I think humor is anything that causes me laughter or amusement, forgetting “humor” was coined many moons ago to describe a person whose temperament is out of balance. Lately I’m reminded what amuses some, is way out of balance to others.
NUNS ON THE BUS.
Network is the Catholic social justice lobby and this (2012) summer a group of religious order Sisters toured under the banner “Sisters driving for faith, family and fairness.”
The catchy phrase amused those who perceived the incongruity of members of a religious order doing what rock stars do, touring on a bus. However, The Catholic Register ran a story about it with a headline that called this a publicity stunt that did harm.
Incongruity amuses but not always.
THE GOD PARTICLE. In early July news came of the discovery of an elementary particle referred to as Higgs Boson. I will leave to scientists to explain; but this is BIG news. BIG. This particle was known as The God Particle, a phrase coined by Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman, Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Lederman used exaggeration to convey magnitude. However many scientists found the phrase misleading and harmful.
Exaggeration amuses but not always.
Incongruity and exaggeration are two ways humor happens. For fun, here are three more:
SATIRE. It is satire if it makes fun of human foibles we share, such as men refusing to ask for directions. Okay, only half of us share this foible, but it’s a good example.
IRONY. It is irony if one thing is said but intends the opposite, such as “men who don’t ask directions are the smartest creatures on the face of the planet.”
BUFFOONERY. It is buffoonery if it is acting clumsy and boorish to try to be funny, as when a man who won’t ask directions tells a joke to his hopelessly lost passengers to make them laugh.
Sometimes incongruity, exaggeration, satire, irony and buffoonery amuse, but watch out for RIDICULE. Ridicule is deriding someone scornfully to make others laugh. Not funny. Ever.