Humour Archive

Scraps of humour research presented here for your consumption. Comments welcome.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Thursday, June 22, 2006

double entendre - a (hopefully) highly illustrative and (almost) completely humourless explanation

I have no idea why a site called "absolute astronomy" would have a 'double entendre' section, but seeing as it explains the joke in my first post in great detail (not to mention my astronomy minor has given me a fondness for the sport [yes, that's right Sport. Astronomy is a sporty as I get!]), I thought I'd paste it here to waylay any confusion:

'Most double entendres in popular usage are sexual in nature. The following sentence illustrates, "A woman walked into a bar and asked for a double entendre, so the barman gave it to her." The sentence could mean either that the barman gave her an example, or that he had sexual intercourse with her.'

I also thought I'd include a somewhat ironic definition found at which made me chuckle:

'The noun double entendre has one meaning:
Meaning #1:
an ambiguity with one interpretation that is indelicate'

If you need an explaination of 'irony' (and no, it doesn't mean 'a bit like iron') you'll have to beg me in the comments section. Or just watch Reality Bites.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Is Religious Humour an oxymoron?: Christianity

A teacher in a conservative Christian school asks, "What's grey and has a bushy tale and runs up trees?" and the one of the students puts up her hand and says "I know the answer is Jesus but it still sounds like a squirrel to me."

There is a common conception that humour and religion do not mix. Christians are seen as serious. This tradition of associating laughter with sacrilege goes all the way back to the time of St Chrysostom, around 390CE. Laughter was usually associated with the devil.

"This world is not a theatre in which we can laugh; and we are not assembled together in order to burst into peals of laughter, but to weep for our sins...It is not God who gives us the chance to play but the devil"
St John Chrysostom

"Christ never laughed"
St John Chrysostom

But more recently many scholars and anthropologists have looked at humorous aspects of religion. This does not mean that humour is used to undermine religion. There is a growing acknowledgement that faith and humour can coexist. Humour can be found within faith, and faith can be found using humour.

In fact, one author, Conrad Hyers (who has written many books on Christianity and humour) looks at the entire bible through a comic lens: he describes the creation of Eve as the creation of laughter; Sarah's son was called Isaac which means laughter. Hyers sees laughter as a gift from God. Throughout the bible he finds many traditional mechanisms of humor such as incongruence, reversal, collapsing of social order.

"Humor is a prelude to faith and Laughter is the beginning of prayer "
Reinhold Niebuhr, American Theologian

"Laughing at ourselves can help us remember our humanity"
Rev. William H. Joyner, Jr.

Many thanks:
- N.J. Vasantkumar's review in the journal 'Humor' of Conrad Hyers' And God Created Laughter:The Bible as Divine Comedy.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Violatus Maximus

For the linguists among you, here are some violated Gricean Maxims (also from Eco's Travels in Hyperreality):

(1) Maxim of quantity -
Make your contribution as informative as is required:
'Excuse me, do you have the time?'

(2) Maxim of quality -
(a) Do not say that which you believe to be false:
'My God, I beseech thee, give me some proof of thy nonexistence!'

(b) Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence:
'I find Maritain's thought unnacceptable and irritating. Thank God I've never read any of his books!'

(3) Maxim of relation -
Be relevant:
'Can you give me a motorboat?'
'Why, you bet your life! I did my military service in Death Valley!'

(4) Maxim of manner -
Avoid obscurity of expression and ambiguitiy. Be brief and avoid unnecessary prolixity. Be orderly:
Mrs Slocombe (from 'Are You Being Served'):It's a wonder I'm here at all, you know. My pussy got soakin' wet. I had to dry it out in front of the fire before I left.

Echos of Eco

'The comic ... seems bounded by time, society, cultural anthropology'
Umberto Eco, Travells in Hyperreality.

The incongruitiy of the universality of humour

Humour is universal - exists in all cultures.

Humour is not universal - people from different cultures will laugh at different things; we do not all find the same things funny.

How many anthropologists does is take to make a joke?*

None, aparently.

Anthropologists have not given humour the same importance as other anthropological study areas such as kinship or marriage. Furthermore, they seem to focus on specific types of humour rather than general humour within a society.

*At the risk of losing all respect (if indeed I had any to start with), I have decided to share with you the title I was going to put on this post: How many anthropologists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Well, unless the light bulb was engaged or a member of a fraternity, it can go screw itself!

To start the ball rolling

One of my new favourites:

A woman walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre, so the barman gives her one.

Though I have never met her, I would like to thank Mel (who commented on for this joke