August 31st, 2005

Froud - bad faeries

"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.)