Humour

 

'Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquillity.'
James Thurber

The British have a talent for caustic satire, gallows humour and painful put-downs (both of themselves and others), which reflects their tendency to stoicism in the face of adversity and self-denigration.

Whether it's dealing with a train strike, a screaming infant or a senile parent, a sense of humour is seen as one of life's essential tools. The most boring job can become tolerable if you can laugh with your colleagues about your boss's peculiarities. Even tragedies can become bearable if one can apply some gallows humour - "At least the house burning down means that we've finally got rid of Great-Aunt-Enid's china dog collection". This is especially true if you can maintain a sense of humour about yourself. As one comedian said, "The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused".

The trouble is that imposing your own sense of humour on to others can be perilous - smirking at the vicar's adenoidal utterances during a funeral may be your way of coping with your upset, but it could well cause offence with the grieving family. Regaling a dinner party with a smutty story that you find utterly hilarious may not take into account others' more delicate sensibilities.

Remember that if you are proud of your sense of humour, you need to be able to laugh at yourself: don't fall into the trap of thinking that everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else. Unfortunately, it is one of the awful truisms of life that they who boomingly insist that they have a terrific sense of humour are usually the least funny person you know.

SHARE THIS:
Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's new publication encompassing correct form, modern manners and everyday behaviour

search now
Debrett's Books

Debrett's Books

Debrett's Courses

Debrett's Courses

Training & Classes

Training & Classes

Providing the skills and confidence to be welcome and at ease in any professional or social situation.

search now
Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Explore and celebrate the many British rituals, customs and traditions that punctuate the year.

buy it now