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"Too soon?"

Humor is an odd thing. The only restriction on it--and I do mean only--seems to be whether the subject matter is joked about "too soon."

In a community set up to celebrate fun things about grammar, someone made a post in the form of a news story about Hurricane Katrina, employing several puns on water- and flood-related terms. If I understand correctly, it was inspired by an actual news item in which some reporter unwittingly said about the unpredictable rising speed of Lake Pontchartrain, "The lake situation is fluid."

The spoof post sparked a deluge (heh) of criticism--probably because when you ask, "Too soon?", the answer in this case is definitely yes. People are still trapped, people are still dying, the final damage is yet to be tallied. I figure anyone is entitled to make puns if they wish, but yeah, they've got to expect some backlash at this stage.

But not if they had waited a while. After all, a frivolous post about a hurricane in 1846 wouldn't have riled anyone up. Similarly, there's an item labeled a "Bagel Guillotine" here in our office kitchen, which offends no one, and even amuses most of us; whereas a couple years after 1789, I bet it would not have been very funny. (And for historical accuracy, I suppose it would have likelier been called a "Crumpet Guillotine" anyway.)


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 31st, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
From Family Guy
"That was lamer than FDR's legs."


"Too soon?"
Aug. 31st, 2005 02:38 pm (UTC)
Re: From Family Guy
Exactly. :) (I'd consider FDR mostly fair game by now...but the time limit does vary per individual.)
Aug. 31st, 2005 03:57 pm (UTC)
Re: From Family Guy
What about Stewies JFK Jr joke? "Ooh, even I think that was in poor taste!"
Aug. 31st, 2005 02:53 pm (UTC)
Tragedy + Time = Comedy
Mel Brooks
Aug. 31st, 2005 03:17 pm (UTC)
Ah, that's the formula I vaguely remembered! Well put, and he ought to know. He's a genius at it.
Aug. 31st, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC)
I dunno, I've been debating all day long re posting a joke about a man who dies in a flood. So maybe I am not your best referent.
Sep. 1st, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
Humour is a funny thing. Sometimes it works by being close to the bone - but if you're actually scraping the bone, you're probably going too far.

I remember people making jokes about the tsunami, which seemed very tasteless. There were also a lot of jokes about the July 7 bombings here in London, but they were made by Londoners with a kind of grim determination, so they feel more acceptable.
Sep. 1st, 2005 06:50 pm (UTC)
True - it also depends who makes the joke!
Sep. 2nd, 2005 08:36 am (UTC)
It is actually strange that we are so afraid of making fun of the things which we are afraid of. I think it makes us fear even more.

I mean, e.g. cancer jokes are not widely considered socially acceptable.
Sep. 2nd, 2005 11:45 am (UTC)
True - which is why Brain Candy from Kids in the Hall, with good ol' "Cancer Boy," was so wickedly funny. :)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )