomes horrible, rude, and offensive. Anything can be exaggerated: size, desires, actions, goals, even smallness. In Dutch, Swiss and German, for example, the diminutive ending is even used for large objects such as elephants. (cf. understatement humor) It is the tall story and the brag: Religion is humorous as an exaggeration as to what we can know, such as the supernatural. Exaggeration is part of descriptions such as Rabelaisian laughter which is freedom from restraint (unrestrained humor or Pantagruelism), the ridiculous, gross and robust humor. Exaggeration is, however, often used to express and adequately render emotion and is not always intended to be taken literally.

Examples: I tackle the whole backfield and throw out each one until I find the one I want. This car goes five hundred miles an hour in neutral. I'll have your guts for garters. Once upon a time there was a woman with three hundred children. He is so contrary that if you threw him in the river he'd float upstream. (Ozark folk expression) In California, 45 miles per hour is for changing tires. He got up enough lather to shave Kansas City. He had a face like a plate of spaghetti. The soup was so hot his lips, fell in it. It was so realistic there was a bird hopping in his poem. My cows accidentally ate those reducing pills, and shrank to the size of dogs. Of corn whiskey: You can smell the feet of the boys who plowed the corn. In love, no thing is small. (Colette) Shakespeare's Mercutio says to Romeo that his wound is not much as it is not as deep as a well or as wide as a church door.

Expansion of Metaphor Humor (Allegory, exaggeration, take literally, reduce to absurdity, satire)

A philosophical treatise has never been written which did not depend upon the use of metaphor.

Berggren (1959, in MB:44)

All thinking is metaphorical. Robert Frost (1949, in MB:110)

Whole works of scientific research, even entire schools, are hardly more than the patient repetition, in all its ramifications, of a fertile metaphor. Kenneth Burke (1954, in MB:66)

It is by expansion of metaphor that fact becomes intelligible, the world measured, and the complexities of experience described in language. Any history of thought might begin and end with the statement that man is an analogical animal.

Scott Buchanan (1962, in MB:63)

John Hagopian (1968, in MB:127) argued that novels are just expanded metaphors. Martin Landau (1961, in MB:164) in speaking of the use of metaphor in political analysis, regards metaphors as models which structure inquiry and provide an interpretative system. Stephen Pepper (l942, in MB:221) offers the "root-metaphor method" for presenting a philosophy or theory. He says the root-metaphor method is an: "analogical method for generating world theories. The method in principle seems to be this: A man desiring to understand the world looks about for a clue to its comprehension. He pitches upon some area of common sense fact and tries [to see] if he cannot understand other areas in terms of this use. The original area becomes, then, his basic analogy or root metaphor." He claims that every philosophy and science is metaphor or an expanded metaphor. Each philosophy is seen to be one or more basic root metaphors which is then expanded. Each poem, and even each theory of mathematics, may be thought of as an expanded model or metaphor. As previously shown, there is a thin line between humor and metaphor. An expanded theory may be taken seriously and as a real possibility, or humorously as a distortion and improbability. Models and metaphors shift with confirming and disconfirming evidence. In one age "people are machines" is laughed at as nonsense. Today it is a fundamental root metaphor. Freudianism is, by some, still taken literally. According to Sarbin (1964) and others, it is an expanded metaphor erroneously taken literally. (See "take literally humor.") Showing the error of a model may be accomplished by expanding it, and thus reducing it to absurdity. The anti-choice, person argument (and potentiality argument) reduces to absurdity once it is expanded to regard sperm and unfertilized eggs as people. Allegory has already been mentioned as a type of expanded metaphor. Humor may be created by expansion of a farfetched metaphor, or by merely expanding a familiar metaphor which is not usually expanded. Freud's views such that rooms be regarded as wombs would ordinarily be regarded as farfetched conceits, blatant value deviation humor. But because of its familiarity and astonishing acceptance by psychiatrists, it is taken as authoritative knowledge.

Berggren (1959, in MB:44) states, "A philosophical treatise has never been written which did not depend upon the use of metaphor." Kenneth Burke (1954, in MB:66) tells us, "Whole works of scientific research, even entire schools, are hardly more than the patient repetition, in all its ramifications, of a fertile metaphor." And Scott Buchanan (1962, in MB:63) wrote, "It is by expansion of metaphor that fact becomes intelligible, the world measured, and the complexities of experience described in language. Any history of thought might begin and end with the statement that man is an analogical animal."


