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For Students: Laughing and joking in English

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

What makes you laugh? Do you laugh when people fall over or is it funnier when people fall off their chair. Do you laugh if someone farts or does an impression of someone you know? We all have a sense of humour – except Germans (a tongue-in-cheek joke) – and we all find different things funny.

Do you think we shouldn't joke about a subject? Do you get offended if you hear a racist joke, or a sexist one? Nowadays these types of jokes are taboo in countries like England and the US because of political correctness and how most people get offended by almost anything someone says. Move away from these countries to Eastern Europe and these jokes are still alive and kicking.

There are many different types of jokes from toilet humour jokes to situational stories to parodies. I like observational jokes. The jokes and stories that tell us about the everyday things we do, but we don't really know we are doing, until we are reminded of a joke. I like jokes that are witty and make you think. I think a play on words and puns can be hilarious. I'm not a fan of dick-and-fart jokes.

British humour is something that is looked at with curiosity. Seen as weird and baffling from the outside, but our jokes and humour is something I love about my country. I read somewhere that if two British people meet for the first time, a joke will be made within the first 90 seconds. We can laugh at ourselves. We can take the piss out of others – and often do – we use irony probably more than any other nationality and we are good at telling jokes. There are many popular stand ups from the UK and events in cities where we have open-mic nights where you can dare to stand up in front of everyone and tell a few jokes or stories and feel the euphoria of laughter after you tell the punchline. Or it could go the other way and you might get heckled off. Banter is a big part of British culture and winding people up is normal and happens among friends and family.

I wonder, can jokes from another country or culture really be understood? Regardless of how good your language skills are, will you ever truly understand? I have met people who have watched the same film, once in English and then again dubbed in their own language. The verdict was that the film was much funnier in the native language of the watcher. Could that be because it is adapted and subtle changes are made for that country's audience? Or simply because the cultural understanding is lost?

I'm going to end with two clips from a comedian called Michael Mcintyre. I was pissing myself watching both of these and I hope you enjoy them too.

1. This is a joke about American and British English. As students, you should be able to relate to this. Before you watch the video make sure you are aware of the following words PAVEMENT GLASSES SQUASH (sport) BIN HORSE RIDING.. I actually learnt something new about American English during this video too.

2. This is an observation joke about British people on holiday which I found I couldn't keep a straight face when watching. This is a cultural thing, so it would be interesting to know if you find it funny.

Did you laugh? What kind of laugh? Find out more.....

Cheers - Native English speaker and teacher in Lviv

Word List

Fall over / off / down - someone falls over when they are walking, people fall off things, for example chairs, and people fall down things, like holes

Fart - to pass gas and (usually) make a sound through the anus

Do an impression of - to mimic someone either by voice, movement, look, or all

Tongue-in-cheek - something that is not to be taken seriously

To joke - to say something to criticise or make fun of something

Offended / Offensive - to feel bad and surprised someone says something

Racist - jokes about different people and races

Sexist - jokes about men and women

Political correctness - subjects that can not be joked about in society

Alive and kicking - something that is very active

Toilet humour - jokes about farts, body parts, and childish subjects

Situational - jokes about situations that people have been in

Parody - a comical copy of something that has happened.

Observational - jokes about things we see in our everyday life

Witty - the ability to think quickly and comically

Play on words - words used in a way that is funny

Puns - a play on words

Hilarious - very funny

Dick-and-fart jokes - jokes often used in toilet humour

Weird - strange

Baffling - very confusing

Laugh out yourself - to make jokes about you

Take the piss out of - to joke about other people, subjects, and things

Irony - to mean or say the opposite what you mean

Tell a joke - we always TELL jokes or MAKE a joke about something

Stand up - a comedian

Open-mic night - an event when the public are free to come to the stage and perform

Euphoria - an amazing feeling of happiness

Punchline - the last part of the joke that is said before people laugh

Heckle - when someone in the crowd shouts insults when you are performing

Banter - jokes and insults among friends

To wind someone up - to say things to someone to try and annoy them without malice

Dubbed - when the language of the actors is changed

Adapted - when something is changed to suit something or someone else

Subtle changes - small changes

Can't keep a straight face - to laugh a lot

To piss yourself laughing - to laugh a lot

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