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"So I said, 'Old man, for whom diggest thou this grave
In the heart of London town?
“We're laying a gas-pipe down!'”
2. By Aggrandizing Insignificant Things. This is known as the mock-heroic. “The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice” is a familiar example; so also in Pope's “Rape of the Lock," and numerous other examples are found in the writings of Pope.
3. By Representing Objects in an Unusual Light by means of Striking Imagery.—There are many ways in which this is done. One of the most important is that in which necessity is attributed as a virtue. See the following:
“The advantage of the medical profession is that the dead are distinguished by a wonderful charity and discretion; we never hear them complain of the physic that has killed them.”
Others of these varieties are where the literal and the figurative language are artfully confounded, where personal attributes are assigned to what is by its very nature incapable of possessing them, and where there is an apparent contrariety. See the following example:
“Good people all, with one accord
Lament for Madam Blaize,
From those who spoke her praise.
With manners wondrous winning;
Unless when she was sinning." When Landseer, the great painter of animals, asked Sydney Smith to sit for his picture, Smith replied, “Iy thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?"
“Men dying make their wills,
But wives escape a task so sad;
The gentle dames have had ?"
4. By Paronomasia, or the Play upon Words.—This is what is usually known as the Pun. Here the unexpected relation is not between ideas, but between words.
Character.—The pun is considered an inferior species of wit, and it is sometimes carried to excess; but there are few to whom it is not sometimes a source of amusement.
The following are puns, but at the same time they are witty, and probably have been enjoyed by every one on first making their acquaintance:
From Hood.-" And the doctor told the sexton,
And the sexton tolled the bell.”
From Franklin._“You are a member of Parliament, and one of the majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun to burn our towns and murder our people. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations! You and I were long friends. You are now my enemy, and I am
B. FRANKLIN.” From Franklin.-When Hancock, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, urged upon the signers the necessity of union, saying, “We must all hang together,” “Yes,” replied Franklin, “or we shall all hang separately.”
“They say thine eyes, like sunny skies,
Thy chief attraction form ;
They take one all by storm.”
The pun may consist not in a double meaning, but in the similar pronunciation of two different words, as in the follow. ing, a baker's advertisement:
“The subscriber, knowing that all men need bread, wishes the public to know that he also kneads it. He is desirous of feeding all who are hungry, and hopes his good works may be in the mouth of every one. He is well-disposed toward all men; and the best-bred people among us will find him, he hopes, one of the best bread-men in the city."
The habit of making puns, especially in writing, is not to be encouraged. A great punster is apt to become a great bore, who insists on making even serious conversation ridiculous by his constant play upon words. Wit of this kind should be the seasoning, not the substance, of conversation.
Humor in some respects resembles wit, but it has more of good-nature in it. The aim of humor is to raise a laugh. When it goes beyond this, as when the object of the laugh is to influence the opinion or purpose of others, humor becomes ridicule.
Prof. E. P. Whipple makes the following distinctions between wit and humor:
“Wit laughs at things; humor laughs with them. Wit lashes external appearances, or cunningly exaggerates single foibles into character; humor glides into the heart of its object, looks lovingly on the infirmities it detects, and represents the whole man:
“Wit is abrupt, darting, scornful, and tosses its analogies in your face; humor is slow and shy, insinuating its fun into your heart. Wit is negative, analytical, destructive; humor is creative."
Humor is Kindly.-Humor has the same elements as wit, incongruity and surprise, but it has the additional characteristic of being kindly. We laugh at those against whom a good story is told, but we laugh in a good-natured and kindly way. Humor differs from wit in never being bitter or malignant.
Thackeray says: “The best humor is that which contains most humanity—that which is flavored throughout with tenderness and kindness."
Humor is more continuous than wit. Wit is sudden and short-lived, and comes by flashes, while humor may extend through a whole production.
Sources of Humor.-Among the chief sources of humor, as given by Prof. Hill, are
1. Playful Freedom of Expression.-See the following from Hawthorne's “Rill from the Town Pump":
“Welcome, most rubicund sir! You and I have been great strangers hitherto; nor, to confess the truth, will my nose be anxious for a closer intimacy till the fumes of your breath be a little less potent. Mercy on you, man! the water absolutely hisses down! Fill again, and tell me, on the word of an honest toper, did you ever, in cellar, tavern, or any kind of dramshop, spend the price of your children's food for a swig half so delicious ? Now, for the first time these ten years, you know the flavor of cold water. Goodbye, and whenever you are thirsty remember that I keep a constant supply at the old stand.”
2. Human Failings, when spoken of without severity, as in the characters portrayed by Dickens, Thackeray, and Irving.
3. Joking about One’s Self.—This always produces effective humor.
A lecturer remarked of himself that on one occasion he was taken by the porter of a hotel for a hardware agent, and on inquiring the reason for the porter's opinion, the latter said it was because of the heaviness of the lecturer's traveling satchel. “Oh," said the lecturer, "you think I carry my samples in that? No, I have in there what I call my moving lecture.”
VARIETIES OF STYLE. We find on examination that scarcely any two writers or speakers express precisely the same thoughts on a given subject. But we find also that authors differ very greatly in their mode of expressing even similar sentiments. This manner of expression, which is peculiar to one's manner of speaking or writing, is called his style.
Every speaker or writer has his own peculiar style, but there are accompanying all styles some distinctive general features which enable us to classify the various styles. The most important kinds of style are known as the Dry, the Plain, the Neat, the Elegant, the Florid, the Simple, the Labored, the Concise, the Diffuse, the Nervous, and the Feeble. The first five named differ chiefly as to the amount of ornament introduced.
A Dry Style excludes all ornament. Its only aim is to be understood. It therefore considers clearness alone. A dry style is not to be tolerated except in didactic writing, and even there a neat style is preferable.
A Plain Style rises a degree higher than a dry style. No effort is made to introduce ornament, but harshness is avoided. The essential qualities of style, purity, propriety, and precision, are carefully employed, and such figures are introduced as naturally suggest themselves, while such as only embellish are discarded. Locke and