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PDF John Heymans Book of Really Good Jokes: A lifetime of laughs

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It might make us feel annoyed at having devoted ourselves to a consideration of the technical methods of jokes, and might make us suspect that after all we have exaggerated their importance as a means for discovering the essential nature of jokes.


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If only this convenient suspicion were not contradicted by the one incontestable fact that the joke invariably disappears as soon as we eliminate the operation of these techniques from its form of expression! So, in spite of everything, we are led to look for the unity in this multiplicity. It ought to be possible to bring all these techniques under a single heading. As we have already said, it is not difficult to unite the second and third groups. Double meaning play upon words is indeed only the ideal case of the multiple use of the same material. Of these the latter is evidently the more inclusive concept.

The examples of dividing up, of re-arrangement of the same material and of multiple use with slight modification c, d and e might - though only with some difficulty - be brought under the concept of double meaning. But what is there in common between the technique of the first group condensation with substitute formation and that of the two others multiple use of the same material? Well, something very simple and obvious, I should have thought.

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The multiple use of the same material is, after all, only a special case of condensation; play upon words is nothing other than a condensation without substitute-formation; condensation remains the wider category. All these techniques are dominated by a tendency to compression, or rather to saving. It all seems to be a question of economy. Yes, but it is a thieving flight. Has no condensation and economy been made? Most certainly.

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There has been a saving of the whole of the second thought and it has been dropped without leaving a substitute. That is the advantage of a double meaning. But it should be present in every example. It is true that here we should not find that condensation would meet the case; but if instead of it we take the more inclusive concept of economy, we can manage without difficulty.

It is easy to point out what we save in the case of Rousseau, Antigone, etc. We save having to express a criticism or give shape to a judgement; both are already there in the name itself. We have only to add the linking words and there we have our definition ready made. The case is similar in all the other examples that have so far been analysed. The saving is not much, but in it the joke lies. It may be that every joke technique shows the tendency to save something in expression: but the relation is not reversible.

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Not every economy of expression, not every abbreviation, is on that account a joke as well. We reached this point once before, when we were still hoping to find the process of condensation in every joke, and raised the justifiable objection that a laconic remark is not enough to constitute a joke.

There must therefore be some peculiar kind of abbreviation and economy on which the characteristic of being a joke depends; and until we know the nature of that peculiarity our discovery of the common element in the techniques of jokes brings us no nearer to a solution of our problem. And let us, further, have the courage to admit that the economies made by the joke-technique do not greatly impress us.

They may remind us, perhaps, of the way in which some housewives economize when they spend time and money on a journey to a distant market because vegetables are to be had there a few farthings cheaper. What does a joke save by its technique? The putting together of a few new words, which would mostly have emerged without any trouble. Instead of that, it has to take the trouble to search out the one word which covers the two thoughts. Indeed, it must often first transform one of the thoughts into an unusual form which will provide a basis for its combination with the second thought.

Would it not have been simpler, easier, and, in fact, more economical to have expressed the two thoughts as they happened to come, even if this involved no common form of expression? Is not the economy in words uttered more than balanced by the expenditure on intellectual effort? And who saves by that?

Who gains by it? We can evade these doubts provisionally if we transpose them to another place. Have we really already discovered all the kinds of joke-technique?

It will certainly be more prudent to collect fresh examples and subject them to analysis. Jokes and Their Relation To The Unconscious We have in fact not yet considered a large - perhaps the most numerous - group of jokes, influenced, perhaps, by the contempt with which they are regarded.

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And they do in fact make the least demand on the technique of expression, just as the play upon words proper makes the highest. While in the latter the two meanings should find their expression in identically the same word, which on that account is usually said only once, it is enough for a pun if the two words expressing the two meanings recall each other by some vague similarity, whether they have a general similarity of structure or a rhyming assonance, or whether they share the same first few letters, and so on.

Und alle die gesegneten deutschen Lander Sind verkehrt worden in Elender. And all the blessed German lands Have been turned into wretched places. Out of the profusion of puns at our disposal, it will perhaps be of special interest to bring up a really bad example, of which Heine is guilty. I have no more ever been in Kalkutta [Calcutta] than the Kalkuttenbraten [roast Calcutta fowl] that I ate for luncheon yesterday.

The bird which he had eaten roast is so called, because it comes, or is supposed to come, from the same Calcutta. I see no necessity for following him in this.

ciouvebilafin.gq In a play upon words, in our view, the word is also only a sound-image, to which one meaning or another is attached. There are some people who, when they are in high spirits, can for considerable periods of time, answer every remark addressed to them with a pun. One of my friends, who is a model of discretion where his serious achievements in science are concerned, is apt to boast of this ability.

Both of these, however, are excellent jokes of condensation with formation of composite words. If, in the case of puns, we give up the claim for the use of the same material in more than one sense, nevertheless the accent falls on rediscovering what is familiar, on the correspondence between the two words that make up the pun; and consequently puns merely form a sub-species of the group which reaches its peak in the play upon words proper.

The story is told of Heine that he was in a Paris salon one evening conversing with the dramatist Soulie, when there came into the room one of those financial kings of Paris whom people compare with Midas - and not merely on account of their wealth. He was soon surrounded by a crowd who treated him with the greatest deference. Where shall we look for the technique of this excellent joke? In a play upon words, thinks Fischer: Thus, for instance, the words "Golden Calf" can mean both Mammon and idolatry. In the one case the gold is the main thing and in the other the statue of the animal; it may also serve to characterize, in not precisely flattering terms, someone who has a great deal of money and very little sense.

But just a moment! It looks now as though this reduction has not done away with Heine's joke completely, but on the contrary has left its essence untouched. Look at the way the nineteenth century is worshipping the Golden Calf! It is a pity that this fine example involves such complicated technical conditions.

We can arrive at no clarification of it. So we will leave it and look for another one in which we seem to detect an internal kinship with its predecessor. For we do not insist upon a patent of nobility from our examples. We make no enquiries about their origin but only about their efficiency - whether they are capable of making us laugh and whether they deserve our theoretical interest. And both these two requirements are best fulfilled precisely by Jewish jokes.

Two Jews met in the neighbourhood of the bath-house. Yes but what is the technique of the joke?