Sunday 29 October 2017

Children's Humor

We had two books when the kids were growing up, which attracted far too much attention and were briefly put on the top shelf of the wall-of-books we have in the living room. Yes, censorship! and Yes, <tsk!> but with so much more printed material available [the wall of books for starters] it was frustrating to see those two books pored over ad over. One was "A Bumper Book of Cartoons", hundreds of which were culled from decades of newspapers and put between covers. The other was Children's Humour, a small paperback which consolidated out of a PhD thesis on the subject.  But Dang and blast but I can't find that book and, worse, I can't find it on Amazoogle.  Censorship like this doesn't work aNNyway. When the girls were much smaller Dau.I went through a desperate calories jag and would scarf a spoonful of sugar from the bowl. This is bad for the teeth, so we took to putting the sugar-bowl on the top shelf above the kitchen counter. But often-and-often we'd find a scatter of sugar on the counter-top because Dau.II had been mountaineering for the sweet stuff. We figured that sliding about in her socks on the counter-top was more dangerous than eating sugar and put the bowl back on the table.

The most interesting thing about the PhD thesis, which made me desperate for more example was when children blow the joke because they don't know which aspects are funny. They are repeating a form of words which drew a laugh for someone else but don't appreciate how the joke works. Thus a lot of simple jokes don't work on the page - you have to say it:
Q. "How do you get two whales in ten minutes?"
A "The M4"
makes no sense but the alternative meaning is partially hidden depending on the emphasis on two/to
Q. "How do you get to Wales in ten minutes?"
that joke can be precisely crafted so that the emphasis is ambiguous and it's the half second of cognitive dissonance, processing time and resolution that makes us laugh. The presence of Baner Cymru [R] in the background will require a change in the timing!
But up to a certain age, children will modify this joke as
How do you get two dolphins in ten minutes? or
How do you get to Scotland quickly?

Here's an article called How children develop a sense of humor which really isn't up to much. It claims that there is an age threshold for 'getting' jokes but acknowledges that kids develop at different speeds. It also says that humor depends upon incongruity realisation - as in the Wales/Whales joke above. It seems that humor is an essential part of normal human behaviour, that cracking jokes helps socialisation and cognitive development. Irony is at the heart of "incongruity realisation", and I'm afraid I'm addicted to it. I'm very rarely sarcastic (a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt) but [too] often ironic. And it annoys me when people don't know the difference in meaning between the two words. On the contrary, it grieves me when people miss the irony and consider me cruel and abusive . . . because I'm really a nice guy - my Mum has been telling me so since before I cracked my first joke.

In desperation, trying to find the two missing joke books, I sent out a calling-all-cars message to my adult children asking if they knew where they might be. Which is code for "have you stolen a book from the family home?". Dau.II denied all knowledge but pointed me at which includes these samples of childish hilarity:
what do you call a deer with no legs and arms?
still no idea 
​were does a bum live? 
in your toilet
why did the elephant eat a pig ? 
because he was bored 
which are excellent examples of the missing-the-point point I made above. The first is a mangling of rather a good joke:
What do you call a blind artiodactyl? [previodactyls]
No idea = a no-eyed deer
What do you call a blind artiodactyl with an arrow through its head?
Still no idea
the middle joke is just the licence to say poo, so deserves to be coloured brown
I'll have to work on the last joke but it must be something to doo doo with boar and bore being homophones.
What boggles my rational mind is why each or any of these should solicit hundreds of retweets and likes. Is this what the internet is for? Are server-farms across the globe keeping tabs on this nonsense?

There is a whole other line which I'm not going to address here about whether girls are funny, but I'll give you one example. 12 years ago when Dau.II was 10 and her sister 12, we went to England and back on the ferry. The return journey left Pembroke at 0245 hrs and, late at night ,we dropped into Tesco to get the makings of a picnic. At the dockside, after this scratch meal, the back of the car was a litter of bread-crumbs, orange peels and packaging.
The Beloved (brightly) "Who wants a wet-wipe?"
Dau.II "No thanks, I'm stuffed"

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