Personification HUMOR. (personification, allegory, context deviation, false statement, blatant lie, reduce to absurd, self-deprecation, simile, sinking)
No animal but man ever laughs (Aristotle)
Human beings never understand how anthropomorphic they are. (Goethe)
Brer Fox said, "You said this was a laughing-place."
"I didn't know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact I didn't know that cats could grin." "They all can," said the Duchess; "and most of 'em do." (Carroll 1960:59)
A. What is Personification Humor? Personification is a kind of metaphor. The inanimate is treated as animate, for example, "It is an angry wind." One speaks of "contented" cows. Electroencephalogram experiments with plants are said to show that plants have emotion. But this is a confusion. It is to overgeneralize about what is only reception of electrical impulses. It merely assumed that there are plant emotions. It is to personify. Wittgenstein wrote, "A dog believes his master is at the door. But can he also believe his master will come tomorrow?" (1968:174)
Dogs are said to smile. Faces are carved into pumpkins. In fable, animals are personified and speak. "Brer Fox said, 'You said this was a laughing-place.' 'I didn't know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact I didn't know that cats could grin.' 'They all can,' said the Duchess; 'and most of 'em do.'" (Carroll 1960:59)
We speak of "unfriendly towns, "a cat's "desires," and we give inanimate things gender. In German, nouns are masculine, feminine, or neuter. "Love" (Die Liebe) is of the feminine gender, anger (Der Zorn) is masculine. The "State" is often personified as an organism. "Pathetic fallacy" refers to giving animals the feelings and emotions of a human. To animate things is also to emotify. One may also "dehumanize," or make what is animate or human, more inanimate and less human, e.g. "That clerk barks at everyone." "Depersonalization" is "identification" with objects or loss of identity or sense of self. A child schizophrenic often cannot distinguish between the animate and inanimate and has a disturbed body image such that she may not know where her feet are.
"The jury eagerly wrote down all three dates on their slates, and then added them up, and reduced the answer to shillings and pence" (Carroll 1960: 103).
Behaviorism and psychological experiments personify when they apply the behavior of rats or animals to the behavior of humans. Julian Huxley (1940) also pointed out that relating humans to speechless animals is misleading. Personification is a kind of category-mistake. Freud personifies mental events such as id, ego and superego.
No account of personification is complete without mention of the personifications of Walt Disney. Alice of Alice in Wonderland finds herself in a new and strange world. Animals are able to talk there, but what rules apply to their conversing? Alice tries addressing a Mouse with "O Mouse" because she remembered having seen declined in her brother's Latin Grammar, "A mouse -of a mouse-to a mouse-a mouse-O mouse!" The Mouse just looked back at her inquisitively. In a dream, time is distorted and Alice, in spite of her good knowledge of history, thought the Mouse may have come over with William the Conqueror and that it therefore must speak French. Alice talks to the Mouse as if it were a person. She talks of her soft, nice cat, Dinah, and how it chases mice. Alice has forgotten that the normal rules of conversation do not apply, but still is not sure what rules would apply either. Should one talk of one's pets or even speak a different language here in this wonderland? Alice called the Mouse back noticing that its face was pale with passion. And of course that is strange, although not because cats eat mice. What would a pale mouse's face look like, and what would passion be for a mouse? Metaphor makes human personality seem similar to that of animals and plants-the beast and straw in humans. If we only regard animism as a metaphor or model for certain purposes, the same object may be regarded as either animate or inanimate. Some biological entities are similarly treated. They are "on the brink." A human being is so many inanimate atoms in motion, but also it may be seen as an animate biological organism. Bloomfield (1963) and John Aikin (1811) give extensive and detailed methods of personifying abstractions. Aikin says that personification gives the highest exercise of the imagination. Chapin (1955:in MB:71) wrote that the personification type of metaphor: "Gives truly imaginative expression to elements of thought and feeling which reflect that firm sense of actuality which is to be accounted one of the 'central virtues of the civilized mind.'"
The tribal trickster identifies with certain animals, e.g. assumes qualities of a rabbit. He (or she?) is sometimes thought to be able to transform into any animal. (Apte 1985:212)
EXAMPLES: "Your new rock is a very sensitive pet. If it appears to be excited, place it on some old newspapers. The rock will know what the paper is for. Your rock will mature into a faithful, obedient, loving pet Your rock is an individual. Remember, a bored rock is an unhappy rock. To teach the command COME, place your rock on the floor. Say 'Come Brutus, c'mon fella, here boy,' and stuff like that. Now start walking slowly toward your rock. Incredibly, as you walk you will notice that it actually is coming closer Praise your rock and give it a pat of approval. Pet Rock owners have complained that their rocks were stupid, dim witted and slow (because they won't come) Well, this is ridiculous The problem lies in the fact that a rock has an extremely hard time learning its name. SIT. Many rocks will attempt to deceive you by lying down, thinking that you won't know the difference. If it lies down shout BAD ROCK It will return to the sitting position. STAND. You're a little confused if you think a Pet Rock can be taught to STAND. A rock has no feet. PLAY DEAD. Your Pet Rock will take to this trick like a duck takes to water. They'll actually practice it on their own"
Put yourself in a cat's shoes. What would she care? Do cats think it odd that we watch television while we could be instead just look at a corner of the room for hours as they do? His cat was so thirsty it dipped its tail into the coke bottle and sucked the end. Scientist: In combining with other atoms, the atoms of an element "strive to attain" the stable arrangement of electrons that characterizes the inert atoms of the elements of Group 0. Today the weather will be temperamental. The full vengeance of the law. We are chemical, our cells speak. Can fish see the snow? Cat logic. Tell cats to behave. Woman in the moon. "Words are living things." (Carlyle) It's enough to make a cat laugh. The ant was nervous. Alice (Alice in Wonderland) tries to convince the pigeon of her real nature. Well, who could convince a pigeon of anything? (Carroll 1960:53)
"What would you say to a glass of milk?" "Depends what the glass of milk says to me first."
Several German personifications: Das Karnickel hat angefangen, "The rabbit did it." Kilometerfresser, (lit. "Kilometer glutton.") or Strassenschwein (lit. road swine) "Road hog." Glückspitz, (lit. "lucky mushroom.") "Lucky person."
B. Shaggy Dog Stories: Introduction. (Pointless personification jokes, anti-humor.)
We are not so shaggy.
There is a special kind of joke called "shaggy dog" jokes. They are not just about shaggy dogs. And nothing is shaggy. In fact, they usually have nothing to do with shaggy dogs. We could call them shaggy Brer Rabbit jokes just as well. For example, a horse goes into a restaurant and asks for milk and catsup. He says, "I suppose you think it strange that a horse comes in here and asks for that?" The waiter replies: "No, I like milk that way myself." The waiter misses the point here. The strange thing is that the horse talks at all. Shaggy dog jokes are usually jokes like this. They miss the point that animals do not talk or act as people do. Thus, these are basically personification jokes. Also they are like practical jokes because the listener expects a genuine solution, but is often given instead an absurd solution or pointless joke. Similarly, anti-humor is the intentional violation of the expectation of a joke, which turns out not to be one. (cf. anti-humor under defeated expectation humor) All the ingredients of a joke are clearly there and one is led to expect a punch line, but it is does not come, or is somehow defeated.
Shaggy dog jokes also use other types of humor. For example, they may: a) have a pointless punch line, b) have an irrelevant punch line, c) be based on ignorance about animals' qualities or abilities, d) be absurd, e) tell of impossible events, f) be long and drawn out with an absurd ending (usually told in a serious way), g) be illogical. The conclusion or solution may not follow, h) present the unexpected, i) be a trick, hoax, or put on. We can also substitute people for animals in "miss the point" jokes and some other types of shaggy dog jokes. Some examples of different types of shaggy dog humor are the following:
C. Shaggy Dog Jokes by Type:
ambiguity. 1. A kangaroo said, "I haven't been feeling jumpy lately." 2. Brer Hare liked to catch mice and hit them on the head. A magician said he had better stop that, or the hare would be changed into a goon. The hare kept doing it, and was changed into a goon. The moral is: "Hare today; goon tomorrow."
context deviation. A dog eats food, plate, and cup, but doesn't eat the handle of the cup. Another dog said, "You are leaving the best part."
contradiction. This arises when an amazing animal can do some human things such as talk. But the animal is blamed for some minor fault, and the amazing ability to talk is overlooked. 1. One horse says to the other, "Hey, look at that, a talking dog." 2. A dog was ticketed while driving, because it couldn't read the road signs. 3. "Your dog seemed to like that movie." "That's funny, because he didn't like the book."
exaggeration. 1. A man in a bar keeps pouring drinks into his pocket. The bartender wants to throw him out. The man offers to fight everyone. A mouse then comes out of his pocket and says, "That goes for your cat too." 2. A dog walks up a wall and across a ceiling. Someone says, "I never saw a dog drink beer like that before."
defeated expectation. A horse pitches, catches and bats in baseball. When asked why it doesn't run when it hits the ball, the horse said, "Whoever heard of a horse running bases?"
A dog sent a telegram reading "Woof," nine times. It was told that it could send another "Woof" for the same price. The dog replied, "But that would be silly."
false cause. A boy has a golden screw in his navel. People ask what it is for. He finally takes it out and his bottom drops off. (pointless, absurd type)
irrelevance. A dog enters a store and the clerk points to a sign that reads, "No dogs allowed." The dog then says, "But, I'm not smoking."
obvious lie. A rat asks a mouse if a certain nest is safe. The mouse says it is. The rat is caught by a cat, and says to the mouse, "I thought you said it was safe." The mouse replied, "Don't listen to me. I lie a lot." A mouse caught in a vat of beer promises a cat it can eat the mouse if the cat will save him. After being saved, the mouse runs off saying, "Don't believe what I said before; I was drunk."
take metaphor literally. A baby bull was going for a long walk with its parents. But soon the parents became tired while the baby bull wanted to go on. The moral is: "A little bull goes a long way." A fly ate too much baloney. It then walked up the handle of a shovel. When it tried to fly off, it fell to the ground. The moral is: "Don't fly off the handle when you're full of baloney."
miss the point. 1. A pilot says it is quite unusual, but he saw the same shaggy dog at several different airports hundreds of miles apart. His companion replies irrelevantly, "Oh, it's not so shaggy." 2. "You know, a horse came in and ordered ice cream and lemon juice!" "How it can stand that combination is beyond me." 3. A horse complains about its feet. The owner says to a friend, "There's nothing really wrong with them." 4. A horse tries to tell the owner how to start a stalled car. The owner laughs and says to a friend, "It doesn't know anything about cars." 5. A dog cycles to a supermarket and brings back groceries. It is then blamed for forgetting the lettuce.
name-calling. A man is surprised to find a horse tending bar. He asks, "What happened to the cow that used to run the place?"
nonsense (absurd or no point story) One hippo says to the other, "I don't know why, but it has seemed like Thursday all day to me."
personification. One fish asks another, "You're not a Pisces are you?" One bull asks another, "You're not a Taurus are you?"
pretense. A man says he has a cat to eat the mice his friend keeps dreaming of. The man protested, "But the mice aren't real." The other responded, "Neither is my cat."
reversal. Two cells live in separate parts of the blood stream of a horse. When they get together they die. The moral is: "Don't change streams in the middle of a horse."
substitution. One flea said to the other, "Shall we walk or take a dog?"
practical joke.(behavioral, defense mechanism, ignorance, pretense, ridicule, trick)
It is only the dull who like practical jokes. (Oscar Wilde)
Brer Rabbit played a practical joke on Brer Fox. He led Brer Fox to believe there was a laughing-place, got him to run like a mad fool through some bushes, and led him to bump his head on a beehive. "Practical" refers to an activity, a course of action that is purposive, or useful. "Joke" is something lacking substance or genuineness. "Practical joke" refers to one's seeming to defeat someone from a goal, but then showing that the failure is only apparent, not real. One thinks one's watch is stolen, but a friend then produces the watch after having hid it. The victim foresees virtual failure and is surprised to find there is none. There is defeated expectation.
Practical joke is a deliberate way of inducing an emotion. One is purposely given fear so as to induce the pleasant release of removing the cause of that fear. Some would rather not be so affected. It seems unnecessary. And this demonstrates that negative emotions are not desirable. In children, however, practical jokes seem to be desirable. Perhaps this may be because children are often more accepting of their environment, fail to see the dangers, and because of their great desire for physical activity. Practical jokes are often behavioral and perceptual jokes.
A verbal form of practical joke is to make a purposely-false statement so as to deceive. It is put on, or pretense. The deception is then revealed as such. There is no practical joke if there is unrevealed deception. One may give an entire lecture on a new type of electricity supposedly just discovered, and elaborate on its revolutionary properties. For example, it can be held in one's hand, is created from controlling mass and heat to yield liquid electricity, etc. The story must sound plausible. Afterwards, when the audience is convinced, reveal that it is a put on (or offer it for sale). This may be done by exaggerating the model or reducing it to absurdity. For example, the electricity can only be found in chocolate, or it can be drunk as a milkshake. Ironically, in science, some seemingly absurd things do turn out to be true.
Put on, or pretense, works especially well with the uninformed, and so is a type of ignorance humor as well as a type of insight humor. The average scientist never having read about the philosophy of science still believes that there is energy, space and time as such. (In the philosophy of science it is argued, for example, that "energy" is a pseudoscientific term.) Practical joke insight humor tends to help make people more critical and careful in their thinking. It is a type of scientific and philosophical counseling provocation therapy. People can thereby examine more carefully what they are told, and become more circumspect about their possessions and actions. The put on is an excellent device to use in education. It arouses the emotions and secures student involvement in critical thinking. It also produces the positive emotions of humor as an additional reward. For these reasons Oscar Wilde is mistaken in asserting, "It is only the dull who like practical jokes." Oh, Oscar, Oscar.
"Teasing" refers to purposely tantalizing someone. The origin of the word is from "tea" and "to sing." Well, I suppose that is not really true. It is false etymology. It is a tease. But the literature is full of such false etymologies. The victim must know that the intention is not malicious. If teasing and practical jokes are meant merely to hurt, it is no longer humor, but obnoxious, dysfunctional, or psychotic behavior. One way of identifying personality deviation and abnormal behavior is by observing that one tends to engage frequently in practical jokes and that the jokes go too far. It goes too far to tell someone that one's father has died, and later reveal that it is not true. So also is pouring sugar in a gas tank. Genuine harm and damage is done. Failing to grasp that it is slaughter, the American president, Reagan, "teased" off microphone that the war will begin in five minutes. Practical joke is a device by which one can purposely cause pain without really causing it, do the unacceptable acceptably. It is an almost socially acceptable way of being good-humoredly hostile and aggressive. As such, it can become a defense mechanism or way of expressing hostility, rather than humor. Teasing, mischief and practical jokes should be too hurtful, and so they often deal with the trivial. In insight practical joke, or put on, one deals with significant beliefs, but the critiques are corrected before harm is caused by them. Basically, practical jokes require that we accept them. We may accept them more readily from a friend than a stranger. We must know that the people intend no harm when they seem to be purposely thwarting our plans and actions. On the other hand, a stranger may be able to "put us on" more easily, because we tend to take strangers seriously.
Several types of practical joke emerge:
1) Corrected verbal put on. The word, "joke," derives from "to say" or "to implore." It is especially useful in insight humor and education.
2) Corrected threat of adversity (e.g. apparent theft) by trick or deceit. Often involves action, so could called "practical jest" or "prank."
3) Actual annoyance about a trivial matter. Teasing. It is a deviation for a friend to do real harm in an unfriendly way. One pretends to do so. Teasing thresholds of people reveal how tense and accepting they are, or reveal their attitude toward teasing generally. It depends on our understanding of intentions, our desires, as well as our fears. If we know a person likes teasing we may tend to tease that person.
One may tend not to enjoy teasing or practical jokes which are at the expense of another person. We can induce humor without having to induce pain. Someone who likes to engage in practical jokes may be frustrated and need to harm others. He or she may feel superior or good when others are hurt. One may have been surrounded by people who use and enjoy this type of humor and have just picked up the technique. Once we become aware that practical jokes may be abusive, we may decide not to use them. Our humor may become more humanistic. Yet, practical jokes may be a powerful and persuasive tool, if used constructively. Masochism and sadism involve enjoying doing harm to oneself or to another, respectively. Both seem to involve pleasurable pain, and so seem to be contradictory. They need not be contradictory. If we have the assessment that we did something wrong and need to be punished, masochism may be irrationally enjoyable. Sadism may be irrationally enjoyed just as revenge is enjoyed as being one of the most sought after emotions of the average person. We may feel that people have been hurtful to us, so we will be hurtful to them in return. Masochism and sadism must be looked for in some practical jokes. A practical joke may be funny, yet sad.
EXAMPLES: See how far you can "push" people by making absurd requests. In one skit, "push the people" was acted out by a comedian: The waitress was psychologically "pushed." The customer claimed to have dust in his water, and asked, "Where is my bread and menu?" He then just ate the bread and asked for more water, without ordering. He next tried to sip someone else's soup. Then he told the person he had a cold. Seated now, he whispered to the waitress that he had only a few cents and requested a half a glass of tomato juice. She refused. "OK, then I'll just skimp on the tip," he responded. He then asked for something more Italian than spaghetti. "Now, bring me another glass of water, only without the lipstick," was his next request. "How much is the meatloaf dish without the peas," he asked. As she was protesting that the peas had to come with the dish, he asked another customer if he could buy her peas.
Put your finger in a newly made pie. Put a rooster in the house. Cook all the groceries the same day so as to always only have leftovers. Put your finger in someone's milk. Purposely make terrible coffee. Send flowers to a sorority with the note "To the prettiest girl in the sorority." "Put rocks in the bed of an obnoxious person." Have you heard the joke about the fool who said, "No"?
Pretense Humor.(Involved in all intentional kinds of humor especially as-if situations, behavioral (acting), exaggeration, defeated expectation, false statement, hypocrisy, irony, blatant lie, metaphor, mimic, practical joke, trick, understatement)
Our greatness lies in the supreme illusion. (Nietzsche, in MB:205)
I wish I could tell you half the things, Alice used to say, beginning with her favorite phrase 'Let's pretend ' 'Nurse! Do let's pretend that I'm a hungry hyena, and you're a bone.'
(Carroll TLG 1960:128)
The higher aspects of life are based on noble delusions (Hans Vaihinger 1968, in MB:292)
I'M PRETENDING I HAVE STICK FEET.
We fake it. With hypocrisy and pretense one attempts to cover up what one really is. Pretense is also trying to appear to be what one is not, but the pretense need not be covered up. We know novels are fiction and the characters are actors. We know a clown is acting, if not, is regarded as a fool. Pretense involves metaphor. It is to show or say, "X is Y." For example: The world is atomic. Humans are Macintosh computers. Life is a holiday. The state is a family. In the cosmetic industry pretense is everything, pretense to be beautiful. Some regard Jesus as a con-artist like tricksters and traditional fools who can supposedly do impossible things. (Boston 1974:126-127)
Did I just lose touch with reality? Then I have succeeded in presenting the concept of pretense. Pretense is fake, fiction, hypothesis, fantasy, make believe, put on, wish fulfillment, masks, roles, masquerade, spoof, telling "tall" stories, deception, legal fiction, assumption, imitation, mimicry, irony. It deals with fairies, elves, spirits and things that never were nor could be. It pageants myth, mysticism and religion. Psychodrama uses humor in the form of pretense or roll-playing. (Titze & Eschenröder. 2000:89-97) Wallace Stevens (1942) said that the poet gives life to "supreme fictions" to which we constantly turn and without which the world could not be conceived. Stutterheim (1941) argues that metaphor is synonymous with such terms as myth, hypostatization, and fiction. Sheridan Baker (1966) regards metaphor as a pretending, or shorthand for as-if. Helen Haworth (1968) regards metaphor as a sort-crossing and pretense-Keats' visions are seen not to be visions or mystical, but mere pretense. There is no second or Platonic world.
Monro (1963) said that one type of humor is anything masquerading as something it is not. Thomas Szasz (1961) says that some mentally ill people, especially the hysteric, can be treated as if he or she were playing games, putting on an act. Behavior is treated as if it were games played. A physical account is rejected. Thomson (1951:336-350) wrote: "It is only required that we should be able to put ourselves [metaphorically or by pretense] in what is [another's] situation." Samuel Menahem (1976), in his dissertation on role-playing and humor, sees pretense humor as a form of creativity and hypotheses stimulation. Alf Nyman (1922), in a Kantian approach, maintains that metaphor or scientific fictions constitute a conscious deviation from reality in the interest of knowledge. The as-if viewing digresses from reality to get closer to reality in an intuitive synthesis. This is another way of presenting the view that each theory in science, or elsewhere, is a heuristic and insight metaphor.
Much of our language is metaphorical and fictive. Ogden (1959) in Bentham's Theory of Fictions, pointed out that psychological terms are metaphorically derived from words for physical objects. Humor may be created by showing that what we take literally is a disguised joke. Legal terms are often fictions, spoken of "as-if" they refer to objects. Other fictions are: power, right, time, motion, mind, political terms, ideal lines (without thickness), surface (without depth), and virtually every psychological description. He wrote, "To language, then-to language alone-it is that fictitious entities owe their existence; their impossible, yet indispensable existence." (Ogden 1959, MB:210)
But Vaihinger (1968), in The Philosophy of 'As If': A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind, wrote that truth is only expedient error, and noble delusions. He says that humans have a tendency to take their fictions as dogmas. He gives as examples of fictions: Greek mythology, Plato's myths, Kant's "thing-in-itself," religious ideas, Herbart's associationism (of ideas), the mind-body distinction, all mental processes, zero, inertia, infinity, time, schematic drawings, imaginary cases, rhetorical fictions, substance, Aristotle's notion of potential existence, society as an organism, soul, energy, psychic activity, force, cause, ideal mathematical figures, deity, immortality, infinite, perfection, imagination, space without content, points without extension, constant velocity, consciousness in general, self-caused, negative numbers; most of the phrases of social intercourse, such as "Yours truly"; names, social contract, etc. Like Kant, he regards humans as metaphoricians (Metaphoriker). Nietzsche (1960, MB:204) holds a similar view. He said that we do not know things in themselves, but only metaphors, fictions or lies: And what therefore is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms: in short a sum of human relations which became poetically and rhetorically intensified, metaphorphosed, adorned, and after long usage seem to a nation fixed, canonic and binding; truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses. The intentional adherence to illusion in spite of our awareness of it is, Nietzsche says, a kind of "lie in an extra-moral sense." Myths or lies must be used in science as well as in everyday life: To know is merely to work with one's favorite metaphors. To think is to create "pictures." For example, "cause" is a "picture" we read into nature. Both language and "thought" are based on unreal or falsifying operations. Fictions are needed to think through and create theories and hypotheses. Nietzsche calls his philosophy "perspectivism" because all we can have is perspectives, perspective falsifications, and perspective vision: The most erroneous assumptions are precisely the most indispensable for us. Still many fictions are unintelligible and should be exposed as such. We are still continually seduced by words. We distort by simplifying, abstracting, isolating. (MB:204-205) His famous work The Antichrist, attacks all imaginary entities, the religious world of fiction and the dualistic fictions. He presents as fictions most or all of the fictions presented by Vaihinger.
