Definitions

hacker humour

Humour

[hyoo-mer]

Humour or humor (see spelling differences) is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. Many theories exist about what humour is and what social function it serves. People of most ages and cultures respond to humour. The majority of people are able to be amused, to laugh or smile at something funny, and thus they are considered to have a "sense of humour".

The term derives from the humoural medicine of the ancient Greeks, which stated that a mix of fluids known as humours (Greek: χυμός, chymos, literally: juice or sap, metaphorically: flavour) controlled human health and emotion.

A sense of humour is the ability to experience humour, although the extent to which an individual will find something humorous depends on a host of variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, intelligence, and context. For example, young children may possibly favour slapstick, such as Punch and Judy puppet shows or cartoons (e.g. Tom and Jerry). Satire may rely more on understanding the target of the humour, and thus tends to appeal to more mature audiences. Non-satirical humour can be specifically termed "recreational drollery".

Understanding humour

Humor occurs when

  • An alternative (or surprising) shift in perception or answer is given that still shows relevance and can explain a situation.
  • Sudden relief occurs from a tense situation. "Humourific" as formerly applied in comedy referred to the interpretation of the sublime and the ridiculous, a relation also known as bathos. In this context, humour is often a subjective experience as it depends on a special mood or perspective from its audience to be effective.
  • Two ideas or things are juxtaposed that are very distant in meaning emotionally or conceptually, that is, having a significant incongruity.
  • We laugh at something that points out another's errors, lack of intelligence, or unfortunate circumstances; granting a sense of superiority.

Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the misuse of the term (the German loanword from English) to mean any type of comedy. However, both terms are often used when theorizing about the subject. The connotation of "humour" is more that of response, while "comic" refers more to stimulus. "Humour" also originally had a connotation of a combined ridiculousness and wit in one individual; the paradigm case being Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff. The French were slow to adopt the term "humour," and in French "humeur" and "humour" are still two different words, the former still referring only to the archaic concept of humors.

Western humour theory begins with Plato who attributed to Socrates (as a semi-historical dialogue character), in the Philebus (p. 49b), the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later in Greek philosophy, Aristotle in the Poetics (1449a p 34-35) suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour. The Incongruity Theory originated mostly with Kant who claimed that the comic is an expectation that comes to nothing. Henri Bergson attempted to perfect incongruity, by reducing it to the 'living' and 'mechanical'.

An incongruity like Bergson's, in things juxtaposed simultaneously, is still in vogue. This is often debated against theories of the shifts in perspectives in humour. Hence the debate in the series Humor Research between John Morreall and Robert Latta. Morreall presented mostly simultaneous juxtapositions, with Latta countering that it requires a "cognitive shift," created by a discovery or solution to a puzzle or problem. Latta is criticized for having reduced jokes' essence to their own puzzling aspect.

Humour frequently contains an unexpected, often sudden, shift in perspective, which gets assimilated by the Incongruity Theory. This view has been defended by Latta (1998) and by Brian Boyd (2004). Boyd views the shift as from seriousness to play. Nearly anything can be the object of this perspective twist. It is, however, in the areas of human creativity (science and art being the varieties) that the shift results from ‘structure mapping’ (termed "bisociation" by Koestler) to create novel meanings. Koestler argues that humour results when two different frames of reference are set up and a collision is engineered between them.

Tony Veal, who is taking a more formalised computational approach than Koestler did, has written on the role of metaphor and metonymy in humour, using inspiration from Koestler as well as from Dedre Gentner´s theory of structure-mapping, George Lakoff´s and Mark Johnson´s theory of conceptual metaphor and Mark Turner´s and Gilles Fauconnier´s theory of conceptual blending.

Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E. B. White once said, "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Evolution of humour

As with any form of art, the same goes for humour, acceptance depends on social demographics and varies from person to person. Throughout history comedy has been used as a form of entertainment all over the world, whether in the courts of the Western kings or the villages of the far east. Both a social etiquette and a certain intelligence can be displayed through forms of wit and sarcasm. 18th-century German author Georg Lichtenberg said that "the more you know humour, the more you become demanding in fineness."

Alastair Clarke explains: "The theory is an evolutionary and cognitive explanation of how and why any individual finds anything funny. Effectively it explains that humour occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition of this sort is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter." The theory further identifies the importance of pattern recognition in human evolution: "An ability to recognize patterns instantly and unconsciously has proved a fundamental weapon in the cognitive arsenal of human beings. The humorous reward has encouraged the development of such faculties, leading to the unique perceptual and intellectual abilities of our species."

Humour formulae

Root components:

Methods:

Rowan Atkinson explains in his lecture in the documentary "Funny Business", that an object or a person can become funny in three different ways. They are:

  • By behaving in an unusual way
  • By being in an unusual place
  • By being the wrong size

Most sight gags fit into one or more of these categories.

Humour is also sometimes described as an ingredient in spiritual life. Humour is also the act of being funny. Some synonyms of funny or humour are hilarious, knee-slapping, spiritual, wise-minded, outgoing, and amusing. Some Masters have added it to their teachings in various forms. A famous figure in spiritual humour is the laughing Buddha.

See also

References

Further reading

  • (Abstract)
  • Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and ridicule: Towards a social critique of humour. London: Sage. ISBN 1412911435
  • Bricker, Victoria Reifler (Winter, 1980) The Function of Humor in Zinacantan Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 411-418
  • (Abstract)
  • Carrell, Amy (2000), Historical views of humour, University of Central Oklahoma. Retrieved on 2007-07-06.
  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H., et al. (1976) "Humour, Laughter, and Comedy: A Bibliography of Empirical and Nonempirical Analyses in the English Language." It's a Funny Thing, Humour. Ed. Antony J. Chapman and Hugh C. Foot. Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press, 1976. 469-504.
  • Holland, Norman. (1982) "Bibliography of Theories of Humor." Laughing; A Psychology of Humor. Ithaca: Cornell U P, 209-223.
  • Luttazzi, Daniele (2004) Introduction to his Italian translation of Woody Allen's trilogy Side Effects, Without Feathers and Getting Even (Bompiani, 2004, ISBN 88-452-3304-9 (57-65).
  • Martin, Rod A. (2007). The Psychology Of Humour: An Integrative Approach. London, UK: Elsevier Academic Press. ISBN 13: 978-0-12-372564-6
  • McGhee, Paul E. (1984) "Current American Psychological Research on Humor." Jahrbuche fur Internationale Germanistik 16.2: 37-57.
  • Mintz, Lawrence E., ed. (1988) Humor in America: A Research Guide to Genres and Topics. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988. ISBN 0313245517; OCLC: 16085479.
  • Mobbs, D., Greicius, M.D.; Abdel-Azim, E., Menon, V. & Reiss, A. L. (2003) "Humor modulates the mesolimbic reward centers". Neuron, 40, 1041-1048.
  • Nilsen, Don L. F. (1992) "Satire in American Literature." Humor in American Literature: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1992. 543-48.
  • Pogel, Nancy, and Paul P. Somers Jr. (1988) "Literary Humor." Humor in America: A Research Guide to Genres and Topics. Ed. Lawrence E. Mintz. London: Greenwood, 1988. 1-34.
  • Roth, G., Yap, R, & Short, D. (2006). "Examining humour in HRD from theoretical and practical perspectives". Human Resource Development International, 9(1), 121-127.
  • Smuts, Aaron. "Humor". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • (Abstract)

External links

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