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COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY
FIRST EDITION PUBLISHED APRIL, 1914
SECOND EDITION, REVISED, PUBLISHED
THIRD EDITION, REVISED, PUBLISHED
Nothing so frightens a man as the announcement that he is expected to respond to a toast on some appallingly near-by occasion. All ideas he may ever have had on the subject melt away and like a drowning man he clutches furiously at the nearest solid object. This book is intended for such rescue purpose, buoyant and trustworthy but, it is to be hoped, not heavy.
Let the frightened toaster turn first to the key word of his topic in this dictionary alphabet of selections and perchance he may find toast, story, definition or verse that may felicitously introduce his remarks. Then as he proceeds to outline his talk and to put it into sentences, he may find under one of the many subject headings a bit which will happily and scintillatingly drive home the ideas he is unfolding.
While the larger part of the contents is humorous, there are inserted many quotations of a serious nature which may serve as appropriate literary ballast.
The jokes and quotes gathered for the toaster have been placed under the subject headings where it seemed that they might be most useful, even at the risk of the joke turning on the compilers. To extend the usefulness of such pseudo-cataloging, cross references, similar and dissimilar to those of a library card catalog, have been included.
Should a large number of the inclusions look familiar, let us remark that the friends one likes best are those who have been already tried and trusted and are the most welcome in times of need.
there are stories of a rising generation, whose acquaintance all may enjoy.
Nearly all these new and old friends have before this made their bow in print and since it was rarely certain where they first appeared, little attempt has been made to credit any source for them. The compilers hereby make a sweeping acknowledgment to the "funny editors” of many books and periodicals.
IM Bindery 9.
ON THE POSSESSION OF A SENSE
"Man," says Hazlitt, “is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.” The sources, then, of laughter and tears come very close together. At the difference between things as they are and as they ought to be we laugh, or we weep; it would depend, it seems, on the point of view, or the temperament. And if, as Horace Walpole once said, “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel,” it is the thinking half of humanity that, at the sight of life's incongruities, is moved to laughter, the feeling half to tears. A sense of humor, then, is the possession of the thinking half, and the humorists must be classified at once with the thinkers.
If one were asked to go further than this and to give offhand a definition of humor, or of that elusive quality, a sense of humor, he might find himself confronted with a difficulty. Yet certain things about it would be patent at the outset: Women haven't it; Englishmen haven't it; it is the chiefest of the virtues, for tho a man speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if he have not humor we will have none of him. Women may continue to laugh over those innocent and innocuous incidents which they find amusing; may continue to write the most delightful of stories and essays—consider Jane Austen and our own Miss Repplier-over which appreciative readers may continue to chuckle; Englishmen may continue, as in the past to produce the most exquisite of the world's humorous literature—think of Charles Lamb—yet the fundamental faith of mankind will remain unshaken: women have no sense of humor, and an Englishman cannot see a joke! And the ability to "see a joke" is the infallible American test of the sense of humor.
But taking the matter seriously, how would one define humor? When in doubt, consult the dictionary, is, as always, an excellent motto, and, following it, we find that our trustworthy friend, Noah Webster, does not fail us. Here is his definition of humor, ready to hand: humor is “the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating ludicrous or absurdly incongruous elements in ideas, situations, happenings, or acts," with the added information that it is distinguished from wit as “less purely intellectual and having more kindly sympathy with human nature, and as often blended with pathos.” A friendly rival in lexicography defines the same prized human attribute more lightly as “a facetious turn of thought,” or more specifically in literature, as "a sportive exercise of the imagination that is apparent in the choice and treatment of an idea or theme." Isn't there something about that word “sportive,” on the lips of so learned an authority, that tickles the fancy-appeals to the sense of humor?
Yet if we peruse the dictionary further, especially if we approach that monument to English scholarship, the great Murray, we shall find that the problem of defining humor is not so simple as it might seem; for the word that we use so glibly, with so sure a confidence in its stability, has had a long and varied history and has answered to many aliases. When Shakespeare called a man “humorous” he meant that he was changeable and capricious, not that he was given to a facetious turn of thought or to a “sportive” exercise of the imagination. When he talks in “The Taming of the Shrew" of "her mad and headstrong humor” he doesn't mean to imply that Kate is a practical joker. It is interesting to note in passing that the old meaning of the word still lingers in the verb "to humor.” A woman still humors her spoiled child and her cantankerous husband when she yields to their capriciousness. By going back a step further in history, to the late fourteenth century, we meet Chaucer's physician who knew “the cause of everye maladye, and where engendered and of what humour” and find that Chaucer is not speaking of a mental state at all, but is referring to those physiological humours of which, according to Hippocrates, the human body contained four: blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile, and by which the disposition was determined. We find, too, that at one time a "humour” meant any animal or plant fluid, and again any kind of moisture. “The skie hangs full of humour, and I think