How to Recognize Humour
A Guide for the Genetically Disadvantaged
Dedicated to Loki
From Chamber’s English Dictionary (1989 edition):
Humour (Us: Humor) ‘a mental quality which appreciates and delights in the ludicrous or mirthful: that which causes mirth and amusement: playful fancy’
Irony ‘the Socratic method of discussion by professing ignorance: conveyance of meaning (generally satirical) by words whose literal meaning is the opposite.’
Sarcasm ‘a bitter sneer: a satirical remark in scorn or contempt, often but not necessarily ironical’
Brain ‘in vertebrates, that part of the central nervous system that is contained within the skull…intelligence, common sense’
It has recently become apparent that some viewers of the fine website that is The Cauldron have missed out on one of the exciting developments in the evolution of bipedal mammals: the ability to notice when someone is not being entirely serious. Because most of the people behind the website are kind, generous people, who would not say a bad word about anyone, the writing of this article has rather naturally fallen to me.
With the intent of making many lives more wholesome and enjoyable, it is my hope to help you to separate ironic humour articles from hideously idiotic editorials. This is a basic course, however, so don’t get cocky and start reading the transcripts of political speeches.
1) The presence of the word ‘humour.’ One would think that this is an obvious sign, and certainly I think so, but apparently I’m out of step with the world. I blame the stuff they put in the water supply.*
Read the article. Look all over the page. Examine the web address even. If anywhere appears the word ‘humour’ in a label format, you should probably move onto deciding whether the article is funny or not. If you can’t decide on that, please order my new book Is It Funny?retailing at £30.95.
* Shopping trolleys mainly.
2) ‘Tone’ When you read the article, is your first instinct to laugh at how bizarre it is? Congratulations, it’s probably a humour piece! While some people are unintentionally funny, most people have to work hard at it. Come to that, some people have to work hard at basic cognitive functions, but I’m digressing.
3) Content of the rest of the site: Possibly your most useful guide. The most basic point links back to number one: is this article stored within a section labelled as ‘humour’? If you can’t handle the ramifications of this one, please see your doctor immediately and tell him you’re not allowed to reproduce. More time consuming is the examination of the rest of the site. Do all of the pages seem in keeping with the item that originally inflamed your anger? If you think the article encourages an absurdly ‘fluff bunny’ attitude, the intelligent article on controversies within the Pagan community may change your mind. May.
4) Ask the people who run the website whether they’re being serious. This may save you the effort of remembering all those interesting words your dad/uncle/priest used to use when they smelled of domestic bleach, and will save you embarrassment if you ever planned on holding a conversation with representatives of the site.
This concludes the basic guide to spotting humour.
Remember to look out for:
- Convenient label systems.
- Context/accompanying content.
- Hints from the owner of the site that it’s frigging humour.
And if this doesn’t help, frankly we’re going to send the flying monkeys after you.