In the above views, pretense, as-if, fiction, model and metaphor come together with the fallacy of taking things literally, category-mistake, naming fallacy, the metaphor-to-myth fallacy, and escape from the rational and usual. Humor is created based on these factors. Much of traditional thinking and language can be seen in this way to be disguised jokes, and so humorous. To create humor, especially insight humor, we need only expose the sorts of fictions presented above.
Pretense and fiction are also seen to be necessary for poetic and aesthetic reasons. Such metaphor integrates with humor because we know they are types of fallacies or distortions. Science fiction is partly heuristic, partly humorous. Santa Claus, gremlins, sprites, goblins, gnomes, dwarfs, and the little people, are fictions which are satisfying, fun, and enjoyable. Fictions can be poetic and aesthetic. Elves are delightful. Pretense and fiction allow, temporarily, all of our wishes to be fulfilled. Insoluble problems can be resolved. We can do and be anything we wish, create any kind of fantasy, myth, or supernatural world we desire. It is what metaphysicians and the religious create and then think it is real. It is like romantic, idealized love. They are views which if taken seriously are false, and if not, humorous. We can create hypothetical solutions, models, and humor by speculating, "What would you do if ?" Pretense creates a counterfactual, or contrary-to-fact condition.
Humorous pretense and fiction come from the basic metaphorical way in which we use language. Humor is not a superficial aspect of experience, but rooted in all of our language use and acting. Socrates humorously pretends to be ignorant (Socratic irony or Socratic method), in order to draw out the fallacies in the usual ways of asserting and arguing. Pretense humor brings out the extensive fictions and fallacies in our views which we take literally. People are balloons blowing about in the wind, children playing with toys.
Reduction to Absurdity Humor.(Reduction to the Humorous)
My aim is to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to
something that is patent nonsense. (Wittgenstein 1968:#464)
Reduction to absurdity applies to all types of humor because "absurd" is a synonym of "humorous." We may show the absurdity in certain views by using almost any of the techniques for creating each type of humor, for example, juxtaposition, substitution, showing contradiction, exposing hypocrisy, category-mistakes, exaggeration, etc. A paradigm for reduction to absurdity is to show that a theory one holds contradicts one's own beliefs or values. The reduction may involve showing that one's views lead to undesirable consequences. Zeno showed the absurd consequences which follow from holding the view that there is no change. Also, the causes, excuses, or reasons we give for events are often ludicrous because frequently wrong. One general paradigm for reduction to absurdity is: "You believe something, but if you consider this argument or statement, it will contradict or make your value or belief unintelligible." If you accept the contradiction, it leads to humor and a change of belief. If you do not accept it, it creates defensiveness, and anger.
For example, if the future is always becoming the past, how can there ever be a present? This is called the fallacy of the "specious present." If the past is inaccessible, then we can never be sure there "was" any. We can never have a past image to ascertain if a present image is of the past. Thus, historians only study the present, and memory is only a present experience -that is, if there were a present.
Any reduction to absurdity may be taken as humorous, or as serious. The reduction may be fair or unfair. Unfair, unacceptable reduction is discussed under ridicule. If the latter, it ceases to be humor. Reduction to absurdity humor may be instead called, "reduction to the humorous." It is a critical tool of satire. Serious things are seen in a revealing humorous perspective. Humor is thus a method of inquiry for use in both the humanities and the sciences. History, itself, is a fiction.EXAMPLES: 1. Why do you believe in behaviorism? A. I was reinforced to do so. 2. The Sanskrit word for "war" means "desire for more cows." 3. Is God so powerful that He doesn't even have to exist? 4. "The conception of thought as a gaseous medium." (Wittgenstein 1968:#109) 5. Every statement has a moral, even this one. 6. Existentialists are people who knock on their own doors before entering. 7. Q. Don't you know you are living during the age of the depression? A. Oh, I thought I was just selling apples. 8. Politically correct dress for Halloween: A witch?-never. Indian?-insensitive. A soldier?-too violent. A stalk of broccoli? Perfect. 8. "Does it make sense to ask 'How do you know that you believe?'-And is the answer: 'I know it by introspection'? (Wittgenstein 1968:#587) 9. It makes no sense to speak of willing willing." (Wittgenstein 1968:#613) 10. "Logicians' examples are about [all, or a, or some] swans being white." (Pullum 1991:128) 11. If we were all the same, we would all be reading this now. 12. "A force may readily be pictured as an unseen entity lurking in space and pulling like a stretched spring." (Waismann 1965:154) 13. Trickle down theory of economics: Give the horse oats and eventually it comes out the other end and finds its way to the masses. 14. Trans-good. Good in itself. 15. Express ideas, press them out like juice from a grape. 16. I have a wordless thought which I can express in words. 17. When does a sentence begin to be true? (cf. true vs. false in logic.) 18. Utilitarianism and comparison of cases: We buy expensive cars while others starve. 19. He had a sharp pain. (Are there round pains as well?) 20. Self? What would you do with it? 21. Seek truth. Where would you find it? In the coffee machine? 22. Ants are intrinsically good. 23. Absolute ducks. 24. Universal cows. 25. What we can't say we can't say, and can't whistle it either. (Frank Ramsay) 26. As a result of scientific rat studies it was found that people will be happier if they eat more cheese. 27. If evolutionary theory were true, the most strong and mean people would survive. 28. Plato asks for "the" definition of terms. By so doing he reduces definition to absurdity without knowing it. Plato's theory of ideas-in-themselves is a reduction to absurdity. 29. The method of paradoxical intention in therapy (see"Humor as therapy" section) recommends that people do more of that which they are fearful of doing or want not to do. 30. Sense of humor? Sure, I have a sense of taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell and humor. 31. Well, if you are going to be a strict vegan you really shouldn't be eating amoebas. 32. All movement is disorder. 33. The trouble with Plato, the surrealists and feminists trying to show the absurdity of language is that they can't without using language. 34. An existentialist is one who knocks on her own door before entering. 35. Sturm im Wasserglas, storm in a waterglass, means much ado about nothing.
Reversal or Inversion Humor.(contradiction, defeated expectation, irony)
I wasted time, and now time wastes me. (Shakespeare Richard II 5.5.49)
Humorists are serious. They are the only people who are. Mark Van Doren
Mistakes are good. Without them where would humor be?
How to talk humor:
This is a technique of inverting or reversing beliefs, roles, sentences, situations, values, cause and effect, expectations, etc. See also the discussion in the section on the "Deviation from Usual role." Transposition of two or more sounds or words is called a "spoonerism." [After William Spooner (1844-1930), British cleric and scholar.] For example, "tons of soil" for "sons of toil." It is a clever transposition especially if the reversed statement is an elucidating commentary on the original sentence. We expect, by reversing a sentence, that the opposite of the truth, nonsense, will be produced. Either way, the result can be humorous.
The reversal may make surprisingly good sense. For example, "Humor need not involve laughter, and laughter need not involve humor." We may also compare reversal to contradiction humor. "Nothing comes from something," may make more sense than, "The world was created from nothing." We must ask what the reverse of a view is like. It may make no difference, or be truer than the original statement. "I wasted time, and now time wastes me." (Shakespeare Richard II 5.5.49) Milner (1972:16) treats reversals, especially reversals of the linguistic aspects of universes of discourse, as the foundation of humor: "The process of reversal may be central to our perception and this may account for the fact that a very large number of phenomena that trigger off laughter can be shown to be due to reversal of one kind or another." (cf. Apter 1985, 1989, 2001)
Provocation Therapy is a form of reversal as well as apparent contradiction. (cf. Chapter 5 Humor as Therapy) The patient is asked to reverse his or her wishes and so seek or do that which is feared. They must yearn for that which they least want. They may be asked to even increase an undesirable behavior. If they have a hard time going to sleep, they may be asked to try to purposely stay awake. If they have a compulsion they may be asked to be even more compulsive, e.g. clean the house twenty times a day instead of ten. If one fears mice one may be asked to get one as a pet. If you fear being alone, then you are told not see anyone for a week. Ticks and hiccups have been cured by asking the person to purposely produce them. For those who are perfectionistic they may be asked to purposely make one or two small mistakes every day. It is not clear what the logic behind paradoxical reversal is, but one may suggest the following possibilities:
1. The use of humor requires acceptance and so one's negative emotions are undermined. Also, if one accepts what one fears then the fear vanishes.
2. We begin to realize that we must accept the actual reality of the situation. If we face our fear and reality, and learn to laugh at it, we can begin to accept and cope with it.
3. Doing what one fears is often not as bad as we think it is.
4. It reframes our thinking. We are allowed to do something which we would not ordinarily do, and so it strikes us as strange or humorous and helps us to reframe our thinking. We break our previous patterns of "thinking" and acting.
5. One sees that one has control over the situation again.
6. If the compulsion is intensified, it may just grow too wearisome to continue it. Bad behavior is blown up to the ridiculous or humorous level.
7. One may begin to realize that there was not much reason for performing a compulsive act in the first place.
8. The very act of reversing allows one to be less enculturated, less settled (in one's ideas Zwangsidee) and restricted in one's behavior. Humor allows us to deviate from previous beliefs.
9. One begins to realize that one is not and should not expect to be perfect, e.g. if one works, one will make mistakes.
10. We realize that we can do what we thought we could not do.
11. One trick of paradoxical intention is to laugh away pseudo-problems.
12. Humor gives us insight and serves as an argument.
13. Humor eases tension and gives needed pleasure.
14. Humor allows us to distance ourselves from painful situations.
15. Humor allows us not to take ourselves so seriously, to laugh acceptingly at ourselves.
16. Humor itself gives us needed meaning in life and a goal. Facing our fears such as death helps us to give more meaningful priorities to our lives and determine what is genuinely important. People are often upset with trivial thing.
17. Humor helps show the absurdity of one's irrational behavior.
18. By using the exaggeration method, defenses against changing behavior are undermined.
19. It helps one give up catastrophizing or negativizing. Forced catastrophies can eliminate the fear.
20. As in reverse psychology, telling one to do one thing can make one do the reverse.
21. Provocation Therapy is also an example of free association humor to attempt reframe one's thinking.To return to Chapter 5 on Provocative Therapy.
Black humor literature, e.g. of Ionesco, is a reversal of social norms, rules rationality, literary forms, etc. See section on Black Humor under Value Deviation Humor for further analysis. Apte (1985:156-157) refers to societal, ritual humor which reverses the usual practices of the society in question. Arapahoe clowns groan under the weight of a light load. The witches of the Kaguru dance upside down; in the Toraja land of the dead everything is the reverse of what it is in the world, even words have the opposite of their usual meaning or are even pronounced backwards. There is role reversal and ritual rebellion. (Babcock1978:27) Such reversals supposedly give us release and Spielraum [free play]. (32) In the medieval Feast of Fools comoners and priests mocked the rituals of the church.
Apter (2001) presents what he calls reversal theory. According to this theory, all humor involves a reversal in that two mutually exclusive things are seen as momentarily identical, a paradoxical sameness (called "synergy'). A playful attitude ("paratelic" or nonpurposive) resolves the incongruity and tension. This could also be a description of how metaphor works: it is initially absurd until one can understand it and figure it out.
The March Hare in Alice says, "'Then you should say what you mean.' 'I do,' Alice hastily replied, 'at least-at least I mean what I say-that's the same thing, you know.' 'Not the same thing a bit,' said the Hatter. 'Why, you might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see.'" (Carroll 1960:67)
In Alice "Do cats eat bats?" and "Do bats eat cats?" become interchangeable because Alice cannot answer either one. (Carroll 1960:19)
The trouble with Canada is that for several days a year you have to switch all around into summer clothes.
"Republicans...take care of the big money, for the big money takes care of them." (Will Rogers)
Because the Dormouse is always sleeping, his reversals are both true, that is, "I breathe when I sleep" is the same as "I sleep when I breathe." (Carroll 1960:67)
"'My finger is bleeding! Oh, oh, oh, oh!' 'Have you pricked your finger?' 'I haven't pricked it yet,' the Queen said, 'but I soon shall-oh, oh, oh!'" (Carroll 1960:173)
He spent all his money on women; she spent all her men on money.
In praise of dullness. (See International Dull Folks Ltd.) (Whimsy VI 1988:240-242)
I hate to be interrupted when I am avoiding work.
Kaffee umgekehrt is coffee reversed, meaning more milk than coffee.
Tee martoonies, please.
Witch went to a plastic surgeon to have wart put on her nose.
It is the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong. (Tom Stoppard Arcadia.)
Stop being serious and start joking.
He is the white sheep of the family.
From yeast to Yeates
My friends are always there-when they need me.
'Sum ergo cogito. Is that putting Des-cartes before de-horse?" (Chiaro 1992:13)
"I wasted time and now time wastes me." (Shakespeare Richard II, 5.5.49)
I am a miracle worker. I turn wine into water.
The tail wags the dog.
Wo alle nackt gehen, da lacht man über das Hemd. [Where all go nacked, there one laughs about clothes.]
Man kann die Wahrheit auch mit lachendem Munde sagen. [One can also tell the truth with a laughing mouth.]
Every ending has a beginning.
I am a serious comedian.
Not how do we define humor, but how does humor define us.
Because you want to drop the course, you should stay in it.
You do nothing very well.
We may weep at a birth, or laugh at a funeral. (Chuangtse in Blyth 1959:26)
Wer sich entschuldigt, klagt sich an. [She who excuses herself accuses herself.]
In paradoxical intention therapy they make things better by making them worse.
As we do not have only one, but many selves, we may be altruistic to ourselves.
Humanistic people are anti-robbers. They enter the house and leave new valuables behind.
"Mental processes are just queer." (Wittgenstein 1968:363)
"Numbers are not fundamental entities." (Wittgenstein 1967:#706)
G. Anscombe (1976:161) argued that "the majority votes in the minority in a majority of cases." It's not that "love" is not definable, it's that definitions are not lovable.
Jim: "Hello Jim, Jane here."
Reading most books is a way to avoid thinking.
You're just being serious.
Don't let your course studies interfere with your education.
Madman: one with fewer cultural obstacles and fantasies in his way.
Be prejudiced against all males equally.
Test for truth: the more a statement deviates from symbolic logic, the truer it is.
Reverse Freud: Womb is symbolic of a room.
She fired a bullet at him, but the bullet saved his life.
Republican: Farewell to welfare.
Victims who victimize themselves.
"What is Tao? Should we try to get it?" "As soon as you try to miss it."
If you don't get everything you want, reflect on the things you don't get that you don't want.
Palindromes: "Madam, I'm Adam," "Able was I ere I saw Elba," "Stressed-Desserts," "deed," "level," or "Mary Belle Byram." "Look cool."
The following example makes use of insight reversal humor:
HOW TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK
Suppose you were to say, "The trouble with me is that I feel so good. How can the cognitive-emotive theory help me to feel lousy"? There are some timeworn methods. First of all: 1. Be irritated and upset that you even have to get up in the morning. 2. Snap irritatedly at those around you expecting them to just understand that you are grouchy when you awaken. 3. Check the news and complain if the weather is bad. If they say it will be nice, doubt the report. 4. Don't allow enough time to get to work, then complain berate yourself and other drivers as you speed to work. 5. On arrival, look at those around you with anxiety and suspicion. Perhaps they have been talking about you. You never know. If you are asked to do something, wonder why you have been singled out. Imagine that you are being harassed, or nagged and victimized by all members of the opposite sex. This is reason enough to be irritable, complain, moan, or whine. Or be silent and let your hostility brew while you plot revenge. Find a chance to spread unflattering gossip about them and others and ridicule them at lunch. Anyone who disagrees with you is out to oppress and hurt you. It is because they are basically mean. Therefore, they should be blamed and punished. Then worry. Perhaps, you could even make a few impossible demands of yourself, or torment yourself about some past event one can no longer do anything about. Well, you are doing well now. Wonder why people are unfriendly and that they only do things out of selfish motives. Even though you are a grouch, they shouldn't be. Scold others if they violate your subjective, private rules. Very soon you will be successful in being miserably angry and ready to have a perfect, massive heart attack.
RHETORIC (AS TYPES OF HUMOR)
All forms of argument afford equal opportunity for jests.
Quintilian (Instituto Oratoria VI.iii.65)
Jokes can be used in an argument. (Aristotle Rhetoric 3.18, 1419b3)
Rhetoric is a significant source for humor. This was shown in the previous discussion of metaphor humor. In addition, the informal logical fallacies are listed among the types of rhetoric. A figure is a general term for any striking or unusual configuration of words or phrases. (Lanham 1969, Taylor 1972) It alters normal form. Many of the classifications of humor presented here, such as simile, analogy, allegory, etc. are also rhetorical terms. In the following a number of rhetorical terms are given which may form the basis of humor or are related t o humor.
Rhetoric, according to Aristotle, is the art of discovering the available means of persuasion. Humor is one such means. Rhetoric gives the devices we use in language, its language games, its logic, its mistakes, its positive or negative effect on the audience, its effectiveness, its use in discourse (pragmatics), etc. In each case, something may go wrong, thus if acceptable, generating humor. Emotional responses, praise and blame, mockery and parody, and giving excuses were regarded as rhetorical devices.
Many rhetorical terms describe ungrammatical, illogical or misuses of language (e.g. figure, metaphor, malapropism), others are techniques of argument (e.g. dilemma, analogy), others refer to types of word repetition, others refer to repetitions of sound (e.g. alliteration, assonance), others are metaphorical substitutions (e.g. allegory, parable, metonymy, irony, simile), vices of language (barbarismus), vices of verbosity (tautologia, pleonasmus), types of puns (antanaclasis, paronomasia, syllepsis, zeugma), syntactical disorder (hyperbaton), rhythm of language, omissions, grammar variations, figures of disputation (apoplanesis: evasion by digression), figures of similitude (icon, parable, allegory), causes and effects, pathos (figures of vehemence), ethos (figures of gratitude, commendation), etc.
B. Rhetorical Terms Serving as Source for Humor
accumulatio: heap praise or blame. [exaggeration]
acyrologia: malapropism, use inexact/illogical word, incorrect phrase, e.g. "I hope (meant fear) I will be hanged tomorrow."
adianoeta: hidden meaning (e.g. irony, ambiguity). "For your work we have nothing but praise." [cf. fallacy of accent]
adynata: string together impossibilities.
aenigma (enigma): speak in riddles, mystery, obscure speech.
affectation: unnatural or artificial speech or conduct.
agnomination: words of different meaning, but similar sound are brought together. (cf. paranomasia: play on meanings of word ) [cf. alliteration]
aishrologia: join words to convey obscene message.
allegory: disguise subject under suggestive guise of another. Words have double significance. [cf. expanded metaphor]
alliteration: recurrence of initial consonant sound or vowel sound. [cf. assonance]
amara irrisio: sarcasm
amphibologia: ambivalence of grammatical structure, usually by mispronunciation, e.g. "Do you recognize your friend? "No, I just see you."
amplification: expansion of simple statement, e.g. accumulation, antithesis, comparison, example, exclamation, hyperbole, image, paraphrase, repetition, etc.
anacolouthon: syntactical inconsistency, or incoherence in a sentence, e.g. "You really ought-well, do it your own way." Shows switch of emotion.
anageon: excusing an act on grounds that supposedly a person or condition made it necessary.
anagram: transpose letters to create new word or phrase.
anaphora: repetition of word or phrase at beginning of successive clauses, or sentences, e.g. to think that x, to think that y; or this is an x, this is a y, this is...
anastrophe: ("turning back") unusual or backward arrangement of words or clauses in a sentence, e.g. "All Italy about I went." [reversal] Word usually placed first is placed last. Inversion of order, e.g. "People that he had known all his life he really did not know."
anoiconometon: confused words without order.
antanaclasis: Return to a word, but give it new and different meaning. Word play. Repeat word in two different senses, homonymic pun. E.g. "Learn a craft to avoid living by craft."
antanagoge: ameliorate a fault. Balance unfavorable with favorable, e.g. "The good news is..., the bad news is...)
antenantiosis: positive statement made in negative form.
anthimeria: functional shift; one part of speech used for another, e.g. "His complexion is perfect gallows"; "I'll unhair your head." [substitution]
anthypophora: answer one's own questions, e.g. "So is this true?-It is."
anticlimax: Expected heightened effect is instead lowered. [cf. antihero, antihumor, sinking humor, reduction to absurdity]
antimetabole: invert order of repeated words.
antiphrasis: words used in sense opposite to proper meaning, e.g. calling enemy a friend. [cf. irony]
antiptosis: substitute one case for another.
antistasis: repeat word in a different or contradictory sense, e.g. "I wasted time and now time wastes me." (Shakespeare Richard II V, v)
antisthecon: substitute one letter or sound for another in a word.
antistrephon: turn another's arguments to one's own purposes.
antithesis: conjoin contrasting ideas.
antonomasia: description used for proper name, or proper name used for a quality.
apophasis: irony of denying what we actually do or say. Deny all reasons but the one you hold.
apoplanesis: evade issue by digression.
aporia: true or feigned uncertainty about an ascertainable point, e.g. "What do I know about it?"
apostrophe: address absent person or personified abstraction.
argumentum ex concessis: reason from the (e.g. exaggerated) premiss of opponent.
aschematiston: lack or unskillful use of figures of speech.
asiatismus: figurative speech, but is empty, grandiloquent, too ornate.
assonance: repetition of similar vowel sounds followed by different consonant of adjacent words.
asteismus: mirthful or mocking answer that plays on a word, e.g. fame and shame.
atticism: brief, witty, or epigrammatic style.
auxesis: use exaggeration for proper word. [hyperbole] E.g. call a scratch a wound.
barbarismus: uncultivated speech and pronunciation.
bathos: a commonplace in elevated style. [sinking]
bombast: grandiloquence, pretentious, trite speech, exaggerated style.
brachiologia: defeat expectation by excessive brevity and conciseness.
cacemphaton: sound equivocal, lewd illusion, double entendre, excessive alliteration, excess of like sounds, jarring sound.
cacosistata: badly constructed argument, expand argument to another group or the other side of the argument. E.g. "OK, we need a military, but then we need an even larger department of war prevention and peace corps.
cacosyntheton: misplace words and word order so as not to express intended meaning.
cacozelia: affectation of style, esp. coined speech to appear learned; perverted zeal.
catachresis: wrong word for the context, farfetched or paradoxical metaphor. Improper metaphor. Often good metaphor, e.g. "She spoke daggers to him."
catacosmesis: sinking of order from high or important to low or least important. [sinking humor] "To want to know a lot, to learn a bit, but in the end stick with what you know."
cataplexis: threatening disaster. [mistake or accident humor]
catechresis: name unnamed by things similar, e.g. call an airplane a "large bird in the sky."
categoria: direct, honest accusation. [blatant honesty humor]
ceratinae: dilemma. All possible arguments seem to prove something both true and false.
certitudo: false or subjective assumption of certainty. [dogma humor]
characterismus: irony. turn aside antagonism with a joke; make disagreeable seem agreeable. [A fundamental use of humor.] E.g. (Faulty) description of body or mind. [cf. myth of mind, mind-body problem, problem of self]
charientism: graceful style, express unpleasant in agreeable way. [cf. euphemism] Scoff at threatener, e.g. "Bite not my nose off, I beg you."
chiasmus: (lit. "crossing" such as AB to BA) near repetition in reverse order of terms of a phrase or letter.
chleuasmos: mockery leaving one no reply.
chronographia: description of time, e.g. "Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops." (Romeo and Juliet III, v) [cf. personification]
Ciceronian style: full, classical rhetorical style.
circuicio: circuitous speech, circumlocution, maze of arguments. (periphrasis) [cf. miss the point humor]
citros: evoke excessive pity moving one to tears.
climax: humor builds to a punch line [antihumor does so by not doing so] A conclusion of a series of building arguments.
cohortatio: The fallacy of moving hearer to indignation by dwelling on enemy's faults, e.g. to promote patriotism, indoctrinate feminists, or encourage religious belief.
color: metaphors, embellishments of a style, a slanted style.
commoratio: emphasis by repetition in different words, e.g. "He is expelled, cast out, banished." "You emphasize and dwell on it."
commutatio: order of first clause reversed in second.
comprobatio: compliment someone to win his or her confidence. [hypocrisy]
concession: concede a point to prepare for a stronger counterargument, e.g. "I concede that he is deaf-to anything but war." Have fun-but you will pay for it."
congeries: diverse ideas just heaped together. Word heaps, e.g. typical student term paper.
conjugates: Move from one part of speech or ending to another, e.g. John Dewey changes substantive nouns to active gerunds-stress is on the creating of art rather than on the end result; similarly, not humor, but being humorous; to be human does not mean one is humanistic. Humor may not be humorous.
consonance: resemblance of stressed consonant sounds. Also reverse alliteration (terminal consonant similarity). E.g. "Bill will fall on the wall."
continuatio: continued, overlong sentence.
correctio: to correct previous words, or prepare for a view unfavorable to others.
declamatio: elaborate, ornamental, rehearsed speech.
deesis: vehement desire, supplicate.
dehortatio: dissuasion. "Do not go with that man/woman, for everyone else has."
deliberatio: deliberation. Humor arises when it is excessive, or one is unable to deliberate.
delivery of speech: Humor arises when it is done badly.
denumeratio: amplify idea by giving all the details. E.g. "What is surgery but removal of green, slimy flesh, yellow blood, rotting flesh, ....
diabole: prediction or denunciation of future action. Faulty prediction creates humor.
dialogismus: speaking as if another person, counterfeit dialogue.
diaresis: divide one syllable into two, divide subject into its parts.
diasyrmus: ridicule of opponent's argument through base analogy or example. [cf. reduce to absurd]
dicaeologia: confess act, but excuse it by necessity, e.g. "We had to kill a million people in Iraq because of the situation there."
dilemma: argument and counterargument both unacceptable, e.g. liar paradox. Only unacceptable choices offered, e.g. typical choice of two unacceptable presidential candidates.
diminutio: undervalue or underestimate.
dissimulatio: dissimilitude, compare unlike things. Hide under false appearance. [hypocrisy]
donysis: describing or reenacting strong emotions. [cf. behavioral humor, parody, pretending]
effictio: overcomplete itemization of heroin's charm; personal description.
effiguration: elaborate description of object or event (not person).
eidolopeia: present dead person as speaking. [personification, anthropomorphism]
ellipsis: leave out (implied) word. [cf. self-reference humor]
emphasis: to stress, to imply more than stated, e.g. "My man has become a lord of late." (i.e. is difficult and egoistic)
enallage: substitute one grammatical form (case, person, number, gender, tense, mood, part of speech) for another.
encomion: high-flown expression, eulogy.
enigma: riddle or obscure speech.
enthymeme: conclude from truth of contrary. If pacifism is good, it is unacceptable to support military. Argument based on probable or incomplete grounds.
enumeratio: enumeration of causes, effects, adjuncts.
epideictic oratory: to please audience rather than persuade them. To preach.
epimone: dwell on a point. Frequent repetition.
epiplexis: ask a question not to gain information, but to chide and convince, e.g. "Just how long do you expect me to wait here?
epitheton: epithet added to every person's name, such as whether they are good or bad.
epitrochasmus: swift movement from one subject or statement to another, a "free for all."
epitrope: serious or ironical permission given to opponent to do what they wish, but object to the inconvenience of it.
epizeuxis: emphatic, passionate repetition, e.g. "Oh, baby! Oh baby! Oh baby!"
exergasia: repeat something in many words, e.g. "An oft told tale rendered monotonous by repetition."
expeditio: reject all but one alternative argument.
extenuatio: understate, e.g. speak of a "scrap with the law" when , in fact, one was in prison for ten years.
fable: allegorical story with a moral. Characters are often animals.
facetiae: humorous sayings or writings.
fictio: attribute reasonable actions and speech to unreasonable creatures.
graciosa nugatio: pleasant nonsense or jesting.
heterogenium: irrelevant answer or proof to attract attention, e.g. "I ask you of cheese, you tell me of Cheshire."
hirmos: meaning is extended and suspended until completion at end.
homiologia: tedious, redundant style.
homoioteleuton: accentuates rhythm of equal members of its own similar endings, e.g. "He can converse wittily, remember perfectly, write beautifully, and party immediately."
horismus: define negatively, briefly or by its contrary, e.g. "He has a strong voice, but unfortunately not an avoidable one."
hyberbaton: Invented or unusual word order for emphasis, e.g. "This is the kind of impertinence up with which I will not put."
hypallage: awkward or humorous changing of order, agreement or application of words. Metonymy. Reversal. E.g. "I see her voice." [cf.synaesthesia humor]
hyperbaton: departure from normal word order.
hypocrisis: humorous or mocking exaggeration of opponent's speech or actions.
hypophora: raising questions and answering them.
hysteron proteron: disorder or inversion of time sequence.
icon: resemblance by image. [cf. simile, analogy]
illusio: mock, jeer.
intention: use connotation of a term.
inter se pugnantia: point out hypocrisy.
intimation: hinting at something.
inversio: turn opponent's argument against him/her self.
leptologia: subtle speaking, quibbling.
litotes: understatement to enhance one's image. An assumption expressed by negation of the contrary (obversion).
macrologia: long-winded, redundant.
malapropism: vulgar error through attempt to seem learned.
meiosis: belittle, degrading epithet.
metalepsis: effect attributed to a remote sounding cause, metonymical substitution of a word.
metaplasm: transpose letters or syllable in a word from the natural order.
metastasis: turn objections back against those who made them.
metonymy: cause for effect or inverse. Name or attribute is substituted for the thing meant or vice versa. Substitution of connotation or association for the thing, e.g. crown for royalty; "He was addicted to the bottle."
mimesis: imitation of person.
noema: obscure, subtle speech.
occupatio: emphasis by seeming to avoid, e.g. "I will not dwell on the professor's 20 books, 30 journal articles, or his..."
optatio: a wish exclaimed, e.g. "Wow!" or "Ooooh, my!"
palindrome: reversible sentence, e.g. "Lewd did I live, and evil did I dwel(l)."
parable: mystical comparison or juxtaposition. Teach moral by extended metaphor. Something expressed in terms of something else. Enigmatical, mystical saying. Illustration of something to avoid."
paradiastole: putting together dissimilar things; favorable term given to cover unfavorable one; presenting partial truth, e.g. to call a miser thrifty, deceit policy, war peacekeeping, punishment correction, paid killers soldiers, revenge and retaliation justice."
paradigma: resemblance or induction by [humorous] example. Pattern. [metaphor, model]
paradox: contrary to opinion or expectation. Contrary statement shown to be surprisingly true. [cf. defeated expectation humor]
paralepsis: omission. With the pretense to pass over a point, subtly mention it nevertheless and so give it stress, e.g. "Not to mention that...," "to say nothing of...." "I will not say that..."
paralogism: unwitting, faulty reasoning.
paramologia: concede weaker point to strengthen one's own argument.
paramythia: console or diminish sorrow of griever, e.g. "We have seen the worst," "It is all over now."
paranomasia: pun, play on words which sound alike (homonym).
parataxis: place sentence or clauses side by side without connecting words or items. [juxtaposition]
parathesis: parenthetic speech, digress from subject, put something beside. "Ah, but I digress."
parecbasis: deviate from subject, digression.
parechesis: Similar sounds repeated. "The ghastliest of glimpses that gleam through the gloom." (Swineburne Nephilidia)
parelcon: add superfluous word.
parenthesis: insert an aside in a sentence interrupting the normal flow.
pareuresis: false pretext, good excuse.
parimion: every word of the sentence begins with the same sound, e.g. "Much money makes many men mighty mad."
paro(no)masia: punning, play on words, e.g. Falstaff: "Were it not here apparent that thou art heir apparent." (I Henry IV, I, ii)
parody: imitate writing to make seem humorous or ridiculous.
paromoisis: some sound similarity of words in two clauses, as may be found in poetry.
paromologia: admit many weaknesses of own position.
parrhesia: candid speech. [blatant honesty humor] E.g. "Excuse me for what will be a long and tedious if not dry talk."
pathos or pathopeia: form of persuasion arousing emotions (e.g. humor) in the audience, e.g. by being moved oneself. Emotional appeal of argument (fallacy).
percontatio: rebuke by questioning. Overquestion.
periergia: superfluous elaboration of a point; labored style.
periphrasis: circumlocution, e.g. "He returned home again from whence he came."
peroration: impassioned summary, not just review of previous arguments.
philophrenesis: attempt to mitigate cruelty or anger by gentle speech and humble submission.
pleonasm: needless redundancy, e.g. "I spoke the words with my mouth."
ploce: repetition of a word or name with new significance, e.g. as altered by reading a poem or prose.
poicilogia: awkward, ungrammatical speech.
pointed style: figurative, witty, Senecan style, but with a clarifying point. [insight humor]
polysyndeton: use of many conjunctions, e.g. "He will come here, walk here, drive here, fly here, swim here, or creeps here, but he will be here."
praeoccupatio: to be preoccupied.
praeteritio: pretending to overlook a point.
preciosity: use of imagery for its own sake according to a false standard of literary taste.
proclees: provoke adversary by accusation or to justify actions.
prosonomasia: call by nickname.
prosopoeia: imagining or absent person as speaking or acting.
prosopographia: lively description of imaginary person, object, abstraction, or animal as if present. [cf. personification]
proverb: concise statement often metaphorical to express some truth. Enigma.
provocatio: challenge, inciting [cf. provocative therapy humor]
pseudomenos: argument in which adversary is forced to lie, e.g. it is in vary many ways a lie to take the oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me god."
psyma: asking too many questions demanding immediate answer. Rapidly overquestion thereby preventing answers.
rhetorical question: (Erotema) ask question not for answer, but to assert or deny something obliquely.
rhodomontade: boast, arrogance.
Senecan style: curt style.
solecism: ungrammatical combination of words, e.g. of cases, tenses, gender.
soraismus: affected use and mingling of foreign language for no good reason.
syllepsis: verb governs one word literally and one metaphorically, e.g. "He lost his hat and his temper."
synedoche: the following and reverse of: substitution of part for whole, matter for what made from it, container for contained, cause for effect, before for after, implicit for explicit, disease for cure, hero for villain, etc. E.g. bread for food, roofs for houses, steel for sword, farce for mistake.
systrophe: qualify a term with many phrases, yet without defining it.
tapinosis: debased naming, e.g. fiddler for musician, brook for Thames, tunes for Beethoven's Symphony.
thaumasmus: exclamation of wonder, e.g. "Oh, the idiocy of humankind who kill in war."
zeugma: use a verb to govern several words or clauses, but makes consistent sense in only one. Incongruent parallel. E.g. "He made a milkshake and then the world."
Riddle: The Humor of Questions.(allegory, beg the question, conceit, contradiction, defeated expectation, many question fallacy, metaphor, paradox, reduce to absurdity)
O, ho, I know the riddle. (Shakespeare King Lear V.i.L 327)
You have not the Book of Riddles about you, have you?
(Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor i.I.L 208)
Wittgenstein once said that a philosophical treatise might contain nothing but questions.
THE QUESTION IS:
WHAT IS A QUESTION?
It seems that the question, "What is a riddle?" is itself a riddle. It demands a reply, but it is not clear what kind of reply is expected. It is not clear what would count as a reply. Riddles are types of metaphors and metaphors are riddles. It is a riddle when two unlike things are identified and put forth as being somehow meaningful. Aristotle wrote: "The very nature of a riddle is to describe in an impossible combination of words [which] cannot be done with the real names for things, but can be with their metaphorical substitutes. Good riddles do, in general, provide us with satisfactory metaphors; for metaphors imply riddles, and therefore a good riddle can furnish a good metaphor."
Yalisove (1978) divides riddles into only three types: conceptual trick, ambiguity, and absurd. Gustav Hocke (1959:68-111), states that metaphor was once thought to have a mystical and demonic power, but is now thought of more as merely a riddle. It was thought that one might unravel the mystery or riddle of the universe-as if a magic word would be the key to it all. It is the experience of taking the part for the whole. If we can solve one riddle, then we can solve all riddles at the same time. Charles Zug (1967) says that the Zen approach of some sects is to meditate on a contradictory riddle for even twenty years. The solution which denies rationality supposedly leads to Satori. It is like eventually denying the question and our understanding. It is to try to show that nothing can be understood.
About riddles and questions Waismann wrote (1965:405), "To sense riddles and problems where others see before them the flat road of convention, is what constitutes the philosophic spirit. Questions lead us on and over the barriers of traditional opinions. Questions seduce us too, and lead us astray."
Remember the question at the beginning of the book: "Where is the laughing place?" So far we have tried to answer this question. But, now, it looks as if the question itself is a bit funny. The question is: "What is a question?" One can get "hooked" by putting a question mark at the end of some sentences. Let's just fish around a little and see how this happens. So, we can forget about answers for awhile and rather ask what the questions are. Are there really any such things? Is this one? "Thus far no folklorist has been able to give a definition of the riddle employing concrete and specific terms." (Georges & Dundes (1963:111-118)
Humor is riddle already. It is something that makes sense that does not make sense, something we must figure out, or solve. That is, humor virtually always involves a deviation or mistake. Riddles involve questions. Thus, to create humorous riddles we need only make mistakes with questions and answers. We can do this, for example, by asking faulty or nonsense questions, or by giving nonsense answers. Ah, the possibilities! Because all of these questions or answers are faulty, they are metaphors, and not genuine questions and answers. Most of our most fundamental beliefs are based on faulty questions or faulty answers. This observation is especially valuable for application in philosophical education and practice.
There are as many types of mistakes we can make with questions as there are types of humor. We may also take any sentence or statement and make it into a question. We may take any type of humor in this book and make a riddle of that type. We need only put it in the form of a question. When we learn about riddles we learn something about how questions work and about how they can mislead us. An example of a pun riddle, or ambiguity riddle is: Q. What has a hand but doesn't wash its face? A. A clock. The question seems to be self-contradictory. But a way to make sense of it is to see that "hand" means a person's hand, or the hand of a clock. It is a metaphor and a pun. If a clock literally had a hand, it would be a funny clock. It would be odd if this hand could not wash its face. But the hand of a clock can "sweep" its face. We speak of a sweep-second hand. Thus, this riddle has in it the following types of humor: 1) pun or ambiguity, 2) taking a metaphor literally, 3) metaphor, 4) contradiction. But we may call it basically ambiguity humor. It may be seen that because the question is so vague, very many answers could be given. For example: Q. What has a hand, but doesn't wash its face? A. My little brother. This could be ridicule riddle humor.
The following serious-humor poem explores some problems with questions:
As a child too young to know I
was an "I"
and still thinking that a dog
chasing its tail
was genuine progress
and that cows have tails
to protect themselves from teachers,
I had a strong desire
to touch a girl's funny bone
and learn what caused an ant
Would one pull on a pigtail
bring down all knowledge?
Why is Eric a mouse,
Humphrey an elephant,
and people far away so small?
Do pies have mothers?
How many bugs are there
under a building?
Did questions themselves grow big?
Did I trip my friend
or just move my foot?
Should marriage vows
include peanut butter?
Was he sawing a plank or cutting a board?
Why do people smile when talking on the telephone?
Why do fluids in bottles
make people act strange?
I could write a book
of only questions.
What is the right way to write?
And why can, anything be bad?
Can weeds be good?
Is religion humor?
What is the difference between
sweating and thinking?
Are works of art ever finished?
Are words accident prone?
Do people joke in dreams?
Are numbers things?
What is the cause of anything?
Why are questions questions?
And must this poem have a plot?
Warren Shibles (1987b:132)
B. Types of Questions and Answers (Erotetic Logic)
What is a question?Wittgenstein (1968:#24)
The question arises: Can't we be mistaken in thinking that we understand a question?
There are many types of questions, answers, and riddles. Even the best scholars are quite confused about them. The more we know about how questions work, the better we will be able to understand and create riddles. But, also, the better we will be able to understand how questions work and how they can mislead us. Basically we may find that there are four types of questions and answers: 1) askable, 2) answerable; 3) unaskable, 4) unanswerable. "How old is this pig?" is answerable. "Why?" is not answerable. We do not know what is meant. Here are some types of questions and answers:
1. Faulty question and genuine answer. Examples:
Q. Do you have a mind? A. First tell me what "mind" means, then we'll see if we have any.
2. Genuine questions and faulty answer. Example:
Q. What happens when a girl swallows bullets? A. Her hair grows into bangs.
3. Faulty question and faulty answer. (The question could be impossible to answer.) Examples:
Q. What is the difference between a rabbit? A. One floppy ear is both the same.
Q. If buttercups are yellow, what color are hiccups? A. Burple.
Q. How do you square a circle? A. Push out the four corners.
4. Faulty or genuine question, and no answer given. (This defeats the very reason for asking a question.)
Q. Why are you here today? A. For no reason.
Alice (Alice in Wonderland ) suggests that the Hatter "might do something better with the time than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers." (Carroll 1960:69)
The humor produced is due partly to the fact that a question is asked as if it has an answer, but no answer was intended. This is to ask a nonquestion, or to ask a question and take it back suddenly.
5. Genuine question.
The answer is genuine and possible, but we do not know it. This is not faulty, or a mistake, so it does not usually produce humor. Q. Why did you decide to have children? A. I don't know.
6. Genuine question, but whatever one answers is rejected or avoided. [Zen] Q. Where did he go after his death? A. It makes one think. Q. What is Zen? A. It is cloudy today and I won't answer. Q. You see how defensive you are? A. But you asked for a reason. The technique of this last example is used to catch one in a double bind, or impossible, or contradictory situation. It is an attack, an attempt to try to overpower. It is often used in questioning prisoners. The prisoner is asked to confess something in particular. The accused will be executed if no confession is given. But the accused is not told what it is that must be confessed. This was the method used in the religious Spanish Inquisition, but not very humorous.
If someone does not admit being abused we say that they are in denial. Compare this with the following from "Alice's Evidence" (Carroll 1960:111): "'Please, your Majesty,' said the Knave, 'I didn't write it, and they can't prove I did: there's no name signed at the end.' 'If you didn't sign it,' said the King, 'that only makes the matter worse. You must have meant some mischief, or else you'd have signed your name like an honest man.'"
7. A question (genuine or faulty) is answered with a question. Q. What is the fundamental teaching of Buddha? A. Is there enough breeze in this fan to keep me cool? Q. Where do we go after death? A. That's an interesting question isn't it? Q. Why is the elephant wrinkled? A. Have you ever tried to iron one? Q. What is the basis of Zen? A. Have you washed your dishes?
"Faulty" question in the above account means that there are vague words used, contradictions, meaningless words, improper grammar, metaphors, and any mistake or deviation or types of humor discussed in this book. A faulty question is, "Does Zxpf4 exist?" "Do I exist?"
Genuine questions have genuine answers. It is contradictory to say that a genuine question has no answer. That is why it is a joke to say a riddle, if genuine, has no answer. Our task in clarifying our knowledge is to assess the intelligibility of questions before looking for answers. To do so is humorous because it is a deviation. We are accustomed to just seeking answers and not question questions. Question-humor works like other humor in that it breaks down our understanding. It asks or answers something unintelligible to us. Questions are asked for which have no answers, and answers are given when there are no genuine questions. We ask the unaskable and answer the unanswerable. We expect one thing, or one answer, but receive another. This is defeated expectation humor.
C. What Questions Ask for or Express. Questions usually ask for: 1) information, 2) a name, 3) a conclusion, 4) "W" questions are: who, why, where, when, what, which and also "how" and "how much" questions, 5) a solution to a problem, 6) a decision, 7) a reason, 8) an explanation, 9) an excuse (often a humorous, or faulty one), l0) a cause, 11) a purpose, 12) a classification, 13) a means, method, or way, 14) a possible hypothesis, model, or theory, 15 ) an opinion, belief, motive, intention, preference, or desire, 16) a comparison or difference, 17) its importance, 18) its meaning.