Jack Benny expanded the models of cheapness and not becoming old.

Does your train of thought have a caboose?

Astrology: If you are born under the sign of Cancer you have a good sense of humor and overcome your negative moods with it (circular). If the moon is your planet, your face will also be round. For Pisces (fish) people humor is one of your secret weapons. You use it to cover tears. "You find it hard to fight your way upstream." Taurus (bull) is a solid, down-to-earth person like the bull. Their humor is warm, earthy and slapstick.

He thought of an auto engine as a large, black fuzzy thing, as an arachnid special.

"Hadn't he seven dams to wive him? And every dam had her seven crutches. And every crutch had its seven hues. And each hue had a differing cry." (James Joyce 1947:215)

"If logicians had their way, language would become as clear and transparent as glass, but also as brittle as glass: and what would be the good of making an axe of glass that breaks the moment you use it?" (Waismann 1956:23)

"The land there is worth a thousand pounds an inch"; 'Why, the smoke alone is worth a thousand pounds a puff!'; 'Language is worth a thousand pounds a word.'; 'I shall dream about a thousand pounds tonight.'" (Carroll TLG 1960:148) The expansion of a metaphor to produce insight may be shown by means of absurdity into the notion of anxiety or Angst as follows:


No door or window

no east or west

suspended high

above the towns

his convex palm

traced the inner surface

to the right and left

up and down

to the starting point.

He rapped staccato on the


like a tailgunner,

to hear its hollow ring.

During the day

the sun brought intense heat,

at night cold.

It rained.

The birds flew by.

As he turned and twisted,

the sphere bobbed

first back, then front,

his face

pressed against

the translucent glass.

Warren Shibles

Hippidy Hoppidy

During my relatively short stay I noticed that there were rabbits here and there about the house-not real ones, though. Perhaps the ordinary words "there were rabbits" is misleading. Let me explain. I first noticed a rabbit with its ear wrapped around the short pole of a desk lamp which held the rabbit from falling-a feeling I have often had in my life: holding on by one ear. On the banister sits a small somewhat leg and arm adjustable rabbit. I noticed that from time to time it is on top of the banister and then on the bottom. Presumably it likes to slide down. On a bureau there are two rabbits sawing a carrot (a twanging music box). The living room stove has the brand name of Hase (German for "rabbit"). Huddled behind the metal stovepipe is a very cold looking rabbit. On the stove is a wire cage in the shape of a rabbit. It is filled with nuts. In another place on the stove is a black mug with stars on it and the top has a rabbit's head with pink ears-the association is with magic pulling a rabbit out of a hat. On the bookshelves one finds dozens of books about rabbits. Oh, in the magic mug one finds candy coated chocolate rabbit eggs (yes, rabbits lay eggs). A large, stuffed rabbit looks worriedly at you from beside the stove. As one looks closer one begins to play the game of guessing where the next rabbit will be-and in what form.

Obviously, they will be found sitting in a small corner of the bookshelves or on one of the books-with a dangling rabbit foot. If I look in this jar or this cup, will there be a rabbit there? You underestimate-not only is there one, but the little cup itself has a running rabbit on it! And the saucer reads, "Peter never stopped running or looked behind him 'till he got home to the big fir-tree." A larger mug has rabbits inside and outside. It says something about Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. Naturally, there is an eggcup in the shape of a rabbit driving a truck. The rabbits come in every size-the tiniest ones are ceramic or glass. Some are praying, others riding on each other's back, etc. One shows a lecherous Satyr-like boy with pointed ears-who is he anyway?-holding the ear of a rabbit. A casserole dish has the head of a rabbit on the top cover. Pink-eared rabbits are found next to a stack of dinner plates. The origin of each rabbit is itself interesting. They are from Africa, Denmark, Korea, America, etc. and there is, I understand, a special interest in acquiring a Scandinavian snow rabbit. Beside the telephone a rabbit in striped trousers snoozes on its back peacefully.

