Inside Jokes, Quotes and Anecdotes - An Anatomy of Wit

Are the  Scots mean, the Germans organised, rude and overbearing, the Italians vain and self-preoccupied, the French romantic, the Japanese slaves to protocol and higher authority?

Do national stereotypes actually exist? How representative are they; how much can we generalise? Can we accept them?  If so, are they merely over-exaggerated caricatures represented by very few or are they meaningful to any real degree?

The main quest of this book is to investigate how we see others and how they see us. For instance, how widely distributed is the stage-Irishman … that hard drinking, romantic, larger than life “Playboy of the Western World” who creates havoc in literature, on the stage and in the movies. How many “Wild Gingermen” were there? Was this an “Irishman abroad” phenomenon and have they all been exported?  Where are the home-grown ones - the latter-day Brendan Behans – with their innate talent for creating disarray and controversy … and providing national entertainment.  Is there a stage-Chinaman out there - a “Playboy of the Eastern World” - creating callisthenic chaos or whatever his stereotype drives him to? 

The quest to solve this quandary, which engages the participation of the reader, involves an in-depth investigation of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English, Russian and American humour, along with a more superficial probing into our Continental Cousins. The “Irish Joke” and its variants receive special attention.

In addition, we investigate the role of the joke in our lives: what it is and where it comes from. We provide a framework to probe the basic elements of the joke, and discuss issues such as the joke’s relationship with humour, what is a good joke and how to tell a joke. A brief history of the joke’s evolution is presented, highlighting the influence of the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Renaissance and modern humour movements.

We also explore different types of witticisms associated with the various styles of speech that populate the English language and which accommodate diverse forms of inter-personal banter, such as irony, farce, absurdity, quips, epithets, epigrams, ripostes, repartee, puns, hyperbole …and many more expressions that are used to denote forms of humour and their impact in terms of cognitive, emotional and cultural experiences. Numerous examples, many of them celebrated(Churchill, Lady Astor, W C Fields, Wilde, Shaw, Coward …) illustrate the “set-pieces” listed above.  

Joke etiquette is highlighted   Controversial issues are discussed - censorship, impact, outrage and notoriety, the use of the f*ck word and blue comedy.

The final part of the book, A very mixed bag of jokes for almost all occasions, provides a collection of jokes for browsing. They have been grouped under headings such as Lawyers, Bankers and other Scumbags; Old Age and other Horrors; Marriage, Romance and other Sacrifices, and are included to debunk many of the elitist activities and professional nonsense to which the “little man” in our society has been subjected.

Mick Harkin
Apr 2013