Monday 20 December 2010

Paul McDonald writing for the Independent believes he’s found the world’s oldest joke and it’s a good indication of just how much humour dates.

According to McDonald the oldest recorded joke came from ancient Sumer (1900-1600 BC) and includes both sexism and flatulence:

Something that’s never been known since time immemorial: a young lady who doesn’t break wind in her husband’s lap.

Much of the humour would have come from the taboo of farting, but the relatively risque situation of a woman on a man’s lap may have increased the laughs. But it’s hard to even see where the humour is so McDonald also uses England’s oldest recorded joke from the 10th century manuscript, the Exeter Codex:

Question: What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.

McDonald acknowledges “recognise its double entendre as typically British, it’s not exactly side-splitting”. It has evolved into something that we recognise as a question-answer joke. But jokes play an important social role. According to McDonald jokes “replaced social grooming as the main bonding device between early humans. Humour can facilitate and reinforce communal ties; we use jokes to make friends, a function so important that we don’t let corniness get in the way.”

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20 December 2010

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On Saturday the US repealed its controversial policy on gays and lesbians serving in the military not revealing their sexuality. Better known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy had long been criticised as marginalising gay and lesbian servicemen and women.

Writing in the Huffington Post, former tennis great Billie Jean King said the decision “should have been a no-brainer” which she sees as “a celebration of doing the right thing”. She praised President Obama’s role in the decision likening it to President Harry Truman’s 1948 Executive Order to integrate African Americans into the military.

She concluded saying:

I am proud to be an American and I am honored to have the men and women who serve in our armed forces put their lives on the line to protect our nation. Their race, gender or sexual orientation does not matter to me. What matters most is their commitment to our country.

The Atlantic reported on Friday that former presidential candidate John McCain was making a “last stand” to keep the controversial law. The magazine reports fragments of McCain’s speech:

“There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America,” he [McCain] predicted, from “the elite schools that bar military recruiters from campus” to “the salons of Georgetown” and the “talk shows” where people — “most of whom have never have served in the military” — will crow over the law’s repeal.

One of the “crowing” talk shows will be Ellen Degeneres who applauded the move on Twitter saying “Thank you Senators for pushing us one step closer towards full equality.”

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20 December 2010

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playBryceCourtenay

With the publication of his latest book, Fortune Cookie, Bryce Courtenay cements his reputation as one of Australia’s most popular novelists. It’s surprising then that he came to writing late in life – after another life as an advertising executive and looking after his son.

He recalls the loss of his son Damon, a haemophiliac who contracted AIDs, and how this personal tragedy led him to write April Fool’s Day. He also recalls his advertising career that gave him material for Fortune Cookie.

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