And there are tragedies. It seems that one small ceramic rabbit has broken both legs which are lying beside it. It is not a pleasant sight. I must say that I was quite amazed to find no rabbits in the refrigerator. I think it is an oversight. I am still looking. I suppose I should mention, though, that its two vegetable drawers are filled with lettuce and carrots. On an old bureau there is a rabbit music box. Mr. & Mrs. Rabbit move at their creaking wooden joints to make the music which made the movie "The Sting" famous. The tiniest rabbit is on a tiny cart with wheels. It is placed in a small cardboard "book" with a cut out insert. On the stairway sits the stair bunny. On the side of the landing upstairs is a rabbit collection of about twenty-two bunnies doing everything from skiing to simply being transparent (because made of glass). I sometimes feel also that invisible to the world. My own contribution was a battery operated lollipop licker in the shape of Bugs Bunny-something high tech. This was viewed, however, as being of questionable taste.

Gradually the dust in the house collects to create "dust bunnies" which dart about the floor when doors or windows are opened. They seem to play with all the other stuffed and ceramic and wooden rabbits throughout the house. At one point, I saw so many I was moved to place a number of them on a piece of paper and line them up as if they were two opposing football teams, and drew strategic arrows from each dust bunny to possible gaps in the lineup of the opposing team. Then each player was to blow each team of dust bunnies against one another. The professor seemed amused. I was glad because otherwise she could have been hopping mad.

On the cupboard shelf upstairs are pictures of rabbits in different black & white designs. Next to them is a rabbit clock. For whatever reason the professor's upstairs study is almost devoid of rabbits. Presumably it would be too distracting to be reading next to a bunny reading a book, although I like the idea. Outside the study a special corner shelf supports a white ceramic rabbit. Six bunnies are in her bedroom. I am not sure how the ceramic mermaid got to be there as well. And I am still wondering about the bedroom bunny that has a small clock between its legs. I did not look under the bed covers. The bathroom and bath tub are devoid of bunnies. They are not wonderful swimmers, ears get heavy when wet, etc. It may be interjected that the Europeans have never really gotten the shower concept down. Here the shower had no curtain, and the showerhead itself was pointed directly down at the toilet. On the other hand one could go to the bathroom and have a shower at the same time-a possibility which had somehow hitherto escaped my imagination. Of course, unless removed the toilet paper would always be wet. Now to continue, a recent acquisition was a thin, long, ceramic rabbit used to rest a used spoon or fork on. It was rather expensive, but the house would hardly be complete without it. A large "hobo" rabbit made of straw was also recently acquired and put in the outside hallway. Well, you perhaps by now have some idea of what the rest of the house is like and even what might be found in the cellar, university office, and auto. I am not sure what is kept in the bank, but I hope it is karats, not carrots

So you can probably understand by now what I mean when I say that upon entering the house I had the immediate feeling of the surreal-and that feeling has never for a moment left me. I also realized that it would never leave me when she began sentences with, "I like rabbits...," though I was impressed with the modesty of this phrase, and "I asked my rabbits and they said...." From that point on I felt that all of these bunnies were watching me. And at one point in our discussion in a certain slant of light, I noticed a striking resemblance between her face and one of the rabbits. Then I remember her having told me that in high school she and a girlfriend used to hop upstairs and downstairs. That was a long time ago, but it was to be expected that eventually..... One must first understand the circumstances, what is hopping where. The cosmic irony cannot be left unnoticed that my own name, Warren, refers to a place of ground for the protection and breeding of rabbits. In this house I distinctly felt like Hare (German Herr) Shibles.

False Blame Humor (Caricature, defense mechanisms, exaggeration, false reasoning, informal logical fallacies, false cause, blatant lie, mimic)

A person is accused of being alive, found guilty of original sin, guilty of something she did not do or could not have prevented. The dog is blamed for all of our mistakes. Our legal system is found to be permeated with illogical reasoning, faulty rules of evidence, and inadequate or outdated understanding of psychology. False blame humor is especially useful in satirizing and clarifying the notion of blame. Does it ever make sense to blame anyone? In law, Clarence Darrow often obtained mitigated sentences for his clients on the basis of extenuating circumstances. If such circumstances are introduced it may be that no one will ever be to blame. If, for example, we only do self-defeating things or harmful things out of ignorance, how can we be blamed? Certainly such acts are usually or always due to lack of education, lack of knowledge of cause and effect, one's societal influences, and one's mental condition. We cannot blame people if they could not have done otherwise. There are always further causes for one's actions: Ultimately, society and the court itself may be the cause of a person's crime because it brought about the conditions for it, e.g. by poorly educating and teaching its citizens or by punishing, rather than rehabilitation. Socrates pointed out that we only do harmful things out of ignorance. It is a militant, enculturating society, not just an individual that pulls the trigger. It murders itself.

