Bridgetymology – Humor

WHO DOESN’T LOVE HUMOR? I’M SURE MOST OF US DO! HUMOR LIVENS UP A MOMENT, LOWERS THE STRESS LEVEL, AND ACCORDING TO RESEARCH, IT CAN ACTUALLY IMPROVE A PERSON’S PHYSICAL IMMUNE SYSTEM.

HERE AT BRIDGET, WE’RE HUGE FANS OF EXPANDING OUR VOCABULARY AND BECOMING BETTER COMMUNICATORS. THAT IS WHY TODAY, ASHA BREAKS DOWN THE WORD ‘HUMOR’.

humor definition

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINES HUMOR AS:

1. NOUN: QUALITY OR MENTAL FACULTY OF DISCOVERING, EXPRESSING OR APPRECIATING THAT WHICH IS        LUDICROUS OR ABSURDLY INCONGRUOUS, AKA THE ABILITY TO BE FUNNY OR APPRECIATE SOMETHING THAT IS FUNNY.

2. VERB: TO SOOTHE OR CONTENT (SOMEONE) WITH INDULGENCE OR ADAPTABILITY.

history of the word humor

THE LATIN ROOT WAS HUMOR MEANING “MOISTURE”, WHICH WAS CARRIED INTO OLD FRENCH “UMOUR” MEANING LIQUID OR DAMPNESS. RIGHT AWAY YOU CAN SEE THAT THIS IS CLEARLY A ROOT ORIGIN SHARED WITH THE WORD HUMIDITY, RIGHT? FROM THERE, IT WAS CARRIED INTO MIDDLE ENGLISH AS HUMOR, REFERRING TO THE FLUID OR JUICE OF AN ANIMAL OR PLANT. THE MOST COMMON USE OF HUMOR AT THE TIME WAS IN OLD MEDICINE. HUMORISM WAS THE MEDICAL THEORY FOR CATEGORISING THE FOUR BODY FLUIDS AS THE FOUR HUMORS: BLOOD, PHLEGM, CHOLOR, AND MELANCHOLY (OR BLACK BILE). THE CONCEPT OF HUMORISM IS THOUGHT TO HAVE ORIGINATED IN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN MEDICINE AND WAS SYSTEMIZED BY ANCIENT GREEK PHYSICIANS AND PHILOSOPHERS. ONE LEADING THEORY SUGGESTS THAT THE FOUR HUMORS WERE BASED UPON THE OBSERVATION OF BLOOD CLOTTING IN A GLASS CONTAINER; AFTER SITTING AN HOUR, FOUR DIFFERENT LAYERS CAN BE SEEN IN THE BLOOD.

EACH OF THE FOUR HUMORS WERE ASSOCIATED WITH A DIFFERENT BODY PART. BLOOD CAME FROM THE HEART, PHLEGM FROM THE BRAIN, YELLOW BILE FROM THE LIVER, AND BLACK BILE FROM THE SPLEEN. GALEN AND AVICENNA ATTRIBUTED CERTAIN ELEMENTAL QUALITIES TO EACH HUMOR. BLOOD WAS HOT AND MOIST, LIKE AIR; PHLEGM WAS COLD AND MOIST, LIKE WATER; YELLOW BILE WAS HOT AND DRY, LIKE FIRE; AND BLACK BILE WAS COLD AND DRY, LIKE EARTH. IN EFFECT, THE HUMAN BODY WAS A MICROCOSM OF THE LARGER WORLD.

THEIR RELATIVE PROPORTIONS WERE THOUGHT TO DETERMINE PHYSICAL CONDITION AND STATE OF MIND, THEIR TEMPERAMENT OR DISPOSITION. THIS GAVE HUMOR AN EXTENDED SENSE OF “MOOD, TEMPORARY STATE OF MIND.” AND MORE RECENTLY HUMOR HAS COME TO REFER TO SOMETHING THAT IS FUNNY.

humor and humility

WHEN I WAS DIVING INTO THE ETYMOLOGY OF HUMOR, AND CONNECTED IT TO THE ROOT OF HUMID, I STARTED TO WONDER WHETHER THE SAME ROOT WORD WAS THE ORIGIN OF THE WORDS HUMBLE, HUMILITY.

MERRIAM WEBSTER DEFINES HUMILITY AS FREEDOM FROM PRIDE OR ARROGANCE, THE QUALITY OF BEING HUMBLE. HUMBLE MEANS NOT THINKING YOU ARE BETTER THAN OTHER PEOPLE.

INTERESTINGLY, THE ROOT OF HUMILITY IS NOT THE SAME AS THE ROOT OF HUMOR, THOUGH THEY SOUND SIMILAR. WHILE HUMOR COMES FROM THE LATIN WORD FOR MOISTURE, HUMOR… HUMILITY COMES FROM THE LATIN ROOT HUMUS, MEANING OF THE EARTH. FROM THERE, IT EVOLVED TO THE LATIN HUMILIS WHICH MEANT LOWLY, OR ON THE GROUND.

FROM THERE, IT BECAME THE LATIN HUMILITATEM, MEANING LOWNESS, SMALL STATURE, MEEKNESS, OR INSIGNIFICANCE. WHEN IT WAS ADOPTED INTO OLD FRENCH, IT STARTED TO ASSUME A MORE DESIRABLE QUALITY, IN THE WORD UMELITE, MEANING MODESTY AND SWEETNESS. FROM THERE, ENGLISH STARTED USING THE H SOUND WITH HUMILITY.

WHILE THESE WORDS COME FROM DIFFERENT LATIN ROOTS, THE ORIGIN OF BOTH HUMOR AND HUMILITY — BOTH ATTRACTIVE TRAITS IN OUR PRESENT DAY– COME FROM WORDS REFERRING TO THE ELEMENTS. MOISTURE AND EARTH. THE NEXT TIME YOU THINK ABOUT ONE OF THESE QUALITIES IN YOURSELF OR IN OTHERS, MAYBE YOU’LL CONSIDER THAT THE FUNDAMENTAL MEANING OF THEM DRAWS US CLOSER TO THE ELEMENTS.

perspective

EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO LIVE LIFE WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR, TO NOT TAKE THINGS SO SERIOUSLY ALL THE TIME. HUMOR IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR LIVES, IT MAKES EVERYTHING SEEM BRIGHTER AND MAKES OUR WORLD A LOT MORE FUN TO BE IN.

HUMILITY IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM HUMOR IN TERMS OF DEFINITION. BUT THEY DO HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON, THAT IS POSITIVITY! AS MENTIONED, HUMOR IS FUN. AND HUMILITY IS FREEDOM FROM PRIDE AND ARROGANCE. TO HUMBLE ONESELF MEANS MODESTY AND AN ATTITUDE TO NOT THINK HIGHLY OF ONESELF.

TWO VERY IMPORTANT WORDS. WORDS THAT CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE WHEN PRACTICED IN OUR DAILY LIVES. HUMILITY KEEPS YOU GROUNDED, HUMOR KEEPS YOU SANE.

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