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9th February 2014

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Cartoon by Otto Soglow in The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925–1975

Cartoon by Otto Soglow in The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925–1975

Tagged: humourcartoonscomicshappinessgypsies

1st January 2014

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Dublin time

Travel writer Honor Tracy was in Dublin once and needed the exact time. She asked a garda [police officer], who told her the exact time was between 2 and 3.

Tagged: timeIrelandhumourIrish timeHonor TracyDublin

23rd June 2013

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A great ould yoke for the bad roads

The Honda 50 was a great ould yoke for the bad roads, and it gave the poor ould fellas a bit of freedom, which they used sparingly – often you would see a poor ould fella sitting on a Honda 50 rigid with fear, or perhaps with porter, or some combination of both, riding home at about eight miles an hour.

Declan Lynch with Arthur Mathews, The Book of Poor Ould Fellas

Tagged: bookshumourIrelandHonda 50motorbikeDeclan Lynch

28th May 2013

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Volodya’s expression was strained

'I must warn you, that we don't do anything political.'

'What I have written is not political.'

'What's the subject?'

'The subject is universal pity.'

Volodya’s expression was strained, as though he had entered his remark for an important prize, and could hardly believe that he wouldn’t receive it.

Penelope Fitzgerald, The Beginning of Spring (1988)

Tagged: bookshumourpoliticspityPenelope Fitzgerald

18th March 2013

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Tagged: languagelinguisticshumourlinguistics humorMonty Pythonlanguage acquisition

4th December 2012

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Ogden Nash, ‘The Wombat’

The wombat lives across the seas,
Among the far Antipodes.
He may exist on nuts and berries,
Or then again, on missionaries;
His distant habitat precludes
Conclusive knowledge of his moods.
But I would not engage the wombat
In any form of mortal combat.

Ogden Nash, ‘The Wombat’

Tagged: poetryOgden Nashhumournature poetrynonsensewombats

4th July 2012

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When Kleinzeit opened the door

When Kleinzeit opened the door of his flat Death was there, black and hairy and ugly, no bigger than a medium-sized chimpanzee with dirty fingernails.

Not all that big, are you, said Kleinzeit.

Not one of my big days, said Death. Sometimes I’m tremendous.

Russell Hoban, Kleinzeit (1974)

Tagged: bookswritingRussell Hobandeathhumour

14th April 2012

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The tension of stacked parentheses

There are no precise rules about punctuation (Fowler lays out some general advice (as best he can under the complex circumstances of English prose (he points out, for example, that we possess only four stops (the comma, the semicolon, the colon and the period (the question mark and exclamation point are not, strictly speaking, stops; they are indicators of tone (oddly enough, the Greeks employed the semicolon for their question mark (it produces a strange sensation to read a Greek sentence which is a straightforward question: Why weepest thou; (instead of Why weepest thou? (and, of course, there are parentheses (which are surely a kind of punctuation making this whole matter much more complicated by having to count up the left-handed parentheses in order to be sure of closing with the right number (but if the parentheses were left out, with nothing to work with but the stops we would have considerably more flexibility in the deploying of layers of meaning than if we tried to separate all the clauses by physical barriers (and in the latter case, while we might have more precision and exactitude for our meaning, we would lose the essential flavor of language, which is its wonderful ambiguity)))))))))))).

Lewis Thomas, Notes on Punctuation

Tagged: punctuationwritinglanguagelinguisticsLewis ThomasparenthesesGreekhumour

4th April 2012

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James Thurber on exclamation marks and colons

Don’t use an exclamation mark in a moment of anger. If you insert one in a fit of temper, lay aside the letter until morning. You will be surprised how silly it will seem then — not only the exclamation mark but the whole letter. That brings us to the colon, or if it doesn’t, we’ll drag in the colon. It is my contention that a colon could almost always be used in place of an exclamation point. Its use as a symbol of passionate expression is not, I’ll grant you, well known, and yet it lends itself to finer shadings of excitement than the exclamation mark….

[I]t will be helpful to learn that the colon, which is typed by striking only one key, can be employed in place of the exclamation mark in almost any given sentence where the emotion one wishes to express is of an amatory nature.

Take the sentence “You are wonderful!” That’s trite, and it’s made triter by the exclamation point, but if one writes it thus: “You are: wonderful,” it’s certainly not trite and it has a richness that the other hadn’t or hasn’t — “hadn’t” is better, I guess. Nothing so closely resembles the catch in the voice of the lover as that very colon. Instead of shouting the word “wonderful,” as the exclamation point does, it forces a choking pause before that word, thus giving an effect of tense, nervous endearment, which is certainly what the writer is after. Of course whether he should be after that effect, no matter how the sentence is punctuated, is a separate problem.

James Thurber, Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Guide to Modern English

Tagged: writinglanguagehumourJames Thurberpunctuationromance

10th December 2011

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Woollen socks, woollen socks!

Shrinking Song

Woollen socks, woollen socks!
Full of colour, full of clocks!
Plain and fancy, yellow, blue,
From the counter beam at you.
O golden fleece, O magic flocks!
O irresistible woollen socks!
O happy haberdasher’s clerk
Amid that galaxy to work!
And now it festers, now it rankles
Not to have them round your ankles;
Now with your conscience do you spar;
They look expensive, and they are;
Now conscience whispers, You ought not to,
And human nature roars, You’ve got to!
Woollen socks, woollen socks!
First you buy them in a box.
You buy them several sizes large,
Fit for Hercules, or a barge.
You buy them thus because you think
These lovely woollen socks may shrink.
At home you don your socks with ease,
You find the heels contain your knees;
You realize with saddened heart
Their toes and yours are far apart.
You take them off and mutter Bosh,
You up and send them to the wash.
Too soon, too soon the socks return,
Too soon the horrid truth you learn;
Your woollen socks can not be worn
Unless a midget child is born,
And either sockless you must go,
Or buy a sock for every toe.
Woollen socks, woollen socks!
Infuriating paradox!
Hosiery wonderful and terrible,
Heaven to wear, and yet unwearable.
The man enmeshed in such a quandary
Can only hie him to the laundry,
And while his socks are hung to dry,
Wear them once as they’re shrinking by.

Ogden Nash

Tagged: poetryhumourOgden Nashsocks