Questions also express or make statements which are not meant to be answered. That is, we do not use these questions to ask something, but only to state something. Thus, they deviate from the main use of questions. Because they deviate, they are metaphorical. Questions of this type may: 1) express "rhetorical questions," not meant to be answered. For example, "I like you a lot, don't I?" 2) express a complaint. For example, "How could you do such a thing?" or "Why did this have to happen to me?" 3) express surprise, for example, "Well, what do you know?" 4) express bewilderment, for example, "What is the real meaning of life?" "How could the world have come to be as it is?"
D. Misuse of Questions: Context Mistakes. We have just seen that a question asks for, or states, many different kinds of things. When we ask a question we usually expect a certain kind of reply. If we receive the wrong reply, it is a context mistake. If we ask, "How are you?" as a greeting, we do not expect the mistaken or humorous reply, "Well, my blood pressure is normal, but I could cut down on sweets." If you say "How are you?" someone may also reply, "That is an amazing story. Let's begin at the beginning " This, too, is a context mistake. Also, "What do you know, Jim?" is not a request to tell the questioner all of the things you ever learned. A question, then, may be answered in many different ways. A context mistake is made when the wrong sort of answer is given.
E. Meaningless Questions. (Metaphysical, Ultimate, Mystical, or Empty Questions) In some cases, it is not at all clear what kind of answer is wanted or could be given. Suppose someone asks merely, "Why?" That is certainly a riddle, because we do not know what kind of answer, if any, is expected. To "Why?" the reply may be merely, "Because." Something was asked here and answered, but it is not clear what. Many questions we ask are meaningless. The way to answer some questions is to show that they do not make sense. We asked earlier, "Do we have a mind?" We saw the question was meaningless. "Who created the world?" is also a trick question. It presupposes, among other things, that someone did it, and that it was created. But it must first be shown that the world was created, and was not always here. It must also be shown that someone, rather than some thing, created the world, if it was created at all. "Who created the world?" is, then, a flawed riddle, and a trick, or many question fallacy.
The case is this. If we have a question we wish answered we must know what would count as an answer. If none of the usual sound sorts of answers will do, then we are asking a meaningless question. It is a question for which there is no answer. We may answer: "Your question does not make sense." So, one way of solving some riddles, and mystical, philosophical, or scientific questions, is to show that the question does not make sense. We can always ask "Why?" whenever we are given an answer to a question. We can ask "Why?" to that answer and "Why?" again, and so on. We never arrive at a final answer. That is a riddle. It is why we can always laugh at whatever reason or reply is given to a question. Who caused you to be robbed? The student. Who caused him/her to rob? The teacher and parents, etc. You yourself have caused yourself to be robbed by not being humanistic enough to provide critical thinking, ethics, and emotion education in the schools. Ironically we in this way rob ourselves.
No question will be completely answered in every way, and it is a mistake to assume that it will. Questions about cause are especially misleading. Only if we knew everything there was to know, could we give complete answers. But it is not clear what the question, "Can we know all there is to know?" means. It is an odd question to ask. It is a faulty epistemological question. There is no such thing as "the" answer to a question. There are many possible answers. For a certain purpose, such as on a test, we only accept certain answers. Questions, then, are sometimes meaningless. They may be false requests for evidence or reasons. EXAMPLES:
Why is a peach soft?
Can we know everything?
Can we know anything?
Do you exist?
How do cells really work?
How do you think?
Is it true that nothing can be understood?
Is the absolute red?
Is the final answer a question?
Is thinking like digestion?
What are you for?
Do ants think?
What does everything really mean?
What does it feel like to be you?
What is being?
What is life all about?
What is real?
What should everyone do?
Why do you think?
Why does the world exist?
Are two things ever really alike?
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why were you born?
Why weren't you a jelly bean?
Alice drinks from a bottle, and shrinks to a height of ten inches. She then wonders if she will snuff out altogether, like the flame of a candle. She asks, "I wonder what I should look like then?" (Carroll 1960:22)
F. Presuppositions of Questions. When we ask questions we may assume (perhaps falsely) that: 1. We will receive an answer. 2. There is only one answer. 3. The question makes sense. 4. The answer will make sense. 5. The answer will be adequate. 6. Someone knows the answer. 7. A certain kind of answer is desired. 8. Everything has a reason or purpose. 9. Every question has an answer. 10. We already know what kind of answer we want. 11. The words in the sentence are meaningful, etc. These are assumptions we make, but they may be false assumptions. With riddle and humorous questions they are often false assumptions. Some questions have answers. Some have many, not just one answer. Answers are often inadequate.
G. Riddles: EXAMPLES BY TYPE. It was mentioned that there are as many types of riddle as there are types of humor. Here are some examples of the various types of riddle: Ambiguity or Pun Riddle: Q. Why is nothing funny? A. Because there is no nothing. Q. Which has more legs, a fox or no fox? A. No fox, because no fox has sixteen legs, but a fox has four legs. Q. How far can we run into the forest? A. Only halfway. Otherwise we would be running out again. "How did you find him?" "Refreshing." Behavior Riddle: Playing charades, where we guess at gestures, is like riddle. Circular Riddle: Q. How do we ask a question? A. With language. Q. What can we be certain of if we wait a year? A. You will be a year older. Q. How can we tell if a cube has six sides? A. Count them. Q. How can we tell if a boulder is sweet or sour? A. Taste it first. Connotation Riddle: Q. What is the difference between a train and a teacher? A. One goes choo-choo, the other says, "Take the gum out." Context Deviation Riddle: (Combine different sorts of things.) Q. Why did you break the cup, Johnny? A. It was caused by the unconscious mind in a dynamic interplay of psychic forces (Also reduce to absurd) Contradiction Riddle: Q. "Is this a question?" Q. "Which way is up?" "What is gray and comes in a bottle?" "Liquid elephant." Exaggeration Riddle: Q. How many elephants can we fit into a small car? A. None, it's too small. Defeated Expectation Riddle: Q. If you have five cents, spent two cents, and lost three cents, what would you have in your pocket? A. A hole. Q. What should you tell a man on a losing horse? A. Change horses. Q. What two kinds of children can play on a piano? A. Boys and girls. Q. What question do you always answer with, "Yes"? A. What does y-e-s spell? Q. In which month do children talk least? A. February. (It is a short month.) False Assumption Riddle: Q. If one horse is in the barn and one is in the field, which one is singing, "Don't fence me in?" (This is a "catch riddle" because it leads us to give the wrong answer.) A. Neither. Horses can't sing. False Reason Riddle: Q. Why do elephants have wrinkled knees? A. From playing marbles. Q. What kind of dog says meow? A. A police dog in disguise. Q. Why do elephants have round feet? A. To walk on the lily pads. Free Association Riddle: Q. What is big, gray, and lives in trees? A. An elephant. Blatant Honesty Riddle: Q. Who made nut trees? A. No one. They came from nuts. (Also pun.) Hypocrisy Riddle: Q. Who created the world? A. The creator. Impossible Riddle: Q. Why did the elephant lie in the middle of the sidewalk? A. To trip ants. Improbable Riddles Q. What is yellow, then gray, then yellow, then gray? A. An elephant rolling down hill with a daisy in its mouth. Insight Riddles or Questions Could the world be composed of unequal units? What causes you to move your arm? Do forces in themselves exist? Does energy in itself exist? If we cannot go into the past because it is gone, how can we know we remember the past? How do we know we have ideas independent of language? Could we think without language? Do we have small ideas as such? How can we put ideas into words or express them? Do we ever catch a single idea? Can we count them? Irony Riddle: "Of course you are a humble man, aren't you?" Irrelevance Riddle: Q. On January 4th, 1978 twenty people walked out of the post office. Why? A. They had received their mail. Juxtaposition Riddle: Q. What's gray and lights up? A. An electric elephant. Blatant Lie Riddle: Q. How did the patients take their liquid medicine without drinking it? A. They drank it. Q. But I thought you said they didn't drink it? A. I lied. Take Metaphor Literally Riddle: Q. Why did the man squeeze his shoes? A. To see if he could hear a shoe horn. Q. What can you serve but not eat? A. A tennis ball. Metaphor Riddle: (Virtually all riddles are metaphorical.) Q. What is a lady in a boat with a yellow dress? A. An egg. Name Calling Riddle: Q. Why won't you talk with me? A. I don't usually talk to chickens. Nonsense Riddle: Q. How can you tell if an elephant was in the refrigerator? A. Look for footprints in the butter. Q. Do I exist? Q. How do you catch an elephant? A. Hide in the grass and make a sound like a peanut. Obvious Riddle: Q. What has four legs, a wagging tail, and barks? A. A dog. Q. Where can you always find water? A. In the dictionary. Q. What did the hunter say when she saw elephants coming? A. Here come the elephants. Paradox Riddle: Q. Is this a question? Q. What grows bigger the more you take from it? A. A hole. Are we just someone's dream? "'And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be?' 'Where I am now, of course,' said Alice. 'Not you!' Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. 'You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream!' 'If that there King was to wake,' added Tweedledum, 'you'd go out-bang!-just like a candle.'" (Carroll 1960 TLG 165) Personification Riddle: "How does it come about that this arrow -> points?" (Wittgenstein 1968:#454) Q. Snapping your fingers as you move your hands around your head you ask, "What's this?" A. A butterfly with hiccups. Practical Joke Riddle: Q. Imagine string, glue, oatmeal, rocks, raw eggs. Do you have them all in your head? When the reply is, "Yes," say "I thought so." Pretense Riddle: Person 1. Ask me if I'm a boat. Person 2. Are you a boat? Person 1. Yes. Ask me if I'm an airplane. Person 2. Are you an airplane? Person 1. No. I just told you, I'm a boat. Reduce to Absurdity Riddle: Q. Why does your dog wag its tail? A. No one else will do it for it. Q. Are we all part of one big mind? Q. What is the difference between a stove? A. The more you pipe it, it smokes. Reversal Riddle: Q. How is a locomotive engineer like a teacher? A. One minds the trains, and the other trains the mind. Q. What is the difference between elephants and fleas? A. Elephants can have fleas, but fleas cannot have elephants. Ridicule Riddle: Q. How do you keep a boy from stealing cookies? A. Lock the jar and hide the key under a bar of soap. Simile Riddle: Q. What is the difference between an elephant and peanut butter? A. The elephant doesn't stick to the roof of your mouth. "'Are five nights warmer than one night, then?' Alice ventured to ask." (Carroll TLG 1960:222) "How is a duck like an icicle?" "Both grow down." Sinking Riddle: (Relate important and unimportant.) Q. What did Paul Revere say after his famous ride? A. Whoa! Substitution. What is purple and conquered the world? Alexander the Grape. Value Laden Riddle: (Use improper, or forbidden value terms.) Q. Why is an antique car like an old school room? A. There are lots of little nuts and a crank up front. Blatant Vice Riddle: (Do a deliberate, mischievous act.) Q. Why are there mirrors on chewing gum machines? A. So you can see your expression when gum doesn't come out.
When humor is meant to be taken seriously, it's no joke. (Lionel Strachey)
The genuine seeker after truth sets little store by triumphing over a rival. (Huizinga 1970)
Comedy differs from abuse since abuse openly censures the bad qualities.
(Aristotle, in Cooper 1922:162)
Wit is cultured insolence. (Aristotle Rhetoric Book ii, ch. 12, sect. 16)
If you have wit, use it to please and not to hurt. (Lord Chesterfield Letters, Sept. 5, 1748)
Doing Philosophy is Dumb. (Michael Gelven 2000:153)
Ridicule is not a kind of humor at all. Remember that humor is a mistake which we accept as not being fearful or bad. Ridicule states that someone has a fault and that it is bad. There is no humor in that. Lessing (1767, Haberland 1971:85) makes the interesting distinction between verlachen (ridicule) and lachen (humor). Although ridicule is used for warning and punishment, it can have a humorous aspect. We may laugh if an unkind person in a new suit falls in the mud. In one sense, it is funny. In another sense, it is not humorous at all. If we enjoy the fact that that person fell in the mud, and make the mistake known to everyone, it is both dysfunctional revenge and ridicule. Ridicule is laughing at people, not laughing with them. Ridicule or laughing-at someone is not humor. It is anger. People who ridicule show that they cannot handle their problems very well and are prepared to hurt others. They are like people with uncontrollable anger. Laughing-at is a kind of illness which can be harmful to everyone involved.
Other words for "ridicule" also show that it is unacceptable behavior: insult, derision, the ludicrous, the grotesquely foolish, mockery, sneer, scorn, smart aleck, wisecrack, sardonic (bitter and mocking), sarcastic (hostile, cutting remark), make fun of someone, lampoon (a biting personal attack on someone), harsh criticism, and put-down. Ridicule can hypocritically be presented as humor, though it is not. Thus, we may wish to remove "ridicule" from our lives. People who ridicule also make themselves look bad.
Theorists who think aggression is the basis of humor may have come to that position partly because humor is based on deviation and that may be seen as a kind of aggression. Feinberg (1978:205) regards humor as "playful aggression," although he thinks that all humor is aggressive. If ridicule is used as a form of criticism to help one to accept one's faults as a form of self-deprecation, it may be useful, but is not still humor.
EXAMPLES: "If any of you think you are going to find [a use of a] word confusing, I wish you would drop out. Get something else to read, or better yet, get some exercise." (James Thurber & E. White) Now, Brer Rabbit doesn't look too good in all of this. He not only played a practical joke on Brer Fox, he ridiculed and laughed at him, as well. (So much for nice little children's stories!) On the other hand, he was trying to avoid being harmed.
1. I've heard of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. In your case, they just made a sow's ear into a bigger sow's ear. 2. He is a bit of a musician and a bit of a lawyer. The musicians think he is a lawyer, and the lawyers think he is a musician. 3. It may encourage you to know that no one is 100% boring. 4. If you had to do it over, would you fall in love with yourself again? 5. "I discourage linguists from engaging in philosophy of science and encourage them to do something they are good at." (Pullum 1991:125) 6. "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." (Groucho Marx) 7. The way to trap a Marine is to wait 'til he gets a drink and then slam the toilet seat down on his head. 8. One question about your book. Why are there so many pages in it? 9. To sleep on a problem before deciding is called in German beschnarchen, meaning literally to snore on it.
Ridicule often takes the form of jokes intending to show the alleged ignorance of the people in certain areas or professions, e.g. Polish, Italian, Irish, Swiss Appenzellers, etc. jokes. It need have nothing to do with the actual intelligence of such people. Professors are joked about as being absent minded. In fact, such humor consists of virtually all of the various types of humor. To illustrate, the following are examples of humor about the East Frisians. Understandably, such humor books are often not available in Frisian areas. Several years ago while in Holland, I was looking for books on the phonetics of the Frisian dialects and found a dictionary entitled Van Goor's Klein Fries Woordenboek (1988) published by the authoritative Algemiene Fryske Underrjocht Kommisje. Knowing about how Frisians are often unfairly ridiculed, I immediately noticed that the contents of the book were printed upside down! I asked the clerk if she would give me a discount and she replied that she would rather just give me a proper copy. In fact, I found the upside down copy to be more valuable than a proper one and would have even paid extra for it. The following is my translation of jokes about East Frisian, from Freese (1989) Ostfriesenwitze. Note that it is in German, not Frisian. One may also create a pun out of the author's name: Freese which is like Fries ("Frisian"). The jokes are often the same ones used throughout the world and usually have nothing to do with East Frisians. The humor has nothing especially to do with Frisians.
Why do the East Frisians only go to the bathroom at midday? Because all the flies are in the kitchen then. (11)
East Frisian Farmer's Rule: If the rooster crows on the manure pile, either the weather will change or it will remain the same. (13)
An East Frisian in a music store: "I would like the red trumpet there and the white harmonica." The clerk hesitated, "The firehose you can have, but the radiator stays here." (15)
Why do doctors in East Friesland operate barefoot? Because the socks are needed for the anesthetic. (23)
What happens when an East Frisian swallows a fly? Then he has more brains in his stomach than in his head. (36)
You square pig-nosed, pancake Thanks for the
faced, cat tailed, four footed, compliment. When
balloon head with ears. people can call eachother names, then they are truly friends.
You jerk face! You pig twig
Satire: Humorous and hostile Criticism
Laughter is capable of unmasking false greatness and overthrowing obsolete authorities.
Objections, digressions...the delight in mockery are signs of health: Eveything unconditional belongs in pathology. (Nietzsche 1966:90)
What was said earlier under insight humor applies here as well. Satire is being critical of anything we can be critical of. It uses humor to present the criticism. It is a form of philosophy and philosophical practice. It exposes contradiction, inconsistency, hypocrisy, mistake, and harmful actions or beliefs. We can say things humorously that we could not get away with saying otherwise. Of course, not all satirists got away with it. Some were persecuted. Juvenal was exiled, Rabelais had to escape twice, Molière was almost beheaded after Tartuffe, Voltaire was jailed in a bastille twice, etc. Satire makes a point but, as humor, it cannot be taken negatively. If satire is to be humorous it cannot be malicious. We can then make a distinction between humorous satire and hostile satire. Hostile satire is not humor. Humorous satire is not ridicule. Satire may just be offering an insight or point of view. We may acceptably joke or use loaded humor with our worst enemy. Ridicule, however, is negative. If satire is bitter, or ridicule, it ceases to be humor. Thus, there are two types of satire: a) humorous, and b) hostile. Satire criticizes superstition, the irrational, hypocrisy, those who say one thing, yet do another, etc. Political satire makes critical statements regarding all aspects of politics. Satire exposes the vices such as selfishness, greed, excessive eating and drinking, vanity, and so on. (See religious satire in Chapter 10.) Political correctness has recently been impressively satirized merely by collecting quotes by seriously intended authors themselves. (cf. Beard & Cerf 1995)
One honest claim for aspirin: the pills are round. "Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper." (Thomas Jefferson) Cartoon shows picture of government official giving a bag of money to criminal types who say: "It's O.K., we're faith based." (New Yorker 2/12/2001) "The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the...not true. It is the chief occupation of humans." (H. L. Mencken) A member of a minority group sat in the front row of a bus. The driver was so confused that she drove around the town backwards.
Satire of Roger's over accepting client centered therapy follows:
Client: I want to commit suicide.
Therapist: You want to kill yourself, then.
Client: Yes, right now.
Therapist: No reason to wait, I quess.
Therapist follows her to the window and she jumps out.
He looks down from the window and says, "Plop."
IN OUR CULTURE WE HAVE IDEAS OF OUR OWN.
C. Light Bulb Jokes (Satire)
LIGHT BULB JOKES
The formulation is: How many x does it take to screw in a light bulb?
(Alternate formulation: How many x does it take to change a light bulb?)
LET X = for example, humorists:, Christians, etc.
How many humorists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: One, ironically.
Many of the jokes will not be understood unless one is familiar with the subject and/or the criticisms of the subject or belief system. For example, "Time passes." is an acceptable statement to the average person, but to a philosopher it may be a joke. Antipatriarchal feminist jokes require a background of the critical literature on the subject. (See Chapter 9 on Feminist Humor.)
How many Christians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
All scientific approaches must be abandoned. We must pray for the light.
Amen for light bulbs.
Antiabortionist: A light bulb is a person from conception. It must be saved.
Antiabortionist: The mother bulb must be sacrificed to save the baby bulb.
At Easter it will be born again like a lily bulb.
If your belief is strong it will glow forever.
Many. Light bulbs must be "saved."
More and more.
None, but a Nun.
None. God can change it into anything.
None. It is against their religion to change.
None. It is not for mortal creatures to decide if light bulbs should be changed.
None. Only God can change a light bulb.
Oh, Lord! With Thy Divine illumination, heal this poor light bulb. Bring back the spirit and inner light which once dwelt within.
One to pray for divine illumination.
One to pray that the light will go back on.
One to save it. It will be "born again."
One-to hope for a miracle.
See the light? Oh, I thought you said, "Be the light."
That old time darkness was good enough for my parents and it's good enough for me.
The Alter boy will do it.
The Bible doesn't mention light bulbs.
They can't. Like the wedding night: too dark to find the socket.
Three, but they are really one. (Trinity)
We cannot condone bulb abortion.
We must have faith that all will see the radiance in their homes: from the light house to the White House.
Antipatriarchal Feminists (or Women's Studies professors)
How many Antipatriarchal Feminists (or professors) does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A bulb is a phallic symbol and should be smashed with a hammer.
A group of angry feminists to march and "take back the night."
A group to claim that light bulbs were created by men to oppress women and so should be discarded.
A women's group-to redefine darkness as politically incorrect.
AC/DC are not PC. (Politically Correct)
AC/DC are patriarchal. Let's just put it on a monthly cycle.
Ah, an empty light socket. A good way to teach men cunnilingus.
All lights must be turned off. They are part of a patriarchal society.
All women should be encouraged to move up the ladder.
Changing light bulbs is against out will.
Electric power, sex power, what's the difference? All is gender.
Electricity is shocking to all women.
Enough to form a fight for the right to light movement.
Equal rights for equal lights.
Good, and we will not stop until the last light of the patriarchical society has been extinguished.
I can do it to myself.
I light up my life.
If you just leave us alone we will screw ourselves.
I'll do it, but I'll fake it.
Impossible. There are no female light bulbs.
It would have to be a woman. Men just fumble around with their fingers up there.
Light bulbs want to be regarded as objects of illumination, not merely as glass objects.
Light humor is created by men and so it is not funny.
Many, to try to break the glass ceiling.
No specific number, but females are preferred.
None, they can't figure out which outfit to wear in order to do it.
None. Male light bulbs can never change.
None. ""Light bulb" is clearly a thinly disguised innuendo referring to "little breasts."
None. All light bulbs oppress all women all the time. (cf. Similar statement made about men by Kate Millett in Sexual Politics 1970.)
None. The "turning of the screw" is clearly a thinly disguised innuendo referring to The Taming of the Shrew.
None. They get a man to do it, then criticize him for making them dependent on him.
None. To screw a male bulb into a female socket is rape.
None. You must be joking.
Oh, I thought that was a dildo!
One, but she won't glow.
One feminist and one man to make it frosted.
One feminist can screw up everything.
One feminist to do all the twisting movements, but actually just fake it.
One man, and a woman to say, "I could have done it better."
One man, but she will hate him for it.
One-not to replace it, but to empower it.
One to change a "his" bulb to a "her" bulb.
One to change, one to fake.