People take seriously such erroneous disguised jokes as, "He burned the toast, he is a bad person," or "I failed the exam, I'm no good." As was pointed out earlier, "bad" is an open-context term and is meaningless in itself. "Blame" means, for example, "He caused it and that is bad." Thus, blame is also an open-context, obscure term. Because "blame" is meaningless in itself, it does not make sense to blame anyone. One can instead attempt to correct and change the harmful behavior. Although we cannot here present a full account of blame, false blame humor is one way of exploring, satirizing, and giving insight into the concept. For example, Carol Adams (1990:38) holds that domestic abuse is due to eating meat.

The following serious-humor poem explores some aspects and contradictions involved in blame.


You must blame no one

Marcus Aurelius

There are those who blame,

they don't know why,

the wind for blowing

and its trespass through the trees,

the child for play,

the weeds,

the sky for rain.

The jury decides

about your sanity,

which to accuse:

the bullet's blast,

flexed finger,

the arm,

the person,

and finally

the cause comes home

to us,

the no ones of society.

With a finger pointed

they punish the past,

what's gone,

assume we can redo,

rearrange everyone now

in their prior perfect place,

in barred castles

in the air

speculate with

people's real lives

and break them

in a judge's dream.

It's the getting back

that makes such lives worthwhile,

a heart for a heart,

the fiction for the fact.

But what might have been

did not take place,

a grammatical mood

figurative without a face.

We are glad to know

that we always "could

have done otherwise,"

as rain can plummet up,

the sun freeze at noon,

that we could know

better than we did,

are now perfect enough

to be our own accusers-

our own revenge.

Can I think like a mad person,

with beliefs not my own,

clomp about

in someone else's shoes?

What we did was always

our very best.

What we knew

was all that we had learned.

Though the world of all possible

did not lie at our feet,

we did what we had to do.

It is not with retaliation,

but with reform that we can,

retreat to the future.

Warren Shibles

False Reason Humor (Contradiction, informal logical fallacies, ignorance, improbable, blatant lie, nonsense)

Reasons for events are often relative rather than absolute. Of about half of the diseases listed in the Merck Manual (Updated yearly), the cause is listed as being unknown. When the cause is known, it is often a proximate or immediate cause. The full causes of "thought," perception, and virtually ultimately everything in our environment is fundamentally unknown. About any cause, we can ask for a further cause. It is not completely known why we perform any act. False reason humor is relevant to, exposes, and explores this state of affairs. It brings out the fact that the reasons usually given are often disguised jokes. The false is seen as true, the wrong is seen as right. John Austin states that it is characteristic of excuses to be unacceptable: "We may plead that we trod on the snail inadvertently; but not on a baby-you ought to look where you're putting your great feet." Any statement may be defined in many ways. A car theft may be called a "joy ride." He's not "lazy" that's just "delegative executive ability." Austin asks, "Should we say, are we saying, that he took her money, or that he robbed her? That he knocked a ball into a hole, or that he sank a putt? That he said 'Done,' or that he accepted an offer? How far, that is, are motives, intentions and conventions to be part of the description of actions? And more especially here, what is an or one or the action?" (26) Excuses are also false reasons. Excuses are reasons given for attempting to free oneself from guilt or blame. As insight humor, false blame may be answered by false reasons. EXAMPLES: Q. Why did you climb the mountain? A. Because it was there. Q. Why did you go to college? A. I didn't have anything else to do. It is very warm in here. I'll have to take off my ring. Q. Why did you steal the money? A. I couldn't help myself. Q. Why are you here? A. I'm just floating around. Q. Why did you marry? A. I just felt like it. Q. Why did you break the window? A. Because I'm a teenager. It's good because it's there. He couldn't call her because he was just stuck in neutral. After purposely spilling milk: "Well, who's perfect anyway?" Death: it's a family tradition. It must be true if it came to you in a dream.

