Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Laugh and the World Laughs with You

Dour, unsmiling, mirthless: this describes an agelast, one who never laughs. It’s a great word, and it comes to us from the Greek verb gelaein, to laugh, plus the negative particle a-, not. Some other English words denoting laughter come from the Latin verb ridere, to laugh, which gave us the roots rid- and ris-.

• gelasin: a dimple in the cheek, produced by smiling.
• gelastic: serving the function of laughter; risible
• gelophobia: fear of laughter
• hypergelast: excessive laugher
• rident: radiantly cheerful
• ridibundal: inclined to laughter
• risible: given to laughter
• risorial: risible
• risus: an involuntary grin resulting from a morbid condition
• subrident: smiling

Shakespearean joke:

Macbeth is standing watch on a castle parapet at Dunsinane when a messenger rushes in, breathless and with a look of abject fear on his face.

Macbeth demands, “What is it, man? Tell thy story quickly.”

The messenger points a shaky finger at the field below and says,” Cheese it--the copse!”

SIDEBAR: The Stress Management and Health Benefits of Laughter

SIDEBAR: How Laughter Works

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Coming soon from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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