One to dial: ATA-GIRL.
One to do it, six to claim sexual harassment.
One to engender a change in the bulb.
One to replace it with a female light bulb.
One to scold it until it turns red.
One to transvest the light.
One, but first the filament must be redefined as filawomant.
One. She just holds the bulb and waits for the world revolve around her.
One-with a female bulb. (Oxymoron)
Screw is a sexist term. We prefer the term "gender empowerment."
"Screw the light bulb."
Sex demeans women especially in light bulbs.
That's not funny!
The light bulb does not need changing. It is the system which has to change.
They always do it in the dark to prevent voyeurism.
They prefer to use a candle.
This is clearly unwanted darkness abuse.
Three and a half. I don't know why, it is just women's intuition.
Too-many times a day.
Two to do it and many to say that is better than with a man.
Two women who can really spark.
Two, a man to put his finger in the socket, and woman to sing, "You light up my life."
Two, but preferably more. Light is sexually transmitted.
Two. A man to take her to dinner, and then if he asks, she may let him screw it in. If the light goes on, she will pay for half of the dinner.
Two. One to hold it and one to hammer it in.
Two. One man to do the work and the woman to just lie there.
Two-the same way you screw in tulips.
We are strong, we are proud, we are women loving women in light bulbs.
We don't screw, we unscrew.
Who wants to know?
Why fix it? It will just go out again next time I use my vibrator.
Why impose our values? If it wishes to be a bulb of no light, we should respect its uniqueness and difference.
Women can screw in light bulbs just like men can.
Women don't do lights. Where have you been?
Women no longer feel that they should change light bulbs.
How many humorists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
(Clown juggler) One, but you need three bulbs.
Comedy team: One to screw it in, one to screw it up.
I don't garden.
I'll burn out myself trying to answer this.
One to replace it with a tulip bulb.
One to screw it almost in and then suddenly give it a twist.
One to screw it up, another to laugh at the blunder.
One, but one's enough to screw up.
One, but only as a joke.
Out of light, out of sight.
Twenty, on account of..., ah..., well, because..., oh how the hell do I know? (Anti-Humor Humor)
Two. One to screw in the bulb and one to pull out the ladder.
How many military people does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Depends on whether the switch is on or off.
Enough to balance the plus and minus charges.
Gulf War Pilot: "A day without bombing is like a day without the sun."
Mission Light Bulb: Surround the house, capture the owner, remove old bulb on command, dig 4x4 hole for old bulb, replace with torch.
None to have reasons for it, one to follow the order.
None. After the nuclear explosion they just glow in the dark.
One column. One to put his finger in the socket, the others to touch the soldier in front of him/her.
One squad to camouflage themselves as burned out light bulbs and slip in and change it in the dark.
One up to an entire army. They just "shoot it out" to the end.
One. He/She will do anything ordered, anytime, anywhere.
Sailor: Reminds me of the night I spent with a nurse in a lighthouse.
Sergeant: One, but do you really want to be hung upside down and have a bulb forced down your throat just for asking?
Sergeant: What's a light bulb?
Snap to it soldier!
They don't change them, they just explode them.
Miscellaneous by Activity:
How many x does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Alcoholics: Jus' one more li'l drink and then we can bulb-a-wulb.
Alcoholics: One to drink until the room spins.
Alcoholics: One, but it takes twelve steps.
Administrators/Managers: One to yell at the bulb changer and blame him/her for it burning out.
Admirers: Two to do it, two to say, "Oh, wow."
Bad Electricians: More and more.
Black Humorists. Any one of them would screw the world.
Conservative Politicians: No problem, I will change the light bulb myself for free$
Conservative Politicians: None, they only screw the helpless, retired and poor.
Conservative Politicians: Paint them black and keep using them.
Critics: One to do it and one to say, "I could have done it better."
Cynics: The hell with it.
Doctors: None, unless it has health insurance.
Gardners. One, but results best if planted in the spring.
Hippies: Hey, man, I don't do lights. It's not my thing.
Historians: None. They are more interested in the old light bulb.
Journalists: I just report dead bulbs, I don't change them.
Lawyers: How many can you afford?
Lawyers: They prefer to screw you.
Librarians: I can look it up for you.
Linguists: One to change light bulb to "light bulb."
Linguists: [wøn tu skru In e bølb]
Negative people: -1, -1, -1, -1,...
Optimists: Well, we can grow mushrooms instead.
Poets: The beams of darkness descend again on the joys of night.
Policepeople: None, it will turn itself in.
Political Correctness Types: It is not a bad bulb, it is just "light challenged."
Politicians: I challenge my fellow politicians to stand up and with courage remove the old light bulb first.
Politicians: One committee, after they have held a thorough political investigation [ignoring all academic and critical arguments] and read: "Short Life of the Electric Bulb." U.S. Congress House Report. Government Activities Subcommittee. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1966. (Book citation is genuine. See Library of Congress.)
Psychologists: We must first conduct the experiment using mice.
Republicans: One to blame the democrats, one to look for sex scandals, one to increase the military, one to lower taxes for the wealthy, one military to kill another million people in the Gulf War, one to give more tax exemptions for religion; one to withdraw funds for retirement, the disabled and the elderly; and one to oppose health care for the needy. Only then will light bulbs begin to glow.
Republicians. None. A new one will trickle down.
Shaggy Dogs. Woof.
Star athletes: Many: Won, won, won,....
Stockbrokers: Two. One to drop it, another to sell it before it crashes.
Surgeons: Why not let us take it out, you aren't using it and it will probably only cause problems later.
Surrealists: ((((( ^^^^>>>>L! B ?
Technicians: Just put some fill-a-mint gum in it.
Undertakers: One to remove it and one to bury it.
Virgins: One, but unscrewing will no longer be possible.
Writers: One to add another chapter entitled: Darkness Revisited
Zen Buddhists: One to change it and one not to change it.
How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Anyone, even a very light person.
Good question. Let me get back to you.
I don't know, but they would have to be really tiny.
Is it a left-handed or right-handed bulb?
It is easier to build a ship in a bottle than to screw in a light bulb.
Leave it burnt out. I wouldn't be seen changing a light bulb.
None. Each turning of the bulb would cause a revolution. (circular)
Oh, like manual labor. Gag me with a spoon! For sure!
Oh, wow! Like its real dark, man.
Right, light bulbs. Heavy, man, heavy.
Sock it to me, baby.
Two, but it is hard to get in them.
Usually two if they are monogamous.
How many pessimists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
It doesn't matter anymore. They will all burn out anyway.
One to hold the bulb and 1000 to rotate the house.
Why change it, it only attracts bugs.
Why bother, it is just another way to screw up.
How many philosophers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Adulterers. One but it must be a two way socket.
Anarchists: All of them.
Critical thinkers: Both of them. (There are after all very few.)
Deconstructionists: The question is not as illuminating as you may think.
Depends on the language-game.
Either more or less.
Let's just assume that it is changed. What follows from that?
Many hands make light work.
One to unscrew the unbulb.
Pragmatists: One to unscrew the bulb and put another bulb in. (also obviousness humor)
"Screw in" is ambiguous.
Some things just cannot be unscrewed.
We can only replace dark, not light bulbs. (oxymoron)
We must first analyze humor and its basis in metaphor and as an emotion. Then, if you understand this book, you will know the answer.
What kind of answer did you have in mind?
How many therapists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Aha, it is burned out, then. It will be dark, it seems.
Bulbs go out, people go out. Live with it.
Freudian: Clearly a symptom of breast withdrawal during infancy.
Has this been going on for a long time?
How long have you had this fantasy?
"How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?" you ask.
It is not the bulb that is the problem, it is your attitude that needs to be changed.
Many. They must first start a "Coping with Darkness" group.
None. Bulbs will change when they are ready.
One, but it must really want to change.
The dark bulb symbolizes your present state of sexuality.
When did this problem first arise?
For more light bulb humor.
Self Deprecation Humor (Self-Attack Humor)
This is humor about oneself. We humorously point out our own faults or mistakes. It is not really self-deprecation or it would not be humor. To laugh at oneself is to accept oneself. Thus, we accept our faults, rather than take them too seriously. It does no good to feel bad about what cannot be helped. Jewish humor, for example, should not be stereotyped as involving merely self-deprecation humor. (cf. Amos 1973) It contains the full range of types of humor. The same is true of ethnic and national humor in general. Thus, this book has not divided humor into ethnic or national humor, although some characteristics and emphases of that sort may certainly be found (cf. Nilsen 1993) Each type of humor can be used, e.g. circular self-deprecation, insight circular self-deprecation, etc. Self-deprecation may only be apparent, because one may deprecate oneself from another's point of view even when one thinks one did no wrong. Self-deprecation often treats the self as if it were another and different person. Examples: "A humorist is a person who feels bad, but who feels good about it." (Don Herold) "It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous." (Robert Benchley) "'You shouldn't make jokes,' Alice said, 'if it makes you so unhappy.'" (Carroll TLG 1960:154) I would never date someone who would go out with someone like me. I wouldn't join a club that allowed me to be a member.
SELF-REFERENTIAL HUMOR(See also Anti-Humor Humor, Black Humor, Circular Humor, Liar Paradox in Deviation from Truth section, Self-Deprecation Humor)
I'M PRETENDING I HAVE STICK FEET
I'M PRETENDING I'M INK ON A PAGE.
Black novels often refer only to themselves or the author writing them. It can be a play within a play. It is not simply to state something, but to comment on one's statement. Sometimes it is like a performative utterance, such as "I do" said at a wedding ceremony. The saying is the doing. Sometimes it is a circular statement, a definition in terms of a synonym. One may spend one's time talking about what one is doing without ever doing anything. Similarly, self-deprecation humor is humor about oneself. One may make fun of oneself. The liar paradox is a statement about itself.
This is a story about a snake that hanged itself
Physician smoking and drinking coffee asks patient during physical exam:
And do you smoke or drink coffee?
Are you the person reading me?
Brag about not braging.
Plato attacked his own theory of ideas in the Parmenides. He said that if there is a pure Idea of Good and Justice there is also a pure Idea of Mud or Manure.
paralepsis: omission. With the pretense to pass over a point, subtly mention it nevertheless and so give it stress, e.g. "Not to mention that...," "to say nothing of...." "I will not say that..."
This sentence is wordless.
This begins this story.
This sentence has no subject.
Well, now I am speaking to you. Do you see what I am driving at?
Don't use contractions.
The snake hanged itself with its own body as a noose.
This sentence is meaningless because it is self-referential.
Disobey this command.
You can't have "your cake" and spell it "too." (ambiguity, substitution)
I am the meaning of this sentence.
anthypophora: answer one's own questions, e.g. "So is this true?-It is."
Are you listening to me?
I have only this to say.
Do you read me?
"You may quote me."
This prophecy will come true.
Is this a question?
I don't understand a thing I say.
In this sentence, the concluding two words were "left out."
Simile And Analogy Humor. (allegory, conceit, connotation, contradiction, defense mechanism, exaggeration, fallacy, false analogy, insight, juxtaposition, metaphor, personification, reduce to absurdity, riddle, satire)
Wit consists in knowing the resemblance of things that differ, and the difference of things that are alike. (Madame de Stael)
You done hear nuff tales er one kin' an' anudder fer ter make a hoss sick. (Uncle Remus )
Der Witz ist schöpferisch. Er macht Ähnlichkeiten. (Wit is creative. It creeates similarities.) Novalis
The philosopher contemplates things through the prism of language, and misled by some analogy, suddenly sees things in a new, strange light. (Waismann)
Aristotle, said that wit is the ability to make comparisons. Simile and analogy are comparisons between two things. They usually use the words "like," or "as," as in "Fine as frog hair." (Ozark folk saying) A simile is a type of metaphor in that it relates unlike things. The comparison may use many other types of humor also. Parables and stories are often told in terms of likenesses of familiar situations. "What is it like?" is a basic critical question to ask. If we are given a vague theory, or words which are too large, then we may ask this question, "What is it like?" If it is like nothing within our experience, then it may be rejected as being meaningless.
Wittgenstein used simile and analogy as a philosophical and scientific method of inquiry. Chapter 10c discusses and presents an extensive use of analogy and simile. False similes make one think critically: Simile and false analogy turn from merely being humorous, to being tools for critical thinking. Always ask about a theory, or vague word, "What is it like?" and "Give me a specific example." These questions will show that many theories and words do not make sense. It may also give us new theories and insights.
"His head wuz all swell up, an' he look like he been run over in de road by a fo'-mule waggin." (Uncle Remus, Harris 1972:72)
"Brer Fox run roun' and roun', an' kep' on snappin' at hisse'f [because of the bees] an' doin' like he wuz tryin' fer ter t'ar his hide off." (Uncle Remus, Harris 1972:71)
Schopenhauer, said that a cause is like a hired cab, because we never find a final and complete cause. He can swim like a butterfly.
A smile is kissing without kissing.
"'Thinking again?' the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin. 'I've a right to think,' said Alice ' Just about as much right, ' said the Duchess, ' as pigs have to fly.'" (Carroll 1960:86)
The cat took off like a car on ice.
"If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries."(Falstaff I Henry IV, II, iv)
Well, he is a bit more honest than the government, but then who isn't.
He never reads through the exam papers because he believes that you don't have to eat a whole egg to tell if its bad.
"Look into the past (as if down a spyglass)." (Wittgenstein 1968:#604)
If you can suck air out of a Bell jar, can you suck space out as well?
Useless as a screen door on a submarine.
Sexual intimacy is inconstant. It is like eating for two days and starving for the rest of the month.
Marlon Brando: He always sounds like he has a mouth full of potatoes.
Advertisement for the auto Toyota Avalon: In New York it qualifies as a one-bedroom apartment. Haiku: A crash reduces (your expensive computer) to a simple stone.
The German Traüme sind Schäume means "Dreams are like bubbles" suggesting that they never come true.
Each hour is fragile, like eggs.
Stierauge (Swiss) means fried egg as well as "bull's eye."
A spaghetti joke-it's better on the second day.
"Advice is like caster oil, easy enough to give, but dreadful uneasy to take." (Josh Billings)
"Thurber did not write the way a surgeon operates, he wrote the way a child skips rope, the way a mouse waltzes." (E. B. White)
Dreams are like bubbles. (cf. German: Träume sind Schäume)
Eggs are bull's eyes (Swiss: Stierauge).
The desperate person: I'm like a graveyard, I'll take anything.
He picks women about the same way a farmer picks an apple.
Auction: If you bid on it, you take it-like you did your husband. If you like it you keep it. If not, you keep it anyway.
Jonesville: A cemetery with buses.
Living in the country is like watching a plank warp.
Life is like a dream, we are walking shadows, we complain, kill a few people, then disappear.
The following come from the internet as "the worst analogies ever written in a high school essay":
1. The little boat drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't. (Russell Beland, Springfield)
2. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup. (Paul Sabourin, Silver Spring)
3. Her eyes were like two brown circles with black dots in the center. (Russell Beland, Springfield)
4. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. (Unknown)
5. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree. (Jack Bross, Chevy Chase)
6. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease. (Gary Hevel, Silver Spring)
7. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)
8. The policeman was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can. (Wayne Goode, Syracuse, NY)
9. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds which had also never met. . (Russell Beland, Springfield)
10. The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play. (Barbara Fetherolf, Alexandria)
11. Her shoulders were broad, as if she were wearing a blouse with shoulder pads. (Author)
The following three serious-humorous insight poems are based on fundamental similes. The first poem explores the nature of the concept of meaning.
One word has one meaning.
Two words have two meanings.
One sentence has one meaning.
What is a sum of meanings?
A word has a meaning.
I have a pen.
I have a meaning.
A word has a pen.
A word has no meaning,
but stands before us
for an idea
which is in us because
meaning is an idea.
One, two, three, ten ideas?
I lose count.
I become sleepy.
Awake! Begin again.
Hush! Hear the meaning in the words.
Hear it in the whispers.
Press it out into words.
Press grapes into wine.
Pour wine into glasses.
Pour grapes into words.
Pour words into worlds and
if it makes no sense
do not pour but begin again.
Warren Shibles (1987b:130)
SHE IS MY ANIMALS
As well fall in love with a
sparrow that flits past and
in a moment is gone from our eyes.
She is my animals:
must butt to eat
cavort in grasses
and the dent-de-lion.
She sings through the air
her breast full of birds.
And in the lakes
she swims with fish,
speeds before the splash
I gather honey
from the bees.
WOOD ON ICE
but there are some who can,
while at their table,
look thoughtlessly ahead,
here in this cafe.
They sit as in a bath
after the water has run out.
The smoke curls slowly
as in solution
from mouth to mouth.
A woman gently lowers her cup,
presses a fork against the hard
shell of a cream puff,
the cream gives way.
A man, pencil-thin,
with his eyes writes her a note.
Her every glance a return post.
He reads them with delight.
Yet, all remains
nor do they speak.
A tear runs down
the glass of ice water.
Sinking, like metaphor, is putting unlike things together. In this case it is to combine the important and unimportant, the valuable and valueless. It is like reduction to absurdity. We sink an important person down to the level of the commoner. It is like a professor with a toy in his or her pocket. One use of sinking is to show that all people are equally important, and that a president is, in many ways, no more important or valuable than each of us. Another use is to show that many things which we think are valueless, are the most valuable things there are. These are such things as watching clouds, the feel of water as we wash our hands, the pleasure of walking, watching rain, shaking someone's hand, or humor itself.EXAMPLES: "Spoken language is merely a series of squeaks." (Alfred Whitehead) "Personally, if you ask me, I feel that we as a nation eat too much buttered toast." (Robert Benchley) "I like long life better than figs." (Shakespeare Antony & Cleopatra 1.2.32) "I'm astonished by people who want to 'know' the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown." Woody Allen) You always should say something positive, for example, your term paper certainly illustrates the use of paper and pen. "How wondrous this, how mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water." (Hyers 1974:87) I used to drink cappuccino, but now I have progressed to instant. First prize is a Caribbean cruise, second prize is a rowing machine. The governing board has met and after much deliberation made its decision: You may print "Hi" on the greeting cards. "This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum." (Elbert Hubbard) "You can see the morning breeze blowing the hairs of the caterpillar." (Oriental poem) "Out from the hollow of the Great Buddha's nose, A swallow comes." (Issa) "All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." (Grant Wood) "'Who are you?' 'I am one who eats his breakfast gazing at the morning glories.'" (Basho) "I love life better than figs." (Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra 1.2.32) It's not what you do or say that really counts in this life, it's whether you polish your shoes. She married him because he makes a peanut butter sandwich which is out of this world. A poem is words which do not extend all the way across a page. The lover beckoned with a spaghetti fork. I would have dined with the emperor, but I had to tidy up my sock drawer. People are O.K., but I prefer stamps.
Or-an explanation of why it is that in Britain Humour is always spelled wrong.
The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity. (Proust)
Well, what do you think Brer Rabbit is like? Does he like carrots? Does he have a lot of little bunnies? Does he say, "What's up, Doc?" To treat Brer Rabbit like all other rabbits is to make a mistake. It is to treat all rabbits alike without looking at the differences between them. It is like "all" statements and "simile" fallacies to say, "All rabbits say 'What's up, doc?'" I doubt if Brer Rabbit ever even said that. Four types of stereotype humor are:
A. Repetition or Habitual Behavior. Examples: A child is taken to a museum to see the pictures, and then to a movie. No matter where he is, he keeps asking, "When do we have some popcorn?"
B. Fixed and Rigid Ideas or Behavior. One's personality and actions are the same no matter what the situation is. It is to do something only out of habit, not because it makes sense. The behavior is often an improper behavior or action. It is as if the person does not know any other way of acting. The individual cannot adjust to a new situation. Some fixed personalities are those of a braggart, military mentality, opportunist, lazy person, paranoid, someone who almost always sleeps, selfish person, person who thinks all of the world's problems are caused by males (or females); someone who is nice to everyone no matter how bad others are to him, or her; a professor who uses odd, large words, even when talking about everyday, common things; someone who looks irritated all the time no matter what is said, etc. Synonyms of "stereotype" are "enculturation" and "indoctrination."EXAMPLES: When a mechanic retired to become a farmer, he began to milk the cow by sliding under it as if it were an automobile. Someone who thinks that cleaning with soap is always good, says, "The lettuce should be good, I washed it with soap and water." In Alice in Wonderland, the Queen has the same solution for every crime, even if it is not a crime: "Off with their heads." Carroll 1960:82) It is like the tragicomic common practice of putting people in jail as the fixed solution to any kind of crime or mental problem. The way to knock out a marine: throw sand at a brick wall and shout, "Hit the beach!"
One kind of fixed idea is to hold too strongly to a belief. It is to become captivated by a model or metaphor. It is like being hypnotized into a belief. We see things from the point of view of only one basic idea. A lawyer may talk of everything in legal terms, the marxist in marxist theoretical terms. When Santa Claus comes down the chimney he is "breaking and entering." The famous tragicomic stories of Wilhelm Busch's Max and Moritz have been analyzed solely from the point of view of the lawyer, that is, legal violations committed by Max and Moritz. (Günther 1988)
Stereotype is also a simplistic, inadequate, or uncritical description of a person or thing. For example, we stereotype people in terms of their occupation, race, or role. We wrongly think that no women know how cars work-that they perhaps think that there is a large, dark, furry thing under the hood. A woman asked me recently if the engine of her car was in the front or the back, but a male might have asked the same question.EXAMPLES: "What are the Irish known for, Paddy?" "Well, lets go down to the pub, have a few, tell some jokes and then we'll discuss it." Seniors discount at the following stores: sky diving, surfing, disco, skiing, mountain climbing, boxing. Guten morgen, ladies und gentlemens-you vill enchoy dis flight. Once upon a time there was a very generous Scotsman.... A Scots person builds a bank with only a deposit window. For the British the only thing better than a cup of tea is one with a cat beside it. British foreplay: Prelude to a cup of tea. British Navy: Protector of the Royal tea routes. In England, a religion with a t sign on top of the churches. British diet: 2 cups of tea two times a day. British hypnosis: Swing tea bag in front of eyes. British favorite poet: T. S. Eliot: "We measure out our lives in coff..., tea spoons." Why don't British like oolong tea? It has too much oo. Why are British tarts called double-T. Because they have one on each side. Love British thrift shops, they even have old, donated bags of tea. Senior Female surgeon giving pie recipe and instructions for baking to patient.
