But not because we’re afraid of ice cream. Or gelato. Which was what puzzled me when I ran across the word “gelatophobia” when Googling something yesterday.
Predictably, I read it wrong. It’s “gelotophobia.” And it has nothing to do with ice cream. It’s the fear of being laughed at.
A related term is “gelotophilia,” the joy of being laughed at.
Best of all, and probably most familiar to all of us, “katagelasticism” — the joy of laughing at others.
What got me started on this was reading Bikesnobnyc, a blog that gleefully makes fun of anything bike-related that smacks of faddishness or pretension. Not solely bike-related — he’s quite happy to take potshots at passing minimalists, for instance — but mostly. I started wondering at the derisibility of his targets, then wondered if that’s actually a word, then Googled it and wound up briefly startled that anyone would be afraid of ice cream. The hit was: “Were they really laughed at? That much? Gelotophobes and their history of perceived derisibility.”
It appears to be an actual article in an actual periodical, “Humor: International Journal of Humor Research.” That by itself was good for a laugh. Somebody put one over on Wikipedia, I thought. But if they did, they did a very convincing job of it.
The editors, editorial board members and consulting editors are all academics, but I couldn’t help wondering. There’s someone named Goh Abe. “But I just got here,” I say. There’s someone else from the University of Pecs. Can the University of Abs be far behind? It’s the kind of list that Haywood Jablowme ought to be on. And the motto: “Don’t look here, the joke is in your hand.”
OK, kidding about the motto. Still, my suspicions aside, the thing seems to be on the up and up. It’s been publishing since 1989, and its website has a helpful list of its articles, including:
- Schizophrenics’ Appreciation of Humorous Therapeutic Interventions.
- Humor in Marital Adjustment.
- The Engendered Blow Job: Bakhtin’s Comic Dismemberment and the Pornography of Georges Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye’ (1928).
- Hairy Turkish Cartoons.
- Humor as Defeated Discourse Expectations: Conversational Exchange in a Monty Python Text.
- Humor and Anality.
- The Politics of Dirty Jokes: Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Andrew Dice Clay, Groucho Marx, and Clarence Thomas.
- Sexual Humor on Freud as Expressed in Limericks.
- Irony Comprehension: The Graded Salience Hypothesis.
- Humor in Apes.
- Quisling Humor in Hitler’s Norway: Its Wartime Function and Postwar Legacy.
Maybe The New Yorker’s Robert Mankoff was thinking about “Humor in Apes” when he wrote about “The Monkeys You Ordered,” a site that sends up the magazine’s cartoon contest. It’s a funny piece. The examples he gives of the site’s work are pretty funny, too.
Bikesnob (and maybe Paul Krugman, too) could glean insight from “Irony Comprehension: The Graded Salience Hypothesis” if it answers the question “why don’t people get it when I’m obviously making fun of something?”
I was going to take a look at the Monkeys site, but apparently Mankoff’s readers have crashed it. Servers down. Now who’s laughing?
In the meantime, maybe I’ll check out some of those hairy Turkish cartoons. Or work on my Freud limericks. “There once was a Jungian analyst…”
And maybe I’ll make some money off all this. I think I’ll start an exercise program called kelatogelastics.
It’s like calisthenics, except you do it sitting at a computer. You pay me $100, we read Bikesnob together. Much laughter, good workout for core muscles. Pay me another $25 and we read Mankoff (he writes less often, that’s the only reason for the price break). Ditto the New Yorker cartoons. You get a good workout and a good laugh, I get $100, maybe $150 if you go for the whole Monty, so to speak.
Just as calcium strengthens regular bones, laughing at others strengthens funny bones. And makes me fabulously wealthy if I play it right. Meanwhile, I’m not sure about the Quislings, but I’d like to know more about that engendered blow job.