The following statements are made by Antipatriarchal (radical) Feminists and are critiqued by the humanistic feminists such as: Denfeld, Elshtain, Patai & Koertge, Roiphe, Shibles, Sommers. All language is male, therefore it is bad. (Nye 1990) Science is "marital rape, the husband as scientist forcing nature to his wishes." (Sandra Harding) "Logic is a masculine subject." (Nye 1990:2) Anorexia nervosa is caused by a male dominated society. (Blumberg) Newton's Principles of Mechanics is Newton's Rape Manual. (Sandra Harding) Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony are "oppressively patriarchal." (McClary 1991:71) Meat-eating is the cause of male power. (Adams 1990:37) Reason and logic are weapons of oppression. (Nye 1990:177, 179) Female logic is "vegetarian." (Donovan 1985:167-168) Dating and candlelight dinners are forms of prostitution. (Jaggar, in Beard & Cerf 1995:19) Housewives are prostitutes. (Ferguson 1989:217, Beard & Cerf 1995:81) Fallacies in thinking do not apply to women. (Nye 1990:174) Sex and love are rape. (Dworkin, MacKinnon)

False Statement Humor (Synthetic contradiction, exaggeration, false blame, false reason, informal logical fallacies, ignorance, blatant lie, deviation from truth, obvious lie, nonsense)

An elaborate put-on or manufacturing a false statement whether blatantly made or not: "New York is the capital of Japan." The false is presented as if it were true. The humor derives from the contradiction. Carpenter (1925) stated that humor involves falsehood and the pleasure of being fooled. Anything presenting a great enough falsehood that is suddenly perceived as such by an effort of judgment is comic. Thus, religions and myths must be taken seriously so as not to be merely humorous or ridiculous. EXAMPLES: That's right, our chickens hibernate each winter in the pond. We made some water balls. In my previous life I was an elephant. He has no emotions.

Free Association Humor (Ambiguity, connotation, deviations, expand metaphor, informal logical fallacies (irrelevance), metaphor, metonymy, misclassification, nonsense)

A type of connotation humor which freely or illogically connects terms on the basis of connotation or farfetched relationships. One form is "stream of consciousness" writing. Another is irrelevancy. Jazz musicians and disc jockeys often free associate, e.g. "Here comes jazz-man Stan Getz in for a three-point landing." Free association is rendered less consciously by the faulty language of drunkenness, the drug experience, and the language of schizophrenics. It seems like nonsense and the absurd. The false may seem true. Especially interesting is "jiving" and good "rap" which is rich in jargon, metaphor and associations.

"Shandeism" of Sterne's Tristram Shandy is very free humor: one sentence constitutes a chapter, two pages are solid black illustrating a death; pages of the last chapter are blank, a missing chapter may appear later in the book, there is extensive digression. In Wittgenstein and Tristram, lines represent meanings of sentences. Wittgenstein suggested that we do not really know what to do with words like, "The soul separates from the body." The words have no concrete use, solve no problem, answer no question. They may be psychological fantasies or free associations, such as "soul" as a cloudy sort of object. They have no descriptive use or function. He wrote: "If he connects

with death, and this was his idea, this might be interesting psychologically." (Wittgenstein 1966:69)

William Gordon (1961) in Synectics uses metaphorical free association as a method of discovery and problem solving in industry, the sciences, education, etc. "Synectics" means from the Greek, "joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements." Synectics groups have been formed to create new ideas and inventions by means of this method. It is like what has been called the "metaphorical method." Professionals of greatly different occupations are brought together to free associate about a specific, presented problem.

Free association is obviously used in therapy as an attempt to find what associations patients make, e.g. in Rorschach tests. As indicated earlier, these associations are not as yet adequately worked out and are usually overly Freudian and mentalistic, but nevertheless may in other ways be of use. Rorschach tests claim to measure emotions, etc., but it would rather appear that they measure one's metaphorical ability.

The "fallacy of ignoratio elenchi" involves refutation of misunderstood statements, or premises which are entirely unrelated to the conclusion. The psychiatric expression, "flight of ideas," is continuous speech with the goal or subject at hand never being reached. It is a clever leap from topic to topic. Light conversations and party conversations are of this sort, as is the speech of the acute manic. (See "irrelevance" under "logical fallacies.") Provocation Therapy is an example of free association by the use of humor to reframe one's thinking.