The process of substitution is an excellent aid in untangling fallacies. Whenever a term appears suspicious a new term should be substituted for the suspicious one.(Morris Engel 1976)
We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities. Pogo
We substitute humorous words for the usual or expected word. Wittgenstein (1968:#90) wrote of the: "misunderstandings concerning the use of words, caused...by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of language." Some of them can be removed by substituting one form of expression for another. By substituting one term for another, we can clarify the meaning of the term. If we find that time is just change, we can substitute "change" wherever we have a time word. For example, instead of "time passes," it would be more accurate to say "change changes." Instead of "We time a runner with a clock," it would say, "We compare the change of the clock with the change of the runner." For clarity and intelligibility we must be able to substitute a concrete term for any abstract or vague term. "Euphemism" is the substitution an acceptable word for an unacceptable word. It avoids the facing of an unpleasant idea. It may also be denial, hypocrisy, or dishonesty to do so. Examples: Cemetery means "Sleeping place." "Put the animal to sleep," instead of "Kill the animal." But to create humor, we substitute the wrong term, or an odd word. Synecdoche humor is a type of substitution whereby we substitute part for the whole or the whole for the part, for example: Do you have wheels (a car)? "Brevity is the soul of lingerie." (Dorothy Parker)
A. General Examples. (The word substituted for is put in brackets.) Life [disease] is sexually transmitted. We want a kinder, gentler military (nation). (Also an oxymoron or contradiction.) The best things in life are $9.99 (free). "He is old enough to know worse." [better] (Oscar Wilde) "He hasn't a single redeeming vice." [virtue] (Oscar Wilde) "I am dying beyond my means." [living] (Oscar Wilde) Alice overhears the Rabbit say, "Oh, my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!" And here one may suppose this is how a Rabbit would say something similar to our: "'Oh, my goodness, how late it's getting!'" (Carroll 1960:20) "'I'll have you buttered.'" [punished] (Carroll 1960:196) I'm going to go play (attend) college. To the best of my love (ability). In Texas you can live off the flat of the land (fat). Make check out to: "A kind person." (person's name) Why can't he act his age, rather than his shoe size? "He gave her a look you could have poured on a waffle." (a sweet look) (Ring Lardner) People who live in grass (glass) houses should not throw grass (glass). (Japanese and Chinese pronounce /l/ as /lr/.) Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility. (James Thurber) She married him for his money and they went to Viagra Falls for their honeymoon. Icelander's are God's frozen people. Gigliography for bibliography. Survival of the wittiest. (cf. Darwin) Would you like to mango?
B. Antiproverbs. In Mieder's (1985) Anti-Sprichwörter, ("antiproverb" or "anti-folk sayings") the words in traditional sayings, folk wisdom, and colloquial expressions are substituted for in order to produce humor. What often results is also insight or the reduction of such statements to absurdity. Thus, it is also deviation-from-rule humor, expansion of a metaphor humor, etc. Below the proverbs in bold type are given the substitution proverbs. (Examples are from Anti-Sprichwörter and translated from German by the author.)
Dogs that bark, do not bite. (65, 67) Dogs that bite are not able to bark.
Before God all people are the same. Before red (traffic light) all cars are the same. (48)
Thoughts are free. Thoughts are free, but the words will be examined. Thoughts are free, but not accident free. Thoughts are free associations (optional). Thoughts are, of course, no more free than the head in which they dwell. (39)
In vino veritas. (164-165) Truth in wine. Truth in movies. Truth in wine? Doesn't that spoil the taste? Why is there no truth in vinegar? One who wishes to find truth in wine, must not abandon the search with the first glass. In vino vanitas. Untruth in wine.
The clothes make the person. (73) The clothes make the person, but they do not make the personality. Clothes make brides.
It never rains but it pours. (152-154) Twins seldom come alone. A (runner's) leg seldom comes alone. A traffic jam seldom comes alone.
C. Substitution Humor Poetry.The following insight poem is based on juxtaposition and substitution.
Here I have provided you with a little pause break.
Sex for love, love for sex.
Sex for duty, duty for sex.
Love for duty, duty for love.
Sex for money, money for sex.
Love for money, money for love.
Sex for humor, humor for sex.
Love for humor, humor for love.
Sex for children, children for sex.
Love for children, children for love.
Sex for security, security for sex.
Love for security, security for love.
Sex for marriage, marriage for sex.
Love for marriage, marriage for love.
Sex for friendship, friendship for sex.
Love for friendship, friendship for love.
Sex for excitement, excitement for sex.
Love for excitement, excitement for love.
Sex for conformity, conformity for sex.
Love for conformity, conformity for love.
Sex for punishment, punishment for sex.
Love for punishment, punishment for love.
Sex for immortality, immortality for sex.
Love for immortality, immortality for love.
Sex for advancement, advancement for sex.
Love for advancement, advancement for love.
Sex for sex.
Love for love.
Tickle may be the root of all play.(Provine 2000:126)
I am not at all convinced that Provine is correct. Although it remains to be given, a psychological explanation of tickling may be given using the cognitive theory of emotion. Tickling is more like touching, more like a physical, body reaction than humor. However, humor may be involved in how one is tickled. For example, we may build up the expectation of being tickled. It is interesting that we cannot tickle ourselves, but must be tickled by someone else. This suggests that being tickled must involve some kind of assessing, and is not merely bodily sensation or feeling. Also, being afraid can prevent ticklish feelings.
Brer Rabbit played a trick on Brer Fox. Like mistake and falsity, most humor is some kind of trick, deception, fraud or fake. It rests on being fooled. Practical jokes, especially, are tricks. Illusions trick us. A crook may try to sell us gold painted bricks as real gold. We buy a sandwich, but inside it we find a note which reads, "Sorry, ran out of meat." The institutionalized belief systems of our society such as advertising; the penal system and military being based on punishment and revenge rather than on rehabilitation; our religions, etc. trick and enculturate us. Thus, Nietzsche's stress on the importance of the individual's need to overcome society. Humor is a method by means of which we can do that.
Understatement Humor (Understatement/EUPHEMISM)
A joke says what it has to say...in too few words...It may even actually say what it has to say by not saying it.(Lipps 1898:90)
The opposite of exaggeration humor. Understatement is the error of saying too little. It was understatement when Mark Twain said that the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. It is understatement to say, "In the days of the caveperson, books were very scarce," or for a sole owner business to claim, "Let's just say my company is downsized." Irony can be understatement when we say the opposite of what we mean. For example, instead of "She is an excellent singer," say, "I've heard worse." We "neutralize" the enemy, rather than slaughter them. Dishwashers call themselves, "hydro-propulsion engineers." Der grosse Teich "the big pond" actually refers to the Atlantic Ocean. Puttenham (1589) translated Greek and Latin rhetorical terms into colloquial euphemistic terms: euphemism itself is called a soother, expeditio becomes speedie [sic.] dispatcher, hypozeuxis is substitute, aetiologia is tell cause, pleonasmus is too full speech, metaphor is transport, acrologia is uncouth, paradox is wonderer.
This is an extreme form of deviation from what is practical and from purpose. Things are said or done which are useless.Examples: The King recites from his book, "Rule Forty-two: All persons more than a mile high to leave the court." (Carroll 1960:110) Feather soup. Butterfly milk. Cherry flavored T-shirt. Edible basketball. "I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it." (Harry S. Truman) In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry ice cream in your back pocket. Electric banana. A sex urge in a nonbisexual species. "Hello, I just called to make your phone ring." In 2001 in Oklahoma a man was sentenced to 1050 years in prison for road rage. (It is a bit optimistic to imagine he will live that long. "Well, he will not do that again." The tragedy is that he has a history of mental illness which was not addressed.) Auction: "Who will give $1? I would pay that just to throw it away."
A man asks for a cake baked in the shape of the letter "S." The baker said she has no pan in that shape. The man says that cost is no object. The baker bought the special pan and baked the cake. On seeing the cake the man said, "But this is a script S not a typed S." A new pan was ordered and the cake baked. At the appointed time the man returned eager to purchase the cake. The baker asked, "Do you want it sent or shall I wrap it for you?" The man replied, "It's all right as it is, I'll just eat it here."
Value Deviation Humor(Black Humor)
Impropriety is the soul of wit.(Somerset Maugham)
A. An Analysis of Value Deviation Humor.
Value deviation occurs when we deviate from what people think is right or wrong, good or bad; or from what people should or should not do.
Examples: 1. Come and see my cockroach collection. It takes an hour, but is well worth the while. "The reader of this are is not illiterate."
Value deviation humor may also be about religion, killing, death, and sex, or all the things which it is supposedly impolite, or considered wrong, to talk about. It is humor which shocks people. As humor, we need not take value deviation humor too seriously. We need not worry about it. The greatest writers use it, and many people tell such jokes. On the other hand, it is not humanistic humor and in this sense to be avoided.
Humor, as humor, cannot hurt people, regardless of what it is about. This is because, for something to be humorous it must be a mistake, or deviation, which we accept, and which is not fearful. If it is humor, we accept it. We can, then, tell religious jokes, sex jokes, or any kind of joke, as long as no one takes it seriously. It is important not to tell such a joke where anyone may take the joke seriously or be hurt by it. It is not necessarily even safer if race jokes are only told by people of that particular race (cf. Ziv 1981, 1984, 1986, 1988). It is safest to tell these jokes also not only if one can be reasonably certain that no one will be hurt, but that the humor will be enjoyed. But, unfortunately, almost anyone can take almost any joke too seriously and become angry. The principle of taboo or value deviation humor is often this. We are not supposed to talk about something, for example, sex. But we may want to talk about such things. So we make a joke about it, because jokes are acceptable. The joke sneaks in the subject of sex. Sex or taboo jokes allow us to talk about what we are often not allowed to talk about. Thus, value deviation humor: a) Violates rules without seeming to. b) Helps make the improper proper. c) Makes the unpleasant pleasant. d) Presents a contradiction by presenting the pleasing and the horrible together. (Called "grotesque.") e) Produces a sudden surprise. f) Allows an escape and relief by finding a way to say, or do, what we are not allowed to. g) Is an acceptable way of breaking rules to express our wants. Again, the trouble with this type of humor is that people are often offended by it, and so do not find it humorous. But there is no reason why we cannot laugh at the humorous part of such humor as long as no one is offended. We usually do. From the perspective of humanistic humor, however, it should be avoided.
Politically incorrect humor. One form of value deviation humor is currently referred to as "politically incorrect" humor. Especially certain conservative, religious, and feminist groups attempt to legislate actions and language. It is a form of censorship and one which is often punishable in the law courts. Humor itself is regarded by some members of these groups to be politically incorrect. It is politically incorrect and punishable to ask a woman of a lower position for a date, but not politically incorrect to bomb a million people in Iraq for no acceptable reason. The philosopher, Robert Solomon,
defends politically incorrect humor arguing that it is often a form of argument having a valid truth. (cf. his Internet article: "Racial Humor.")
B. Forbidden Value Terms as Humor. Instead of "He talks," we can say, "He blabs." "Talks" is objective and descriptive. "Blabs" is a negative value term. It means that someone talks too much and that is bad. "Blab," then, is a value term. What applies to value deviation, or taboo humor, applies to this type of humor. It can be unkind and ridiculing, rather than humorous. But such terms are often used in fun only. They are not intended to hurt. They are "risk" words, because other people may take them seriously, or as insults. Colloquial language is especially rich in negative value terms. Here are some Examples of forbidden value terms. Again, they may be fun and funny terms, but they may also be very hurtful. The words in the right column are unacceptable value words. They ridicule. But they can be humorous as well. Humor is often put in the form of well-intended insults. (cf. Nancy McPhee, The Book of Insults 1978; Shibles "Verbal Abuse" 1992b.)
Objective Words vs. Forbidden Value
be inactive mope
concert music tunes
deep throat sound grunt
make music make noise
move quietly sneak
one who teases twit
plant (noun) weed
put it in stuff it in
small person twerp
stubborn pig headed
to cut to butcher
very bad awful
C. Black Humor
The Gulf War was unjust primarily because it was unnecessary. (McMahan 1993:540)
The United States killed over one million people in the Gulf War.
1. Introduction. (See also Chapter 3, C Seriousness, the Grotesque and Humor)
There is no general agreement on a definition of 'black humor.' (Feinberg 1978:153)
'Black' humor defies definition. (Linda Horvay Barnes 1978:9)
I think I would have more luck defining an elbow or a corned-beef sandwich.
(Bruce J. Friedman on defining black humor)
In one sense there is no such thing as black humor. It does not necessarily involve a specific type of humor, as such. Black humor may involve numerous types of humor such as the following:
escape from: truth, painful situation, negative emotions, reason, insight, irony, juxtaposition (common technique of black humor, reversal (we accept what we shouldn't accept)(cf. Hellenthal 1989:24-63)
Thus, it becomes clear that black humor is a rather vague term which has been inadequately defined. (cf. Hellenthal 1989:11ff.) We must know the specific kind of black humor used and the context and situation involved before we can evaluate it. We must also know the intentions of the one who uses such humor. Though two people laugh at black humor does not mean that they laugh for the same reasons. As such, black humor is therefore neither good nor bad. We cannot just praise or attack it. Black humor, on some definitions, does often break our taboos, cultural practices, and moral standards. But so does art, surrealism, provocative therapy, literature, philosophy, critical thinking, and the evening news. Such cultural rules and beliefs often should be broken. Such humor can serve to shock us into being more honest about life and death and how harmful some of our unexamined behavior is. Black humor is humor which is not usually acceptable-it steps on toes, exposes hypocrisy, is not afraid to challenge the cherished beliefs of a society. It does not just tell the proper and socially acceptable jokes which keep the war machine and irrational belief systems of a society well oiled.
In spite of the above quotations denying that black humor can be defined we are, nevertheless, now able to give a clear definition of black humor. Hellenthal (1989:13, 42-43), however, thought it to be indefinable. On the cognitive theory of humor given in this book, black humor would be defined as a metaemotion. It is the acceptance of a negative situation (death, imprisonment, disease, war, etc. We may, for example joke about bereavement. Black humor about death and funerals makes good sense to help one begin to accept the fact that a friend has died and also to critique the hypocrisy involved with the occassion.
Black humor can also be a way of learning to enjoy even the worst and inevitable which cannot be avoided. The world seems to be a kind of chaos or cosmic joke. We cannot understand its origin or the extent of it and we live a few years only to deteriorate and then die. With black humor we may try to cope with or even enjoy our negative situation. (cf. Hellenthal 1989:32) That is, we cannot always have positive emotions, so the question arises as to how we can learn to enjoy even negative situations. Black humor is one way to try to do this. Ionesco wrote, "To become conscious of what is horrifying and to laugh at it is to become master of that which is horrifying." (cf. Hellenthal 1989:32)
Detachment, or "psychic distance," disengagement of the phenomenon from our practical self is required in order to have humor. We must supposedly remove ourselves from practical considerations, purposes, and uses in order to appreciate phenomena. This is a type of seeing-as. Detachment means not rejecting, fearing, or being attracted by the unusual aspects of an object. We enjoy the rain falling on us even though it makes us wet. We may laugh at our silly situation when we break a leg skiing. This is detachment. It involves regarding the usually value-charged subject matter as neutral in order that we may appreciate it. Humor and art often deviate from the customary. To laugh at a joke one must often be able to distance oneself from the subject matter and from everyday values and prejudices.
We return to the question, "Is black humor black?" We have seen that humor requires positive acceptance and even love. (cf. Zu einem solchen Verständnis von Humor gehört natürlich 'Humanität': bei aller Kritik verständnisvolle Liebe. Hellenthal 1989:34) If black humor is to be genuine humor then it cannot be genuinely black. Thus, black humor is often misdefined and misconcieved in the literature. Black humor is in one sense a contradiction. It means acceptance of the black or negative, just as "blatant vice humor" means acceptance of the vice. That is, it cannot be a negative emotion or evaluation. Black humor is not as dark as we think. If it is, then it is not humor, but ridicule or a negative emotion. If the black humor is taken as acceptable it generates humor, if not it can generate horror. (cf. Hellenthal 1989:51f.)
Black humor would not seem to be the humor of enlightened humanism. Humor, as humor (white), because it requires acceptance can never be black. It can only be about situations, people, actions, or things which are themselves negative or horrible. The following cannot be humor because they do not involve acceptance: the absurd, aggressive, farce, ludicrous, mocking, ridiculous, sadistic, sardonic, tragic. "Sick humor" is also here regarded as a form of black humor.
In fact, black humor may have nothing but positive emotions and humanistic reason as its basis and message. (cf. Hellenthal 1989:54) It is for this reason that black humor, as humor, cannot involve hatred, ridicule, prejudice, anger, abusiveness, etc. Hatred of black humor or politically incorrect humor or anything else is still hatred and so not justifiable. Hatred of hatred still promotes hatred. This observation allows us to defend black humor against its detractors and those who think it is not "politically correct." It is rather the politically correct who are punitive and mean-spirited and without a sense of humor. It is in part to correct the latter that we have black humor. It is as if to say, "Wake up and smell the black coffee." It can be in this sense and for this reason purposely immoral (blatant vice). Lies often do not bother people; rather it is the truth which they fear. Black humor shows them the truth about themselves. It can be a form of provocation (cf. Höfner & Schachtner 1995, Farrelly & Brandsma 1974), a way to express one's dislike, frustration and dissatisfaction, be used for shock value (as in art, therapy or literature to deviate by saying what is socially unacceptable).
We need also to evaluate which, if any, forms of black humor give us tools to use in philosophical counseling. We need to see if black humor is due to the lack of critical, humanistic and therapeutic thinking on the part of novelists and those who use black humor. Is it just failed narrow thinking of those trying to think out of the box? Is it just based on existentialism and nihilism? (Sartre; "I exist that is all and I find it nauseating.") Is it the failure to understand and have developed theories of ethics and emotion? Is it an awkward attempt to explore with metaphor?
2. Definitions . The titles of articles on black humor give insight into black humor and reveal its metaphoric nature (cf. Horvay Barnes 1978:116-135):
Beyond the Waste-Land
Black Humor: Its Cause and Cure
Causes of Alienation
Celebration of Solipsism
Final Word for Black Humor
Heroes, Villains and Fools
Humor is a Mortal Sting
Life and Death of Literary Forms
Literature of Exhaustion.
Prison House of Language
Pynchon's Linguistic Demon
The Anxious Object
The Brutalization of the Modern World
The Dehumanizing Art
The Grotesque and the Absurd
The Novel of Disintegration and Paradoxical Impossibility
The Stoic Comedians
To Move Wild Laughter in the Throat of Death: An Anatomy of Black Humor.
(Ph.D diss. Freisinger, 1975)
Toward a Permanent Culture Revolution
3. Critique of the Literature on Black Humor
Each of the following views will be seen to be problematic and partial in view of the foregoing analysis. The analyses suffer because of a lack of definitions, and lack and a theory of humor. Regarding the latter they would also have to present an analysis of ethical and emotive terms which they do not do. They nevertheless expand various points in the foregoing analysis especially because of their critical reading of black literature. The following are examples of such works: Black satires of Juvenal, Swift, Daumier; Beckett Waiting for Godot, Dürrenmatt The Visit of an Old Lady, Romulus the Great, Physicists; Ionesco Chairs. Pratt (1993:351-366) gives the following profiles of black humorists:
John Barth: Uses parody, surreal, and allegory to render an absurd, meaningless world. Regarding his book, The Sot-Weed Factor 1965, it may be noted that "sot" means "fool" or "absurd" in French.
Thomas Berger: Ambiguous, uncertain world.
J. P. Donleavy: Kafkaesque failure of society. Use of exaggeration.
Bruce Jay Friedman: Dysfunctional families, immorality, antimaterialism, surrealism, negative emotions, violence, bawdy humor.
John Hawkes: macabre humor, corrupt society, self-destructive characters, cosmic emptiness, fantasy, opposes forms of novel, newness, comic combinred with death, jocular paradox, anti-realism, creation of new worlds. (cf. Greiner 1973)
Joseph Heller: Indifferent, obscene war, bureaucracy, pessimism.
Ken Kesey: The individual vs. a mechanized society, dehumanization, irrationality, violence purifies.
Vladimir Nabokov: Reality is artificial and sterile, grotesque. (Lolita)
Walker Percy: Existentialist Catholic, meaninglessness.
James Purdy: Deliberately awkward and empty style, anarchic, profane, naive are terrorized.
Thomas Pynchon: debunk history, impending disasters, horrors, nightmare technique.
Terry Southern [pseudonym Maxwell Keaton]: materialism corrupts, obscene humor.
Kurt Vonnegut: Indifferent universe, destruction, absurdity.
Max Schulz (in Cohen 1978) on the model of the theater of the absurd, says that black humor deals with the absurdity of life. Humans are directionless and without destination. There is no resolution of the black humor, no solutions offered or possible. The ethical and aesthetic, and social dimensions and happy endings are also regarded as absurd. He quotes Nabokov, "We are creatures of chance in an absolute void." (26) Schulz wrote, "Black humor is a movement without a unity, a group of guerrillas who huddle around the same campfire only because they know that they are in Indian territory." (in Pratt 1993:155) What he does not see is that if there is any humor at all there must be at least some acceptance and so a transcendence of the absurd. Humor itself is the one thing which is not absurd, the one thing which can give us hope.
Leonard Feinberg (1978:153-168) sees black humor as playful aggression against everything, nihilism, meaninglessness, grotesqueness, purposelessness, nihilism, rejection of values, the surreal, sinister mockery. The only thing left for us to do is laugh. We can only laugh at the religions and wars, and parody the tragedy. (See list of black humorists he gives on pp. 161-162.)
Jesse Bier (in Helitzer 1984:49-53) regards black humor as "tactlessly morbid" and as being too mindless, negative and indulgent. Its perversity reflects that of society, makes the absurd even more absurd. It is a kind of revenge to punish those who punish. It has a liberating, escapist quality. Bier's account lumps all kinds of black humor and writers together and does not see that his negative account could not generate humor, not even black humor.
Burton Feldman (in Pratt 1993:101-119) opposes black humor characterizing it as just an uncritical, unconstructive complaint or whine about culture. It "burns knowledge," and is "humorous boredom."
