Lan­guage filled with laugh­ter

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Style - BER­NADETTE KINLAW

Laugh­ter is an im­por­tant part of life, and I get as much prac­tice as I can.

The Amer­i­can Her­itage Dic­tio­nary says the word “laugh” is im­i­ta­tive, or meant to sound like what it de­scribes. (Think of “buzz” and “clang.”) Its roots in­clude an Old English word, hliehhan. I won’t pre­tend to know how to pro­nounce any Old English word, but ap­par­ently that first sound would be breathy, so it must sound some­thing like “ha-ha.”

“Laugh­ter” is spelled a lot like “daugh­ter,” but, be­cause this is English, the two are pro­nounced dif­fer­ently.

“Laugh” is a broad word but still has many syn­onyms.

You “gig­gle” or “tit­ter” if you’re a bit shy or ner­vous.

A “chuckle” is a quick, quiet laugh. I was sur­prised to read that, be­cause I thought a chuckle was more of a goofy laugh.

A “guf­faw” is a loud, punc­tu­ated burst of laugh­ter. This both­ers me be­cause I laugh like this all the time, but I’m not fond of the word “guf­faw.”

When you laugh ex­tra hard, you “crack up,” “break up” or “roar.” A par­tic­u­larly good joke might split your sides, but, if you’re lucky, not lit­er­ally.

A dis­turb­ing num­ber of syn­onyms for “laugh” add a qual­ity of de­ri­sion. You’re not be­ing kind when you “cackle,” “hee-haw,” “snicker” or “chor­tle” at some­one.

Cack­ling is what chick­ens do, and hee-haw is the sound of a don­key. Snick­er­ing shows dis­re­spect. I’m not sure what a chor­tle sounds like, though peo­ple seem to chor­tle in books a lot. English writer Lewis Car­roll cre­ated the word “chor­tle” in 1871 in Through the Look­ing-Glass, com­bin­ing “chuckle” and “snort.”

Those are com­mon ways to name laugh­ter. I found a few more words re­lated to laugh­ter that cracked me up.

The ad­jec­tive “ab­de­rian” de­scribes ex­ces­sive laugh­ter. The word al­ludes to Dem­ocri­tus, “the laugh­ing philoso­pher,” who was a na­tive of Ab­dera. He was among the first to de­velop the atomic the­ory of the uni­verse. I liked this guy un­til I found out his nick­name came from his hobby of pub­licly mock­ing peo­ple.

“Cachin­na­tion” is ex­ces­sive laugh­ter.

“Ris­i­bil­ity” is one’s abil­ity or in­cli­na­tion to laugh. This trait should be in­cluded on re­sumes.

“Gelo­to­scopy” is like palm read­ing for your laugh. Ap­par­ently gelo­to­scopy ex­plains what your laugh says about your char­ac­ter or your fu­ture. Snick­er­ers be­ware.

Laugh­ter is in many of our say­ings.

He laughed all the way to the bank.

This would be a lit­tle dis­con­cert­ing to wit­ness. The phrase comes from a per­son mak­ing money in a way that oth­ers doubted would suc­ceed. This made me think of the in­ven­tor of Chia Pets.

She’ll be laugh­ing out of the other side of her mouth.

This means that she’ll humbly learn her view was wrong. I can’t be sure which is the hum­ble side of the mouth.

This re­port card is no laugh­ing mat­ter.

to laugh at. I have yet to hear some­one tell me some­thing is a laugh­ing mat­ter.

Laugh­ter is the best medicine.

This means if you’re ail­ing in any way, laugh­ter will help you feel bet­ter. I be­lieve that.

When you laugh up your sleeve, you’re dis­creet. But, un­less your shirt is sound­proof, you’re go­ing to get caught.

He who laughs last laughs long­est (or best.)

I fig­ured the guy who takes the long­est to un­der­stand the joke laughs last. In­stead, the ex­pres­sion is sim­i­lar to “slow and steady wins the race.” You may take a while to get to the laugh­ter, but when you get there, it will last.

Laugh and the world laughs

with you.

I like to think this is true. This is the first part of an old Latin phrase that ended with “weep and the world weeps with you.” But then peo­ple be­came cyn­i­cal, I guess, and by the 19th cen­tury, the ex­pres­sion in­stead ended with “weep and you weep alone.”

In jour­nal­ism school, they teach us not to con­fuse laugh­ing with talk­ing.

Wrong: “We feel guilty that we carved our ini­tials in the table,” he laughed.

I don’t know the sci­ence in­volved, but it’s not easy to laugh out words.

Bet­ter: “We feel guilty that we carved our ini­tials in the table,” he said, laugh­ing.

They also tell us not to write a photo cap­tion that says peo­ple are “shar­ing a laugh.” When I see this, I imag­ine one man laugh­ing then telling the woman nearby that her turn to laugh is next. Laugh­ter is free; we don’t need to share it.

One last thing. The kook­aburra, a big Aus­tralian bird, sup­pos­edly makes a sound like don­key laugh­ter. Here’s a short­cut link to a YouTube video of ac­tual, not at all don­key­ish kook­abur­ras hoot­ing: arkansason­line.com/211kook­aburra

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