Some classical humor

Jokes are among the hardest things to translate well across time or languages; these are actually some of the funnier (or at least more comprehensible) jokes to be found in the Philogelos. I remember the college classmate who first told me about this late Roman joke book said he’d come to the conclusion that “Late Roman” was pretty good shorthand for “unfunny.”

Talkative barber to customer: “How shall I cut your hair?” Customer: “In silence.”


This knee-slapper comes from “Philogelos,” or “Laughter-Lover,” a Greek joke book, probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century A.D. Its 264 entries amount to an index of classical humor, with can’t-miss material on such figures of fun as the miser, the drunk, the sex-starved woman and the man with bad breath.

Let us not forget the “skolastikos,” or egghead: “An egghead was on a sea voyage when a big storm blew up, causing his slaves to weep in terror. ‘Don’t cry,’ he consoled them, ‘I have freed you all in my will.’”


from Funny Bone Anatomist, by William Grimes, New York Times Book Review, 20 July 2008 :: via 3quarksdaily

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