Hopelessness Humor (Contradiction, defense mechanisms, escape, impossible, nonsense, paradox, reduce to absurdity, riddle, useless)

Hope is the only liar who never loses his reputation for veracity. (Averill 1990:63)

Laughter liberates us from the hopeless...and it can celebrate the hope. (Eberhart in Fry 1987:61)






Hope is an emotion which may be analyzed as assessments about goals, which produce bodily feelings. (cf. Averill 1990) The positive assessment needed for humor may take the form of hope: For example, I broke my leg skiing, but I have hope that it will get better, so I take charge and laugh at it. (cf. Lefcourt 2001) Synonyms for hope are trust, wish, need, expectation. Humor is a way to reframe our lives and even a life's goal itself. Both hope and humor take end runs around life's problems. A negative situation may not be within our control, but humor is. Dis-ease becomes ease. Humor is especially useful when our future looks bleek. Hopelessness has been shown to cause depression and depress the immune system. Snyder (2000) says that hopelessness leads to apathy, despair and rage. Cancer and other patients with incurable or fatal diseases have been successfully treated by humor therapy and some have as a result returned to normal again. Hopelessness can be as much of a disease as depression. Even for the well person, the philosophical counselor has special concern to address the life goals of the client. Humor is a form of "hope therapy." It is a performative utterance in the sense that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming that it is realistic, it brings about its own goal. Goallessness leads to hopelessness. Perhaps they are thinking of unrealistic goals when Kant , Nietzsche and Kierkegaard oppose hope. The latter wrote, Hope is "the passion for the impossible." (Averill 1990:104)

Acceptance of, or adjustment to, perceived hopeless, can bring about humor. If taken seriously, it leads to poor adjustment, depression, and suicide. When we are hurt, and accept that fact, we find that we sometimes laugh at our situation: the flying through the air before the fall into the snow; the silly leg cast, bandages which you had your friends autograph; the temporarily limp foot. A broken leg is a fact. One of the most hopeless situations is death, which is why humor is one of the few ways in which it can be coped with or explored. (cf. Frankl) The other ways, such as research into and prevention of dying and death, have been low on the priority list of any society. Superstition, religion and dying in battle have rather been the preferred ways of dealing with death, thereby guaranteeing hopelessness (cf. self-lie and life-lie). Yet, even here, battlefield humor helps.


The Situation is Hopeless But Not Serious (film title).

I am a doctor, but I really wanted to be a poet.

"How am I doctor?" "Well, don't worry. Once a person fell out of an airplane a mile above the ground and survived."

On Swiss menu: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

Hope is a good guide on the way to disaster.

He hopes to go to work, but the first step is rough. He is still sleeping.

I wish I were an elephant.

Not: "I am losing my hair" but "Wow! Look how much is left."

Well, let's just give up on everything.

In the next life, I will be happy.

She turned me down 16 times, but who is to say that the next time she will not say no?

"I can, I can, I can," said the little train before the child kicked it off the track.

I have never met her, but I am sure she will date me.

Prisoner asks for pizza to go.

"As your political representative, I will support the views of the people and what they want. I will defend our culture and our society. Therefore, I support the death penalty for the disturbed, war to protect our lipstick and tea routes, astrology to guide our lives, cruelty to prisoners who should get what they deserve, millions of dollars salary for each baseball and football player, tax exemption for the rich, tobacco advertisements targeting youth, reduction of retirement benefits and abandonment of the social security system, getting down on our knees to pray for things we want, the use of alcohol to make us sociable or for whatever reason, opposition to medical research, letting the mother die rather than abort, and hunting as amusement and entertainment. We must be patriotic and defend our democracy as it now exists. Hundreds of thousands (especially of the enemies) have given their lives for this. We need a society in which we still have hope."

Hypocrisy Exposed Humor (Allegory, contradiction, deviation, defense mechanisms, unexpected honesty, informal logical fallacies, insight, lying, pretense, reduce to absurdity, ridicule, satire, value deviation)

Actors are the only honest hypocrites. (William Hazlitt)

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. (Shakespeare, Hamlet i.5.107)

Hypocrisy disguises truth, humor reveals it. (Oliver 1960:11)

A gentleman's agreement is an arrangement which is not an agreement, between two persons neither of whom is a gentleman, with each expecting the other to be strictly bound while he himself has no intention of being bound at all.