In contrasting the incongruity between comic and tragic attitudes and visions of life, Morreall (1998) argues that both are valid perspectives of life and that though both can deal with negative subjects such as death, vice, danger, mistakes, etc., "comedy presents incongruities as something we can live with, indeed something in which we can take a certain delight." (335) What distinguishes comedy from tragedy is largely the absence of negative emotions, such as, resentment self-pity, and sadness. It is the comic vision which is more broad, flexible and able to be philosophically critical, rather than blindly and overseriously doomed. "The comic mind looks for inconsistencies, blunders, phoniness, and other incongruities." (351)
Tsur (1989:253) speaks of there being a sudden and extreme shift between horror and humor scripts, a shift of mental sets, the former acknowldging the presence of a threat, the latter denying it; "The shifting situations form no part of some credible, consistent reality, and so attention is directed away from the adaptive aspects of the process to its unique conscious quality, that is, its perceived esthetic quality: wit."
Louis Hasley (in Pratt 1993:112) says that black humor combines humor and pessimism, laughter and crying. It is based on incongruities from the ridiculous to the grotesque giving a sense of overall metaphysical disillusionment and nihilism. I think he is correct in stating that there is not enough play and detachment to generate genuine humor. He cites Heller's Catch-22 and Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle.
For the Surrealist, André Breton (1969, 1997), the roots of surrealism are to be found in black humor. Humour noir is a deviation from the usual, a defense against any kind of limitation. It is a deviation from societal norms. Surrealism intentionally combines unlike things without hope of unifying them. (This would be equivalent to a metaphor or humor without the possibility of having a point or resolution.) It intends to shock as does black humor. Language is dissolved and devalued. There is a quick switch between humor and horror. The humor comes from distancing ourselves from the hopelessness. "The situation is hopeless, but not serious." In this way the humor liberates. There is self-deprecation also, and especially romantic irony. We undo ourselves. We are our own fools. (cf. Mathew Winston (in Levin 1972:269-284) Surrealism is a radical deviation, attitude of nonconformism and Lebensphilosophie (cf. Hellenthal 1989:27
Lisa Rosenberg (in Buxman 1995:39-49) argues for the importance of black humor among emergency care workers as a coping mechanism and to avoid burnout. It helps one's physical well-being, neurotransmitters and is important for group interaction and cohesion. Injecting humor into crisis situations is so unexpected and incongruous that one must laugh. Thus, black humor can enhance one's physical and psychological well-being.
Linda Horvay Barnes (1978) gives a dialectical metaphoric analysis of black humor. Humor is a metaphoric and juxtaposition of humor and the horrible, comedy and tragedy. Both humor and horror are simultaneously experienced and united emerging as a synthesis. It is a demystification insight gaining process whereby one sees what is through what is not. One can thereby learn to live with the unresolvable, paradoxical, and black side of life. Humor dialectically dissolves differences and unites them. The oxymoron of black humor better describes human behavior than literal interpretations can. Black humor is an attack on literary and social norms (wrong plot, characters, setting, theme, etc.), shattering of illusions, exposé of contradiction, self-parody of the author and the writing itself, antifashion, sensibility of insensibility, anti all absolutes, antinovel, defamiliarization [one definition of metaphor. (Missbildungsroman uses deviation from accepted structures and techniques of novels.), refusal to resolve contradictions, disintegration of the self and world, destruction of love and sexuality, and life is seen as a joke.
Boyer (1993:3-12) regards the average person as superstitious and holding unacceptable beliefs. He or she is like a schlemiel, a hopeless loser. A schlimazl is a loser who could be better, but too enculturated and captivated by his/her metaphors to succeed. Black humor portrays this sort of person.
4. The Cognitive-Emotive Theory of Positive vs. Negative Humor
No one has yet been able to provide an understanding...to reconcile humor's powerfully pleasurable...nature with its potential for hostility. (Fry 1987:61)
The grotesque is humor without laughter. (Kenneth Burke 1959:58)
Each situation may be viewed as tragic or comic.
Emotion has been defined as a perceived mistake or deviation which is assessed to be acceptable. Thus, humor has been defined as basically a perceived mistake or deviation which is assessed to be acceptable. It is therefore a positive emotion. If the assessment is negative, cannot generate humor, but instead ridicule, anger, or horror. The mistakes may be specified in terms of the classifications of humor, e.g. ambiguities, deviations, logical fallacies, incongruities, etc. They are virtually all negative cognitions which for humor are nevertheless overlooked or resolve to be then seen as being positive. This is rendered by the German saying, Humor ist, wenn man trotzdem lacht. (It is when one laughs just the same (or in spite of a mistake).
There are various degrees of acceptance which generate various types and degrees of humor. These may be represented by noting the synonyms of "accept": endure, cherish, adore, enjoy, value, nourish, support, admire, esteem, bear, favor, applaud, love, delight in, celebrate. Each synonym yields a different kind of humor. If the deviation is loved the humor will be different and stronger than if it is just accepted. If the deviation is merely grasped, no humor will result. If it is just tolerated it becomes a negative emotion incapable of producing humor. That which is humorous can range, then, from the very positive to the slightly positive. It cannot include a neutral, serious, or negative evaluation. The word "funny," if positive, refers to humor, but can also mean strange or weird if given a negative evaluation. That is, we can have funny-humorous or funny-strange. "Fool" can similarly mean a wise, miracle performing, clever humorist and satirist, or on the negative side, an ignorant person. With humor, funny and fool there is misleading ambiguity because they can refer to both the negative or positive evaluations. As humorous, however, all three must have only positive evaluations. One could say, then, without contradiction, "He is a fool, but is no fool."
Another form of approval is distancing from the incongruity or tragedy. Distance means here a positive rather than a negative evaluation. It is a way of saying that the situation is safe. One reason for the approval of safety is that the contradiction or incongruity is somehow resolved. There can be, if you will, a happy ending. Again, the resolution may vary. In one sense, humor is the acceptance involved in the resolution or overcoming of such things as danger, mistake, error, defects, paradox, confusion, austere seriousness, blame and negative emotions. As Norman Cousins (1981:86) and others have pointed out, these positive emotions are essential for maintaining psychological and physical health including the fighting off of disease. Negative emotions are harmful to your health.
The acceptance involved in humor can take the form of optimism. It becomes an attitude and way of life such that the optimistic person is more ready to see and create humor than others. They are more open to laugh at the absurdities of the world and not to be crippled by them. This necessary acceptance for humor is what Kenneth Burke called "comic charity." We tend to erroneously think that laughter alone is a sign of humor. It is not. Some laugh at cruelty. A smile can reveal humorous enjoyment or villainy (smirk). Kenneth Burke (1959:58) referred to the grotesque as humor without laughter. I think it would be better to say that it is not humor at all. In some sense humor is a form of generosity, considerateness, benevolence and altruism. Thus, humor, as such, cannot be created from negative emotions, be hostility or aggression. This view opposes that of the Freudians and others who hold that humor is a form of aggression. (cf. Fry 1987:60) By definition, humor requires positive, not negative assessments.
Humor can, however, be a positive evaluation of a negative emotion. We can laugh at tragedy only if we have a safe distance from it. We may, for example, laugh because of our own silly anger. This is metahumor. We have a positive assessment (humor) of a negative emotion (anger). It is an emotion about an emotion, a metaemotion. As tragedy and as ridicule, no humor can be generated. Dziemidok (1993:111) wrote, "An amicable attitude to wrongs grows from leniency and tolerance." But, if we are amused by the tragedy or ridicule, it can become metahumor.
Humor says, "Don't take this seriously." which is to say, "don't take this negatively." We need to gain permission for acceptance, for play. The words "play" and "humor" are almost enough in themselves to create the mood to make us laugh, to free us from everyday seriousness. "Let's play" is like a self-fulfilling prophesy or performative utterance like saying, "I do" at a wedding ceremony. Humor is like a "form of life" or language game on the view of Wittgenstein. "Humor" creates humor as the word "know" creates or gives us knowledge by the very introduction of the concepts. "Do you want to hear a joke?" already puts us in the mood. Some, of course, will reply, "No."
We may summarize and expand the points discussed above by means of the following chart.
5. The Metaphoric of Black Humor
Metaphor is the Black Humorist's mode of expressing something...a fresh or defamiliarized perspective. (Horvay Barnes 1978:113)
A paradox is a funny place to go when you die. (Author)
There is no black humor, as such, only various types. Three initial general types of black humor may be first suggested: 1. Positive assessment of a negative event, such as a mistake. This is the usual case. Black humor would be when the mistake is seen as excessive (a tragedy) making it hard to give a positive evaluation to it. 2. Positive assessment of a negative emotion such as horror or hopelessness. How can one enjoy horror? This is a positive emotion about a negative emotion, a metaemotion. This would seem to be contradictory. How can one accept what one does not accept? How can the terrible be seen as wonderful? But we can have humor about negative emotions as we can have humor about negative situations. 3. This is where the two emotions exist somehow together. One has both humor and horror.
The three types of black humor come together in the sense that they all involve, a positive emotion (PE) (humor) and a negative emotion (NE) (black). Black humor may then be reduced to the basic formula: PE and NE (humor and black). The metaphorical logic of these types of black humor will be explored in the following by means of the metaphorical method.
The metaphorical method involves observing the types and methods of metaphor such as: reversals, oxymora (combinations of opposites), neologisms, juxtapositions, deviations, puns, analogy, imagery, category-mistakes, tension metaphors, humor, irony, taking metaphors literally, etc. The last type is alternately referred to as the "metaphor-to-myth" fallacy (Sarbin 1964), or being captivated by a model or picture. (Wittgenstein 1968) Oxymoron may be exemplified by the German süsse Qual [sweet pain/suffering]; friendly evil, accepted tragedy,
PE and NE (humor and horror) form the major variables which are then related by diverse connectives (PE-R-NE) where R = some relation interacts with, overlaps, together with, alternates with. For example, humor may alternate with horror in a black novel. Other examples of the possibilities are: PE or NE, PE and NE, PE = NE, PE in NE, PE with NE, PE without NE, NE without PE (ridicule or horror), neither PE nor NE (no humor and no horror), etc.
What is meant by the basic term black (NE)? The following are some synonyms often given: horror, terror, absurd, meaningless, nihilistic, chaotic, cruel, victimization, violent, irrational, illogical, aggressive, not altruistic, fragmented, nonconformist, deconstructionistic, deviant, etc.
The connotations and synonyms of PE and NE may then be combined. One may have humorous horror, or optimistic fragmentation (PE + NE), etc. Thus, we may expand the metaphor PE/NE where PE and NE have different meanings (indicated by numbers): PE1, 2, 3, /NE1, 2, 3 .Each meaning may be compared with the others in the same or another class. The relationship is then specified: PE1, 2, 3 (Relation) NE1, 2, 3. This generates a vast number of meanings of black humor. We will see how the literature illustrates some of these possibilities without having a general or unified theory.
There is a sliding scale between humor (PE) and horror (NE) such that at certain points one becomes the other, just as humor can turn into ridicule and anger or vice versa. Weak black humor is having fun in the face of folly, strong black humor is having fun in the face of farce. Aristotle argued for a balance between good and bad, "Perhaps lawgivers should have forbidden certain kinds of jokes." (Nicomachean Ethics Book IV, ch. 8) But which kind? One may argue that humor which is socially redeeming, coping behavior, or offers sound critical insight ought to be encouraged even if it involves any type of black humor, e.g. black satire of supernatural beliefs, unhumanistic cultural practices, faulty thinking, militancy, negative emotions, etc. Mindess (1971:70-73) accepts black humor as a normal reaction to help us accept the inevitable.
The good news about black humor is that it is funny; the bad news is that it isn't. Black humor is contradictory humor. Feinberg (1978:155) holds that black humor is a mix of bitterness and anger with humor. Humor can be seen in terms of or through horror and vice versa. One can intensify the other. They can be both together. We laugh uneasily. There are killer clowns and clown killers. Humor ease is combined with dis-ease. It attracts and repulses. There is humorous anxiety, fatality, failure, and disaster. The rational is the irrational, real the illusory, sane the mad, seriousness is a joke. There is appreciated decadence. Pleasure is combined with guilt (cf. masochistic humor). Some say the fusion cannot be simultaneous, but it clearly can just as we can have a poetic oxymoron. There can be partial humor and partial horror.
The formula, NE-R-PE leads to a new metaphoric of humor and new possibilities of creativity. A heuristic model may be created to explore diverse possible combinations of PE and NE. Each of the types of combination creates a different type of emotion. [It may be noted that a similar contrast can be made between love and hate, or between male and female (cf. A Feminist Metaphoric: M/F Modeling in Feminism in Chapter 9)]
1. PE = NE. "x is y" (white = black) type of metaphor. Here humor is horror, an oxymoron, similar to Nietzsche's "truth is falsity." There is then somehow humor in horror and horror in humor. It is when kindness is cruelty and humor is horror. The nice is horrid. There is tender cruelty and cruel tenderness. A tension is created which may or may not be resolved. One concept is seen through the other. Horvay Barnes (1978:113) argues that there is a dialectical tension between humor and blackness to create a literature of possibility. We can now speak of tension humor. Oxymora and metaphorical combinations of opposites break down all absolutes.
Charles Lamb said, "Anything awful makes me laugh." (Letter to Southey, Aug. 9, 1815) W. C. Fields said, "I never saw anything funny that wasn't terrible..laugh with tears." (in Pratt 1933:342) He may have arrived at this because humor involves a mistake or incongruity, but his rendering of humor makes it into black humor.
2. PE or NE. Dualism, either-or fallacy, ignores gray gradations. "PE or NE" is like "white or black."
3. PE and NE. Cooperation, combination or juxtaposition of humor and horror. Contradictions apply here such as non-dangerous danger.
4. PE not NE. Humor pure. Exclusion and rejection of horror. The horrible shall become humor itself!
5. NE not PE. Horror pure. Exclusion and rejection of humor. Humor shall become the horrible itself.
6. PE (verb) NE. (e.g. humor undermines the horrible. Verb is negative.)
7. NE (verb) PE. (e.g. The horrible supports humor. Verb is positive.)
8. PE (preposition) NE. (e.g. PE over NE, PE under NE, PE by NE, PE in NE, NE beside PE, PR mixed with NE, PE fused with NE, etc.) e.g. humor confused with horror. In emergency work humor is mixed with crisis.
9. NE (preposition) PE. (Reverse of above.)
10. PE NE. Total unlikeness between humor and horror.
11. One PE to one NE. (Each type of humor can relate to a different type of horror.)
12. PE becomes NE. Humorous defeated expectation becomes shock. Negativized humor fades into complaint.
13. NE becomes PE. "The worst returns to laughter." Shakespeare. Horror turns into comedy, hatred into acceptance. We steal things from authors' tragedies and put them into our comedies. Horror minus fear = comedy, comedy plus fear = horror. "By mastery of her suffering she won a sanity that could make even grief a plaything." [Juhasz (1993:2) on Emily Dickinson] There is an attempt to find joy in horror, endearing absurdity, and so adjust to the inevitable without having negative emotions. Is this possible? "The comic writer creates a new world, a world where bad people are harmless." (Hyers 1974:56)
14. PE becomes NE. Positive Emotion becomes Negative Emotion (White Black) In paradoxical intention and paradoxical therapy, one does what one fears most. Similarly, rather than fight or deny we can join the horrors of society to try to cure ourselves of it by seeing how absurd they can be. On the other hand it is a foolish to try to turn humor into horror. In this sense the black humorist is a "fool."
15. PE alternates with NE. Laugh-weep-laugh model. Laugh-shock-laugh model.
16. Meta-Humor. Humor about humor, humor about horror, humor about anger.
Other grammatical and rhetorical possibilities are too numerous to mention, but the above schematic can show the views which have been and will be held about black humor. In the above model, time, context, and quantity must be specified.
17. PE?NE. This is an especially significant model because it indicates that the tension oxymoron of black humor cannot be reduced to the literal, the relationship can be paradoxical, experimental, an exploration, and unclear in any particular case. Neither author nor reader need know exactly what the relationship is.
Thus, PE/NE and their metaphorical relations are used as root metaphors to be expanded in many directions. If we are conscious that these are only metaphors, we may use them to gain insight. If we treat them essentialistically as literal or true, we commit the metaphor-to-myth fallacy.
6. Metaphorical Deviation for its Own Sake. Black humor, like some art, may be created as a deviation for its own sake, rather than for an aesthetic or intelligent reason. This creates a pointless relativism?
Tension between Positive and Negative Emotion They are mixed up or one is stressed over the other. Anger and humor are mixed. (Davis 1967) Melancholy humor is a contradiction in terms. It is an oxymoron. There is amused horror, the thrill of the kill, macabre humor; and "cheerful nihilism." (Hauck 1971) If we can enjoy melancholy we are on our way to humor which can overcome it. There is "humor through tears." (cf. the works of Sholom Aleichem, Woody Allen, Chaplin, Chekov, Gogol) One may speak of "tense comedy." Self deprecation humor is an overcoming of a negative perspective, a reframing. It is clever thinking, because if one first criticizes oneself, one accepts one's own faults and is protected from the embarrassment of another first doing so.
In the chapter Theories of Humor "ambivalence" theories were discussed. Humor was on this theory caused by a conflict of emotions (an "emotional absurdity theory"). An emotion is supposedly confronted with a contradictory emotion thereby somehow resulting in humor. For example, joy plus hate leads to laughter. In the incongruity theory of humor we have two incompatible ideas. Here we supposedly have two incompatible emotions at once. Then it is just a matter of listing the contradictory emotions. Ambivalent emotions or conditions typically listed are: superior and inferior, mania and depression, playful chaos and seriousness, sympathy and animosity, drive and block of drive, playful and fearful, joy and hate.
7. Uses and Types of Black Humor
a. Aesthetic/Art. The aesthetic can deal with the tragic or grotesque and still be regarded as aesthetic. Similarly, humor can deal with any topic. The aesthetic, like humor, by definition involves positive evaluations. "Beauty" includes the word "good." "Music" is "good sounds" otherwise it would be noise. "Harmony" is "good balance." Both humor and the aesthetic involve enjoyment, creativity, insight, evaluation, slight to excessive deviation, distancing, reframing, metaphor, new juxtapositions, etc. Both allow us to deviate from a literalist, serious mind set. Humor may be seen as an aesthetic art. Then, just as we can have black aesthetics, we can have black humor. As such, we can give it a certain poetic and creative license and not condemn it if it deals with taboo or socially unacceptable subjects. Aesthetic humor is combined with unaesthetic ugliness. Johann von Herder (1744-1803), possibly following Aristotle, argued for a balance between the ugly and the beautiful in opposition to Lessing's view opposing the loathsome in art. (Haberland 1971:83)
b. Anti-Humor. (See also earlier section on anti-humor under defeated expectation humor) Black humor, deviates from, deconstructs, and destroys humor itself. It is anti-humor as there are antiheroes. It violates humor or is humor in reverse. It is a practical joke or "put on," a decadence of humor, a humorless joke. It destroys our one last hope of trying to cope with the impossible. It is to play a joke on the listener by make fun of humor itself. (cf. Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory) There is a defeated expectation of humor which when it does not come can itself create humor. Black humor is a form of meta- and self-reflexive humor. Black humor is a solution which denies all solutions. (cf. Horvay Barnes 1978:33) To be humorous about what one cannot be humorous about shows life's absurdity. We cannot speak of the tragicomedy of humorous murder, but that is exactly what is happening in the world today. Each war has its humor. (cf. Ch. 10 on Insight Humor Against War.)
c. Meaninglessness. The good news about black humor is that you are amused by it. The bad news is that you are absurd. Life is a joke. "We are creatures of chance in an absolute void." (Nabokov, Ada) Viewed from one perspective, but not the only one, black humor seems not to provide a life guidance or a philosophy of life. As illogical novels or black humor they might serve not as socially redeeming, but novels of ignorance and nihilism. In this sense they may not be useful in philosophical counseling.
Look here! This is all that this seemingly dangerous world amounts to. Child's play-the very thing to jest about. (Freud 1928:5)
The comic alone is able to give us the strength to bear the tragedy of existence. (Ionesco)
Black humor allows us to face and reframe a horrible reality we could not otherwise easily cope with. Sometimes it is referred to as a courage mechanism. It creates a distance between the horrible and oneself so as to be able to accept it. Hegel states, "It is the happy frame of mind...which can suffer the dissolution of its aims and realization. The unexpansive type of intelligence is, on the contrary, least master of itself." (1975, vol. 4:301) Eventually, we must accept the reality which we can do nothing to change. The coping may be slight or major and life altering. It gives us hope in a negative world. Logotherapy showed us that we reevaluate our priorities and values when faced with death or an extremely negative experience. It involves the use of humor to survive in the most threatening life situations. Obrdlik notes that oppressors react to the humor of the oppressed because of the weakness of the former. (1942 from Buxman 1995:199) Provocative therapy and Paradoxical Intention (cf. Frankl) purposely have us confront that which we fear so as to see its absurdity and adjust to it. Bill Mauldin was a war humorist and such exists whenever there is war.
e. Enjoyment of the Inevitable Negative and Horrible.
Humour typically sees the absurdities of the world and human deficiencies as something necessarily acceptable which must be treated indulgently. (Dziemidok 1993:102-103)
It was mentioned that with black humor there is an attempt to find joy in horror and so adjust to the inevitable without having negative emotions. Is this possible? Can there be humorous rape, humorous killing, humorous torture? There might more easily be humorous vomiting or pain.
f. Escape from Reality. This creates a surrealism. We are allowed to not take the world seriously. Emily Dickinson wrote, "The Truth I do not dare to know/ I muffle with a jest." (#1715) Black humor defuses and is preferable to war, depression and suicide.
g. Insight. Through black humor we can reveal and confront the absurdities, irrationalities, paradoxes, and double-binds of society and reduce them to absurdity. The more one understands about and can control humor, the more one can accept. Neurosis does not favor the comic or the acceptance of reality. Black humor challenges the listener. Insight humor can be socially redeeming.
h. Mask our love and tenderness.
