I think any joke is an example. As you said, it usually takes two
differnt things and links them with some CLEVER ambiguity. (Or, to say
it differently, two opposing scripts are linked by some logical
mechanism ... or they are bisociated ... or whatever). It is that
CLEVERness that I think is missing from tickling, thrills, et cetera.
These things are fun, and all of that is sort of related, but I want
to start getting more specific. In a joke, someone has to find (or
notice, when happening upon) an ambiguity sufficient to do the job.
Good joke writers know how to link those things suddenly, without
giving up any hint during the set-up. Most humor is NOT jokes, of
course. But I want to require some of that cleverness before
considering something humor. Of course, I could be wrong and very
Here is a convergent definition of a kitten, just for fun. It is a
small furry thing that lives in a house. If you bring me 8,000,000
kittens, most of them will fit that definition (except the hairless
ones, or those that live out in a barn). But clearly that definition
is almost useless, since it could just as well fit a caterpillar, rat,
bunny, et cetera.
Convergent validity matters, of course, but it seems to do only about
one-half of a percent of the job. We need something that rejects
That will not be easy, of course.
Quoting "Roy E. Russell" <[log in to unmask]>:
> Humor Researchers,
> Thanks everyone for your interest and responses.
> Jim, I think the convergent validity is important. Newton stretched
> his formula to fit the motion of an apple falling from a tree and
> the motion of the moon around the earth. Without relating the
> motion of earthly objects to the motion of heavenly objects, he
> would not have had much of a theory.
> I agree it is also important to show how a non humorous
> situation differs from a humorous one. Usually in a non humorous
> situation we are dealing with one problem or disturbance which could
> encounter a series of blockages before it is eventually adjusted,
> for instance: disturbance--- you need to leave the mailman a
> note--pen out of ink--find pencil--pencil needs sharpening--knife
> dull--sharpen knife--sharpen pencil--write note--- adjustment. You
> may feel pleased by these adjustments, but you are not amused.
> In a humorous situation two diverse problems are linked by an
> ambiguity which would require one to react in two different ways
> simultaneously. There is no rational solution to this dilemma,
> hence the substitute response, laughter to overcome the impasse.
> The pleasant aspect of humor is provided by the adjustment of the
> various disturbances.
> Jim, you have excluded from humor many of the things which I
> have loosely associated with it. You seem to exclude carnival
> rides, tickling, fun, laughter, thrills, joy and dendrite firings.(
> I don't think I associated humor with that last one). I am curious.
> Do you have a joke or situation which you consider a prime example
> of humor? Most of us can agree that being surprised by a mugger is
> NOT humorous. Although, Jack Benny got a lot of mileage out of that
> very situation.
JIM LYTTLE, Ph.D.
139 E HIGH ST APT 9
POTTSTOWN, PA 19464
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