Hypocrisy is a type of contradiction. Thus, like contradiction we may have 1. hypocrisy in definition, 2. inconsistency hypocrisy, e.g. in regard to our beliefs, 3. experiential hypocrisy. Our beliefs are often indoctrinated rather than based on evidence and so hypocritical. (See section on contradiction humor.) It is hypocrisy to be religious without first being acquainted with the arguments for and against religion. People claim to be rational, but have never studied critical thinking. Rather, the average person opposes philosophy, scholarship, and often science in favor of religion, astrology, mysticism and supernaturalism. We claim to be loving and kind, yet selfishness, militancy, anger, and revenge are our major characteristics.

Hypocrisy is pretending or professing to have beliefs, feelings or virtues one does not actually, or in practice have. (cf. Spiegel 1999) It is to be what one is not. It often involves selfishness while attempting to appear altruistic. "Person" (persona) originally meant "mask." Persona is a fictional character. Thus, it involves pretense and insincerity. Belief in a religion without evidence is a paradigm case of hypocrisy. Humor uncovers the masks. William Hazlitt says, "Actors are the only honest hypocrites." Self-deprecation is a form of hypocrisy. (Oliver 1960:10) In some ways, everyone is a hypocrite. One uses cosmetics, or pretends, in some way, to be what one is not. The young pretend to be old; the old, young; the large, thin; the thin, large; the ugly beautiful, the militant peaceful; the ignorant intelligent, etc. We often try to appear to know more than we do. The beliefs and behavior of people in any town are typically contradictory and inconsistent. People oppose euthanasia, but support war; and oppose one war while engaging in another. They oppose abortion, even if it means the death of the mother or, for that matter, the whole human race.

It may be suggested, then, that hypocrisy involves conscious pretense, lie, inconsistency, contradiction, disharmony between the following possibilities:



self talk


T = true, F = false








do not do what say or believe




think other than you say or do




say other than you think or do




think other than you say or do




think other than you say or think




act other than you think or say




actions, thoughts, and statements are all incongruous.

The hypocrisy may also be an inconsistency between thought and thought, word and word, or action and action. If these conflicts are not done consciously it is not genuine hypocrisy. It may be due to ignorance, or indoctrination. We may be tempted or not have the ability to put our beliefs into practice. Thomas Carlyle wrote, "Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into action." This may not always be true. Most people do not realize how inconsistent their behavior is. Basically, unconscious or accidental hypocrisy is due to lack of critical thinking, failure to inquire. If one does not know about ethics one cannot be moral, immoral or a hypocrite. Crisp & Cowton (1994) speak of "complacent hypocrisy" which means that one cannot claim to be moral if one does not inquire. In this sense, one is a hypocrite if one does not inquire. John Dewey had similarly stated that ethics rests on inquiring. Hypocrisy also depends on the viewpoint. It may be that I do not think I am being inconsistent, but someone else does. They think I am a hypocrite, but I do not. Pure hypocrisy is when I am consciously and deliberately inconsistent or contradictory in behavior, thought or statement. This may be a good thing if I am trying to reform an unfair system. We may infiltrate a perverse organization as an undercover agent would. In any case, any of these inconsistencies or contradictions may generate humor if regarded as acceptable or harmless.

Hypocrisy humor exposes such inconsistency and pretense. It is another form of insight humor. As a form of valuable criticism, it shows that the function of humor is not merely entertainment. Ridicule can hypocritically be presented as humor, though it is not.

EXAMPLES: "You ought never to do wrong when people are looking." (Mark Twain) To sell your body for money is bad, but to sell it for marriage is a virtue. "When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants and I give it to him." (Josh Billings) "The English public takes no interest in a work of art until it is told that the work in question is immoral." (Oscar Wilde) "Everyone can master a grief but he that has it" (Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing 3.2.28) Our superstitions are better than yours. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." (Upton Sinclair) Confucius: "I have never yet seen a man who loves virtue as much as he loves beautiful women." Being good, but pretending to be bad. "As philosophy grows more abstract we think increasingly by means of metaphors that we profess not to be relying on." (I. A. Richards, in MB:240) Politician: "I'll be happy to answer your questions." "There is a lot of defensive rhetoric and antiscientific obfuscation encrusted like old paint on the presentation of current ideas in linguistics." (Pullum 1991:5) "Most of the results of mathematical linguistics…have…become empirically virtually or completely empty." (Pullum 1991:52) A Christian scientist ("weekday scientist") is a form of hypocrisy.

