What is Laughter?
Laughter is the action or sound of laughing. It’s an inner quality, mood, or disposition suggestive of laughter. It’s an expression or appearance of merriment or amusement.
Related words for laughter include giggle, snicker, mirth, chuckle, chortle, and rejoicing.
It has long been said that laughter is the best medicine.
From HelpGuide.org, laughter “strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.” Backed by scientific research, laughter offers benefits for physical health, mental health, and social benefits as well as. Just to name a few physical benefits, laughter can boost immunity, lower stress hormones, and decrease pain. For your mental health, laughter relieves stress, improves mood, and strengthens resilience. On a social level, laughter can strengthen relationships, enhances teamwork, and promotes group bonding.
What makes one person laugh may not make another laugh. What makes something funny? More scientific research had to be done. Researchers do not completely understand what parts of a joke or situation make it seem funny. Several theories have been offered to suggest that we find amusement in the misfortunes of others, in the expressions of otherwise forbidden emotions, in the incongruity of contradictory concepts, and in the realization that expected outcomes will not emerge.
Some might say we live in a bell curve world, the middle of the graph that makes the shape of a bell is usually the norm. Things that fall outside of the norm might be sources of humor. Another’s misfortune might be funny as long as nobody gets hurt. Sometimes it’s both of these, something outside the norm that happened and the notion that nobody was injured and we laugh at their misfortune.
Early Greek philosophy suggests superiority within ourselves creates humor in situations. We can laugh at our own mistakes when we eventually learn from them. And sometimes we laugh at the expense of others when they make mistakes, especially when we may feel that we know better.
Humor is difficult to define in a way that embodies all its aspects. Humor may stir the slightest smile or spark explosive laughter. Sources of laughter – humor – can be communicated by our words, images, or our actions. Humor has been conveyed through pictures, films, or skits. Additionally, humor can be depicted in a wide range of forms, from innocent jokes to sharp sarcasm and from physical gags to a well-planned pun or double entendre.
A double entendre is a phrase or figure of speech that could have two meanings or that could be understood in two different ways. Some double-entendres are intentional. The name of the Belamy Brother’s song “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me.” Others are purely accidental; a high school banner reads, “Summer Project Student Recycling” or in headlines, “Kids Make Nutritious Snacks” and “Criminals Get Nine Months in Violin Case”.
Another source of humor can be found in puns. A pun is a figure of speech that exploits a word’s meaning. A pun can also be defined as a joke that makes a play on words. A pun makes use of words that have more than one meaning, or words that sound similar but have different meanings. The rhetorical term for punning is paronomasia, which means “to call a different name.” Puns may rely on several types of words to work, words that are similar in spelling, sound, or meaning. For a quick English lesson, these words are homophones, homonyms, and homographs. Here is a list of examples of puns:
- You can tune a guitar but you can’t tuna fish.
- Santa Claus’ helpers are known as subordinate Clauses.
- I was struggling to figure out how lightning works, but then it struck me.
- I’ve been to the dentist many times so I know the drill.
- What did one plant say to another? What’s stomata?
- The other day I held the door open for a clown. I thought it was a nice jester.
- A chicken crossing the road is truly poultry in motion.
- A boiled egg every morning is hard to beat.
Another pun-like phrase is a paraprosdokian. It means “against expectations” in Greek, and typically puts the first part of the sentence in a new and humorous context. Often, the first part of the sentence is part of a well-known phrase, but the ending might be a bit surprising or unexpected. Some examples of paraprosdokians are:
- Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
- The last thing I want to do is hurt you … but it’s still on my list.
- Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
- If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
- We never really grow up – we only learn how to act in public.
- War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
- I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
Like the wave of a hand for greeting hello, laughter transcends all languages. Laughter may have evolved as a way to enhance connectedness in societies. The evolutionary origins of human laughter can be traced back at least 10 million years. Laughter has been linked to higher pain tolerance and the signaling of social status. And, its principal function appears to be creating and deepening social bonds.
Laughter transcends not only language and cultural boundaries but species boundaries, too. Chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans show laughter in the vocalizations in response to physical contact such as wrestling, play chasing, or tickling. Laughter is also present in a similar form in great apes.
Whether you enjoy a good laugh or you like to make people laugh, take a moment to think about what laughter does for you.
Peace, Love & Laughter
Stanza taken from “To a Skylark”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
“An optimist laughs to forget; a pessimist forgets to laugh.”
“Laughter is an instant vacation.”
“There are three kinds of people in the world – those who can count, and those who can’t.”
“Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.”
“When I was a kid, my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”