Oring (1992:144) states that black humor masks love and tenderness: "Traditionally, exchanged insults are not perceived as insults. Rather, they are regarded as their opposites: expressive of intimacy and affection." (1992:142) Swearing in jest at a friend can be a sign of closeness. It (Schimpfen) is a common practice in Southern Germany where in some circumstances if someone swears at you it is a sign of being accepted as one of the group. (See Shibles 1992b)
i. Present Reality Honestly and Transcend It. Black humor shows the skull beneath the smile. We face reality so that we may not be so fearful of it. We joke at the funeral. Black humor is a mirror which reflects the blackness of society. Black humor for its own sake mirrors the killing in war today seemingly also only for its own sake. It may try to give the shock people need to get them to face the absurdities of life, to get them to realize that, for example, our foreign policy, has meant the death of millions of lives. It exposes the vicious practice of the church to disallow abortion even if thereby the whole human race could be saved and the fetus would be stillborn anyway. It exposes the most obscene imaginable supernatural concept, "hell," which involves eternal punishment. It also through humor transcends the real world, just a poetry can. Supernatural beings are either football players or fictions, but we cannot face that unless we are shocked into it.
j. Problem Solving
Confront our fears not with fear, but with a smile.
k. Release/Freedom/Irresponsibility. Seward (1930:32) in The Paradox of the Ludicrous, speaks of a "happy sense of irresponsibility." Black humor in this sense is carnival. During carnival one is allowed to express one's desires which are usually repressed by society. It is to knowingly misbehave. We are temporarily released from the absurdities of the world. We can laugh at its tragicomedy. One reason we tell a black joke is because it is not acceptable to do so.
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.
(Rafael Sabatini Scaramouche 1927:3)
Black humor presents, exposes, or criticizes the irrationality of society or life. It is a form of deconstruction and taking apart of society. It is a literary or story form of philosophy. We see that the average person has 75% negative emotion, is irrational, enculturated and superstitious. We wait with futility for a "Godot." The prison system is based on revenge and cruel punishment, rather than on therapy and education. Ethics, critical thinking and emotion are virtually absent from our educational systems. War, bombing and killing are usual methods of our foreign policy. We know more about killing people than about medicine. We have no Department of Prevention of War. We spend billions for war, but little on medicine and preservation of healthy life. And after all the effort and expense, the Defense Department does not even defend us. What is funny about black humor is that we are blowing ourselves up and do not know it. We are our own worst enemy. We do not have a humanistic policy of helping critically needy people around the world unless it serves our private military, economic, or personal interests. We cannot understand ourselves. We hardly even try to find out about the universe. Neither the average person nor professor even knows what humanism is or its written sources, yet nearly everyone is familiar with angels and astrology. We live in a world of gender war and sexual dissatisfaction. We watch society kill itself. As I write, we cannot safely open a letter for fear of anthrax as a result of our own militancy. Then, after all, we die. Society and life are black. Black humor presents and renders such absurdities. (cf. Irwin 2001:ch.2 on anti-intellectualism in the Simpsons.) In this regard, Kurt Vonnegut wrote in "But Words Can Never Hurt Me," "Fiction is harmless...We dropped on our complacent society the literary equivalent of a hydrogen bomb. I will now report to you the power of such a bomb. It has the explosive force of a very large banana-cream pie...dropped from a height of ten meters."
8. Is Black Humor Bad? Enjoying the Horrible (See also Ch. 4, C. Good and Bad Humor)
American humor is violent and often sexist, racist, brutal, and disgusting as well.
There is little or no substantive discussion of sick humor. (Dundes 1987:72)
Do you think black humor is new? It is very common and very old. It is usual. As soon as a war begins the black, war humor begins to appear. A group of students on hearing the news of the death of a friend broke out in laughter. (In Ruch 1998:280 though laughter need not be the same as humor) Black humor cannot be condemned as such because it includes so many types. It may be employed for many uses, good or bad, for harmful or humanistic reasons. Similarly a lie is a lie whether or not it is told for good or bad purposes. (Shibles 1985a) Dundes (1987:80) wrote, "Jokes themselves are neither good nor evil. They are simply reflections of the fears of a people or individuals at a given instant in time. It is therefore futile to protest against the existence of sick humor." We would not want to condemn black humor as a coping mechanism, satire, insight, creativity, poetry, the aesthetic, etc. As aesthetic it is an art form. Basically one reason we want to condemn it is for its black subject matter. It is often about the horrible. Thus, it is the black, the horrible, which is condemned, not black humor. Black humor, by definition, must be positive and acceptable. We can unfairly forget that in our criticism of it.
Humor gives us poetic license. The listener knows that humor, by definition, is not to be taken seriously. Humor has the potential to allow us to get away with anything, even laugh at the greatest horror. If whatever happens in the world of humor is unreal, then there is no violation--or there is only a violation of the unreal. In this world there is no real offense. Similarly in fiction, theater, and poetry one does not usually take it literally. Remember that in humor birds can fly backwards and spaghetti can talk. It is humor precisely because it is not real. Poetic license means one is not to be taken seriously. In this sense, the evening news which is usually absurd and violent is far blacker than even black humor. Political correctness is sometimes directed against humor itself misrepresenting it as real offense rather than make-believe. This merely undermines humor.
Raskin wrote that if we know what humor is we would not expect seriousness in, or be offended by, a Polish or Jewish joke because "we do not give credence to the necessary stereotypes, namely, that Poles are dumb." (Raskin in Ruch 1998:105) He adds that one may also find truths in any joke. (104) Similarly, Seward wrote, "The one who chuckles in amusement over some absurd incongruity is for the moment wholly unconcerned whether things matter or not." (1930:37) Clearly, when we listen to humorous or serious statements we evaluate them and can accept and agree with parts and disagree with other parts. Mary Klages (in Barreca 1992:22) holds that we should tell "sick" jokes such as Helen Keller jokes because it treats the disabled like everyone else and shows that we too have things to overcome.
Jan Trzynadlowski says that with black humor we are distanced and have "comic isolation" from death, murder, and the horrible and so render them harmless. (Dziemidok 1993:37) Also, black humor is accepted as cultural practices, e.g. carnival, Fasching,, Dance of Death, All Soul's Day festivals with grinning skulls. In East African tribes, e.g. the Kaguru, the funeral partner is also the joking partner of the deceased. In this sense, we can accept black humor as a cultural practice. We need not take the subject matter seriously, we can bracket it and so can accept it. In this sense, black humor becomes "black-" or [black-] humor. We do not die, we "die." On this view, we would see aggressive or put-down humor as being only "aggressive." Ridicule is only "ridicule," and, as such, acceptable. If we regard the ridicule as harmless we it can be accepted as a deviation and so generate humor.
Because it is free of fear, Carroll says that comedy is amoral. (cf. Carroll 1999:157) It should also be noted that the humorous part (PE) of black humor may range from good to bad humor, and the black part (NE) may range from effective to ineffective. This will determine how the black humor will be reacted to for each type of black humor. There is a part-whole problem. We can appreciate the humorous part without having to appreciate that it is a sexist joke. I may not like baseball, but I may nevertheless be able to appreciate a baseball movie or joke.
Young girl watching the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center: "Mommy, come quick, it's beautiful." Mother: "Don't say that. Thousands of people were killed." Daughter: "I know that's bad, but the picture is beautiful." The daughter here was able to make the fundamental distinction between the tragedy and beauty. Some would call this black humor, but it is clearly not intended to be so.
Consider a dysfunctional family where there is constant verbal abuse, yet they accept these behaviors even laugh at their own bad behaviors. Black humor is like a bad child who is nevertheless accepted by the parents. This illustrates one form of black humor.
Berys Gaut (1998) notes that the viciousness of jokes undermines their humorousness, but does not eliminate it. Nor is it the virtuousness of a joke which makes it funny. "The moralist has a priggish attitude towards humor, calculated to drain the humor out of most jokes." (1998:62) . On the other hand, Gaut holds that ethical badness does count against its funniness.
When one speaks of good or bad in regard to humor one must first find out what theory of humor one has and what is meant by these open-context value terms. Typically, most people misuse ethical terms, so their view of the badness or goodness of anything is suspect from the start. Also, if one's ethics is absolutistic, dogmatic, antihumanistic, irrational or supernaturalistic, or nonexistent then humor based on it or judged on the basis of it may be regarded as being unacceptable and to be avoided or rephrased. This is the case even if it is humorous in some sense. An additional problem is that values and tastes are subjective, so that different people will like different kinds of humor and have different standards of good and bad.
Paul Lewis (in Boyer 1993:54) wrote, "Ethnic jokes inevitably serve prejudice and promote hostility." Any statement can do that as well, so it is not a criticism merely of humor. But also, as has been seen, there are many types of black humor. The full analysis must involve the full context, the pragmatics of the communication, the uses, intentions and purposes of the humor. It is good to use black humor if it is the right type for the right purpose, e.g. to reduce unacceptable views or practices to absurdity. If however, any language or behavior is abusive we may object to it. But the abuse must have a genuine basis, not based on someone's mere subjective, dysfunctional, arbitrary, or oversensitive view. Some feminists reject sexist humor, others support it, but most, in any case, use it if it is anti male. Klages (in Barreca 1992) argues that sick/black humor should be told to help those who are the butt of the humor be treated like the rest of us as we all have faults. Black humor can be better tolerated than the grave hostility and anger of the politically correct.
Can one be amused by one's suffering? Feinberg (1978:163) writes of "finding humor where most people find tragedy." As was indicated above, there are many reasons to try to do so. One main one was to cope and make life as positive as possible. When we can do no more to correct a negative situation we can at least laugh at it, satirize it, laugh at the leg we broke while skiing, laugh at the absurdity of life. Black humor is an emotion of opposites. PE and NE together. A positive emotion of violation and a negative emotion of violation. It is better to have a positive violation than a negative one. By a positive assessment of the negative we can learn to enjoy horror just as we can create a tragicomedy. The enjoyment is made more possible if there are no intentions or implications of harm or abuse to anyone.
In a special issue of Humor:IJHR (10 (1997) 453-513) many leading humor researchers discussed "Humor and Political Correctness [PC]." Some of the views expressed are as follows:
1. PC is often arrogant, moralistic, seeks to dictate what is moral, show moral superiority.
2. Advances the political agendas of the far right.
3. Black Humor promotes mental health and allows one to transcend the negative situation. (458 Don Nilsen) He states, "All humor is acceptable. All jokes have a right to be told." (480)
4. Feminists and others often use refusal to laugh as a negative power move. ("That's not funny!") (455)
5. Feminists try to censor and ban humor, and legal charges of harassment are made. The criteria are typically subjective and unfair and the codes poorly thought out. (Elliott Oring 482-484) On such subjective criteria any joke can be seen as harassment. "Thus, no joke can be inoffensive. (492) It is like having an Office of Humor Prevention in government and university. "American feminists have trivialized the issue...by absurdly amplifying trivial sexual misdemeanors." (Christie Davies 496)
6. "PC is a form of moral bureaucracy; an attempt to legislate hard and fast rules of social interaction rather than recognize a process in which meaning and intention are constantly being negotiated." (Oring 483) PC and feminism have undermined humor which is one of the most positive and humanistic of all of the emotions. (492)
7. Black humor is a way of providing necessary critical shock value. (483)
8. John Morreall sees many functions of black humor: accurate description of the situation, exaggeration, cleverness, false stereotype. Thus, we can enjoy black humor in unobjectional ways especially when it in not intended to be taken seriously. "No joke is objectional apart from the way in which it is intended to be enjoyed." (486)
9. No one group or sex can claim the right not to be the content of humor. (Des MacHale 487) Don Nilsen argues that any group can be targeted, including women and the handicapped, nor is religion to be immune from humor or criticism. We may recall that Islam, for example, does not tolerate criticism or humor directed against it. (495) But if a group is exempt it is thereby isolated and not regarded as a genuine part of humanity. It is only the personal intention that may be the problem in black humor. Furthermore, some beliefs of some groups are so absurd that they lend themselves to satire or critical humor: "It may be that some targets need to be undermined." (488)
10. The PC and feminist harassment rules are often as or more vicious than even maliciously intended black humor. (493, 504) Perhaps one of the most important arguments we could add to this discussion is that those who are against black humor nevertheless hypocritically are great supporters of negative emotions such as hatred, anger, revenge, blame, etc. If black humor is to go, then all of such negative emotioons should go as well.
11. If we censor humor we could censor anything else as well. And who would be the judges? (Elaine Safer 507)
Many expressed the view that we should not censor humor, but that it can have some harmful effects if it is so intended. My personal position is that there are many good and bad reasons for using humor, but that I would try to avoid bad humor for bad reasons and humor which is not humanistic. Something may be a genuine joke, but I may wish not to tell it. I am, for example, not fond of humor using foul language. On the other hand, I am very fond of the use of satire, critical insight humor which may shock and expose absurdities no matter which group or religion holds them. If one holds absurd views they are asking to be exposed by humor.
I have argued against negative emotion, even a creative use of it, unless it can be shown that it can be humanistically and aesthetically justified. I would not censor it, I would just give it a negative critical review, not recommend it, and not use it. Similarly, one may argue for a black humor which is critical (satire) even shocking, gives insight, is humanistic, aesthetic, moves negative to positive emotions, and which hurts no one.
BE SENSITIVE TO PEOPLE'S THOUGHTS. WHATEVER ANYONE SAYS IS SIGNIFICANT:
Erp prg eptz.
9. Ranges of Humor Chart
1. Positive to Negative Value Range Chart. Gradations of strong to weak positive emotions to negative emotions for each of following range are given. Negative value/emotion humor yields the opposite of humor, such as, ridicule, anger, etc.
2. In the scale from positive emotion to negative emotion: indifference, apathy, not caring, about a subject or issue are negative emotions; aesthetic psychological distance, neutrality, objectivity, are positive emotions. Overseriousness is a negative emotion. To be overserious is to be grim, dull, monotonous, or to put it as a tautology, humorless.
We can see how values range between positive and negative (black) values and concepts.
3. Degree Range chart. Degree of deviation or mistake are listed separately, e.g. great vs. small incongruity.
4. Humor in itself is a technique and is neither good nor bad. It can be about anything, and any subject matter.
5. Belief Range chart. Humor involving attitudes toward a sample range of beliefs is given separately.
6. All categories of humor may be related to this chart.
7. Each item is to be thought of as separate from other items in each column.
POSITIVE NEGATIVE COMMENTS
accept, celebrate not accept between degrees are to value, then to endure
acceptable language vulgar unacceptable language, obscene
active pacifism militancy Can have acceptable killing/murder?
altruistic selfish By definition, selfishness is bad (for others).
antisexist sexist Like racism, depends on acceptance.
antiviolence pro-violence Unacceptable by definition?
correction punishment Humor can expose but, as humor, not punish.
good personality bad personality
humanistic unhumanistic cf. inhumane
moral immoral, vice, degrading
no enemies enemies
no verbal abuse verbal abuse
not politically correct rigid political correctness
optimistic pessimistic even self-deprecation can be optimistic
positive criticism negative criticism
positive world view negative world view
question authority blind obedience, enculturated, obedient to authority, duty for its own sake.
rational conformity strict, irrational conformity
relieve tension create tension cf. tension metaphor
resolve incongruity incongruity unresolved Humor often requires resolution of incongruity for
self-critical not self-critical
socially redeeming not socially redeeming
success failure, error blunder
sympathetic cynical cynicism is too negative to generate humor.
unite people separate people
great deviation small deviation e.g. clown as great deviation
great incongruity small incongruity
large mistakes small mistakes
large physical defect small physical defect
choose sexual lifestyle not choose e.g. only allow lesbianism, or heterosexuality, etc.
enlightened unenlightened what each person thinks is funny depends on their education,
indoctrination, dogmas, enculturation.
evidence belief, bias, prejudice
integrating divisive, separatistic, but it is OK to critique and so create dissent by means of
no force force
open inquiry dogmatic
people over rules/law rules/law over people, literal and severe use of laws and rules
people over things things over people
prevention of war pro-war
10. Black Humor Illustrated by Type.
Ambiguity and Puns
Black humorists are ill humored.
Schädel means skull, but also in Middle High German, a dry measure.
The English essayist, Charles Lamb, when asked how he liked children, replied, "Boiled, Madam."
Black humorists are "out of humor."
A final word for black humor.
Doctor: Sorry, Mr. Bean, you will remain a vegetable the rest of your life.
The author, Jonathan Swift, wrote: "A young healthy child well-nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a Ragout."
Black eye humor
After a hurricane theaters decided not to show "Gone With the Wind."
"Look, see, I'm not afraid to fly. I'm not."
Sign after flood: No fishing in parking lots.
Defense Mechanism Humor: Psychiatric Logic
Supernatural beings are either football players or fictions.
Deviation from the Ideal
Radio announcer: Good evening out there all of you who still have batteries.
Deviation from the Usual
In Bali the funeral ceremony in some ways is like an Xmas celebration with presents for children.
Sign after flood: Corn sold by the gallon.
Defeated Expectation and Surprise Humor
War is a conflict to determine not who is right, but who is left.
Soldiers are our best citizens---but not for long.
Curse: May you fall ill, visit many doctors no one of them knowing what's wrong with you. (cf. Gabin 1987:388)
Hypocrisy Exposed Humor
When in Ireland, I used to tell jokes about the stupid British, when in England I would tell jokes about the stupid Irish.
Visit to nuclear rocket installation: "What is this little red button for."
Live to die.
Dirty humor vs. sanitary humor.
What was Helen Keller's favorite color? Corduroy. (Klages in Barreca 1992:14)
How did Helen Keller burn her left ear? By answering the iron. (Klages in Barreca 1992:14)
How did Helen Keller burn her face? Bobbing for french fries.(Klages in Barreca 1992:16)
How did Helen Keller's parents punish her? They moved the furniture around. (Klages in Barreca 1992:14)
Surgeon: Oh, I thought you said you wanted your left leg amputated.
Obstetrician to intern: Do you mean, "You sewed her up after delivery?"
In a French cartoon by Maurice Sinet, a woman is shown carefully eating the brains of her husband, as if it were a melon.
If you feed a Seagull Alka-Seltzer its stomach will explode.
Bursting animals. (unacceptable , but frequently used in cartoons)
Personification Humor e.g. Shaggy Dog Stories
Black sheep humor.
"Alas! Poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio...Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs?" (Shakespeare Hamlet V.1:203)
Reduction to Absurdity Humor
The good news about black humor is that you are amused by it. The bad news is that you are absurd.
You have milked the cow and now you are after the blood.
Self-Deprecation (Self-Attack Humor)
Kill me, make a good stew with the meat.
Simile and Analogy Humor
How much better is black humor than the evening news.
"Say, mom, if you were to die right now, who would take me to town to buy my bikini?"
What were his last words before his death? Bye.
"My friend, G. H. Hardy, who was a professor of pure mathematics...told me once that if he could find a proof that I was going o die in five minutes he would, of course, be sorry to lose me, but this sorrow would be quite outweighed by pleasure in the proof." Bertrand Russell (Portraits from Memory 1956)
Too bad his plane crashed, he had just bought some new luggage.
Before the World Trade Center attack the Eifel tower was the 26th highest building, now it is the 24th.
Never offer to Scotsmen a free funeral for the first to die.
In Alice in Wonderland, almost no matter what happens, the Queen says, "Off with their heads."
Scotsman hocking a watch bragged, "It's an antique. My father sold it to me on his deathbed."
Substitution e.g. Substitution Humor Poetry
We take our comedy black.
Airline Ticket lines: First Class, Coach Class, Terrorists.
To protect yourself from anthrax, do not open your mail and do not breathe.
Therapist after World Trade Center attack: People just need to take a deep breath.
Afghans wore make up under their veils even though it was punishable by death.
When walk through Central Park (NY) at night, whistle for confidence.
Value Deviation Humor
"Never fear, we do but murder in jest." Gilbert and Sullivan
How to Make a Bomb.
The wealthy used to go to insane asylums to tease the inmates.
New area code for New York and Washington after Sept. 11, 2001 attack: 911.
"Ma, can I play with grandma?" "No, you dug her up twice this week already this week."
What is red and sits in a corner? A baby eating razor blades. (Dundes 1987)
What's harder to unload, a truck of bowling balls or dead babies? Bowling balls, because you can't use a pitch fork. (Dundes 1987)
"Ma, I don't want to go overseas." "Quiet, and keep swimming."
New US Defense Department protection policy: Everyone is to wear dog tags.
Ezra Pound's poems often serve as examples of black humor, blatant vice and value deviation. It may be noted that the imagery is mixed with the verbal. Imagists claimed to present only visual imagery, a paintable poem, but most of the images presented are rather verbal metaphors-things one can never see. As a similar example of another such poem, Pound wrote: "Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace. I have no life save when the swords clash. Better one hour's stour than a year's peace. With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music! Bah! there's no wine like the blood's crimson." (Ezra Pound 1926:7, Sestina Altaforte)
"Black humor" satire is used in the following:
Hero, you fought
well. The fields
are strewn with your
noble deeds: infants,
mothers and fathers
put to death. Above your
tomb a flaming
sword still burns for
strife. And now
black blood, worms and decay.
D. (BLATANT) VICE
Whereas black humor is diverse and involves many kinds of humor, with blatant vice the technique is narrowed to doing or reporting intentional vice.EXAMPLES: 1. "You make me get up at seven everyday to make you breakfast while I am on vacation." "When you are with me you are never on vacation." 2. "When shall we meet?" "Is 'never' good for you?" (also contradiction) 3."Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only for food: frequently there must be a beverage." (Woody Allen) 4. Lines to try to pick up a woman: How can you tell when these two things are ripe? Hi, you'll do. Can you cook and clean? 5. He thinks of wildlife as moving targets. 6. Cigarette advt.: "You've come a long way baby." 7. "Women should dominate all public institutions." (Chesler, in Warren 1980:96-97) 8. Military slogan: "Be all that you can be." Dead? 9. National Guard Slogan: "Protect your way of life." Drop bombs to protect tea routes. 10. "You will give the waiter/waitress a great tip." 11. Fortune cookie message: "This was your last meal." 14. Auto which comes with a body bag. 15. Auto bumpers which withstand an impact of only ten mph. 16. "Logic: The art of going wrong with confidence and certainty." (Campbell 1974:137) 17. Pullum (1991:128) calls linguists do philosophy of science, "methodological moaning. 18. Perfume called, "Waft." 19. Mark Twain: You ought never to do wrong when people are looking. 20. She began to realize that this gynecological examination was unlike any other she ever had. And why was he wearing his baseball cap backwards? 21." Someone threw a rock through the window with a note attached to it." "What did it say?" "Windows fixed $30." 22. I always worry when Congress is not behaving badly." 23. International male seeks woman who likes being abroad. 24. "Senator, I will help you whenever you are right." Reply: "Thanks, but when I am right I won't need it." 25. They said I think I am better than I really am. I am more modest than that. I am better than I really think. Return to Table of Contents
or ontinue toChapter 8.
(Theories of Humor)