Laughing with Google Book Search

Thursday, March 08, 2007 at 4:15 PM

I'm currently reading Sigmund Freud's Jokes and Their Relation to the get some new material, of course! You see, along with Freud's analysis of humor, he also recounts some jokes that aren’t half bad. They all date from around 1905, which means that a couple of them fall flat. Connoisseurs of comedy in our audience, however, may enjoy anecdotes such as this one:
The King condescended to visit a surgical clinic and came on the professor as he was carrying out the amputation of a leg. He accompanied all its stages with loud expressions of his royal satisfaction: 'Bravo! bravo! my dear professor!' When the operation was finished, the professor approached him and asked him with a deep bow: 'It is your Majesty's command that I should remove the other leg too?'

In all seriousness, there's a lot of humorous material available on Google Book Search, especially if you have a taste for bygone ways of joking. Here’s Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, one of the most celebrated works of American wit. Be warned, though, that the humor in this title is driven entirely by cynicism. For example:
FRIENDSHIP, n. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

FROG, n. A reptile with edible legs.

We kindly ask that the pedants among you hold your emails, as we're aware that a frog isn't a reptile! For more humorous titles on Google Book Search, have a look at this series of titles that collects American, French and German humor. Or, if you want a tailor-made joke, try searching for “joke + [your keywords of choice]” on Google Book Search — the possibilities are endless.


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