Do salespeople really think people are so dense as to think $9.99 is really a lot less than $10?

"Gee, I'd like to buy it but I sure won't pay $10 for it."

Ignorance Humor (Defense mechanisms, deviations, false blame, false cause, expose hypocrisy, take literally, logical fallacies, mistake, reduce to absurdity, ridicule, religious humor, self-deprecation, wrong use)

We believe in nothing so firmly as what we least know. (Montaigne)

Most men had rather be charged with malice than with making a blunder. (Josh Billings)

Ignorance humor involves being illogical, social blunders, false beliefs, pretending to know when we do not, making errors or mistakes, being naive, being tricked, being awkward, and so on. It is humor caused by some ignorance or other. It relates also to the fallacy of ignorance, or the fallacy of claiming to know when we do not know. Belief in spirits, though we lack evidence for them, is based on the argument from ignorance. The thought which produces ignorance humor is that one does not know what one is normally expected to know. It is this deviation which we laugh at. It is the violation of the logical fallacies. It is the absurdity of believing something without evidence.

Too close to this type of humor is ridicule. Ridicule is to laugh at ignorance, and is put-down and rejection. But, as was shown earlier, ridicule is not humor. It involves negative emotion and seriousness. It is therefore not a type of humor. Ridicule belongs to negative emotions such as anger and revenge. Ignorance humor may be kind, and involve no ridicule. Davies (Bennett 1991:215-235) said about "fooltowns" which are the butt of deprecation jokes, that we like such jokes whether or not we are sympathetic. Irish, Polish and moron jokes are also discussed as a social phenomenon by Davies (Durant & Miller 1988:44-65) We may laugh with, rather than laugh at. Ignorance humor is especially useful in criticism because it exposes faulty thinking. Virtually all types of humor expose faulty thinking as well. EXAMPLES: Things not to say to an arresting traffic officer: 1. You are a lot nicer than the other two officers who gave me a warning. 2. You are not going to check the trunk, are you? 3. Wow, you must have been going over 120 mph to have caught me.

Pilot lands at a modern runway: "Shortest runway I have ever seen." "Yes, but it sure is wide."

Woman got an abortion because she didn't think the baby was hers. An ostrich's eve is bigger than its brain. If you can't see this you should see your eye doctor. Household tip: Mark your left shoe L and you will automatically know that what is left is the other one.

1 + 1 = 3-I think that's right, but I haven't time to check it right now. Paint yourself into a corner. Mispronounce words. Attempted insult: Your father sleeps with your mother. Count sheep: One, two, three, one more, one more, one more. He is a kitchen genius: he boiled the egg without water. There is a greasy thing under the hood which makes the car go. After buying a soda: "Well, I guess the directions are on the label." Alice (Alice in Wonderland) falls into a hole and wonders if she will fall to the other side of the earth where people, she thinks, walk with their heads downwards. She also put her hand on top of her head to see if she was getting smaller or larger. (Carroll 1960:19, 23)

Impossible Humor (contradiction, false blame, false reason, false statement), hopeless, ignorance, blatant lie, nonsense, paradox, reduce to absurdity, useless)

We may laugh when we are faced with the impossible. We see, or are asked to do, what is not possible. We can accept and laugh at the impossible. For example, we laugh at a small boy who complains because he does not want to grow, wants to walk to the moon, or tells his brother not to sweat in the house. In German, one says, "The likeness is as if stolen out of the mirror," (Das Bild ist wie aus dem Spiegel gestohlen), i.e. an excellent likeness, but of course it is impossible to steal it out of a mirror. Er hört den Tau fallen is literally "He hears the dew fall" which is impossible, but means that he thinks he is pretty clever.


Improbable Humor (inconsistency and synthetic contradiction, deviation from the usual, exaggeration, defeated expectation, understate) The unlikely is presented as if it were likely. EXAMPLES: Teach a dog tricks by telephone. If you bet on horses you will make thousands. If we put another ten dollars on the sweepstakes, we are very likely to win.

Just how probable is it that cats can fly?



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