British, American, and German Senses of Humour

The reason why Britons believe that the Germans have no sense of humour is a language problem, not a humour problem. One example:

The German phenomenon of compound words also serves to confound the English sense of humour. In English there are many words that have double or even triple meanings, and whole sitcom plot structures have been built on the confusion that arises from deploying these words at choice moments. Once again, German denies us this easy option. There is less room for doubt in German because of the language’s infinitely extendable compound words. In English we surround a noun with adjectives to try to clarify it. In German, they merely bolt more words on to an existing word. Thus a federal constitutional court, which in English exists as three weak fragments, becomes Bundesverfassungsgericht, a vast impregnable structure that is difficult to penetrate linguistically.

Why many Americans miss the irony in British humour.

It’s not so much about having a different sense of humour as a different approach to life. More demonstrative than we are, Americans are not embarrassed by their emotions. They clap louder, cheer harder and empathise more unconditionally. It’s an openness that always leaves me feeling slightly guilty and apologetic when American personalities appear on British chat shows and find their jokes and stories met with titters, not guffaws, or their achievements met with silent appreciation, rather than claps and yelps. We don’t like them any less, we just aren’t inclined to give that much of ourselves away. Meanwhile, as a Brit on an American chat show, it’s difficult to endure prolonged whooping without intense, red-faced smirking.

via Mind Hacks

2 thoughts on “British, American, and German Senses of Humour

  1. Pingback: Bryce Corkins – Design » Weekly Recommended Reading

  2. Phillippa Ewing

    Hi Bryce, I wonder whether I’ve caught the American sense of humor/our?
    Prolonged exposure seems to have bred wild hilarity in me on occasion. But maybe it is familial. In the 1950s, my older brother attended a British radio show, the Goon Show, and stopped the recording due to his unbridled hysteria. But it could also be exposure to Eric.

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