November 2001: Volume 43, Number 11
Words that Make You Laugh -- Uncovering Humor on the Net
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Senior Editor
If you’re like me, well… I’m sorry. But if you are, then you get a kick out of seeing a famous person attached to some outlandish comment, wonder aloud where certain phrases originated or ponder if stories in supermarket tabloids could possibly have some validity. In light of recent tragic events, we felt it time to delve into our rare moments of levity to help put the newspaper’s front page out of our minds, if only for a few moments.
First, I want to say we’re treading on thin ice when I’m allowed to scan the Internet for potentially “humorous” websites. As I found out quickly, there’s a fine line between “funny” and “raunchy.” For the sake of the more family-oriented of you out there (not to mention my employment status), I’ve eliminated all borderline, offensive material from this review. Of course, it comes with this disclaimer—any objectionable references found at any of these sites, or perceived political stance, are merely coincidental.
No, you won’t find Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address here or deep thinkers such as Aristotle, Descartes or Einstein. But that’s not the point. This is solid material because it divides quotes into societal categories familiar to us. These are found to the left of the home page and break down like this: Politicians (yes, Dan Quayle is here; surprisingly, he was only second on the list but still garners more than one entry), Duh!, What’s that?, Really?, War (to keep with our earlier promise, we will skip this one), Computers, Sports, Hollywood, Business, In Writing, Literature and Music (before you ask, this refers to comments on music itself, not lyrics). Each heading contains at least a couple of pages of quotes.
I’ll try and give you one juicy quote from each category. Dan Quayle (who else?): “I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn’t study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people.” As a Latino, Dan, I feel your pain. Duh! was inaccessible. (Duh?) In What’s that?, Miss Alabama of 1994 answered a question this way at the Miss Universe competition, “I would like to live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were ever supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.” Gee, I wonder if she won. Really?contains this tasty morsel. Rita Mae Brown once said, “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they are okay, then it’s you.” That explains a lot. Computers deals with one of our favorite topics. Bob Dole said, “The Internet is a great way to get on the ‘net.” Uh, Bob, stick to the blue pill commercials.
In Sports, football player George Rogers proves not all jocks are dumb by saying, “I want to gain 1,500 or 2,000 yards, whichever comes first.” See, some jocks are really dumb. Hollywood wasn’t accessible. I guess Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t available. Business contains this from Donald Trump: “I’ll tell you, it’s Big Business. If there is one word to describe Atlantic City, it’s Big Business.” We only wish we could describe you in one word, Mr. Trump. The entry from In Writing touched a personal note with me. A Batman costume warning label reads, “Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly.” So that’s why it took me so long to finish my trick-or-treat route. Oddly, Literature contains this from author Ivana Trump, “Fiction writing is great; you can make up almost anything.” Wow, that’s deep. Finally, Music for some reason includes this from baseball player Yogi Berra who had attended an opera: “It was pretty good. Even the music was nice.” Yeah, and I like musicals except for all that singing and dancing.
If we can be serious for a minute, we take a more scholastic look at word origins or etymology. The main headings on the home page include Discussion Forum, Search, The List, Sources & Links and Special Topics. The first one listed, Discussion Forum, is an interactive feature that allows visitors to submit words or phrases and receive feedback in a chat-room setting. At the time I checked, there were 20 pages available of various terms and phrases. Unfortunately, the terms/phrases aren’t in alphabetical order. It’s still nice.
The Search feature takes me to a Google.com box where the whole Internet is available to me. So much for etymology. Email serves as the site’s contact page and direct link to Dave Wilton, who runs the site. And on to my favorite part of the site—The List. Here, over 270 terms and phrases from “America” to “Yankee” are listed. Always thinking of industry first, I seek anything water-related. I come across “Rain (sic) cats and dogs” and “Raincheck,” which only reminds me that I need to shop at Kmart for winter clothes. Warning: Some of the words on the list may not be suitable for all eyes.
Chuck Shepherd is weird. Actually, he is “news of the weird.” He runs this site and I am sure some of the folks at National Enquirer are very jealous. Yes, boys and girls, fiction is often stranger than the truth. We’ll use this site as Exhibit A. Near the top-middle of the home page are the main headings. They are The News, Weird Map, FAQ’s, Weird Central, Chuck’s Bio, Books and Syndication. As a bonus, a search function lets you seek certain articles on things like “monkey,” for instance. Sure, go ahead and laugh but three entries came up on “monkey.” Unfortunately, most stories are too long to publish here. Take my word for it, the listings range from the sublime to ridiculous, with more leaning to the latter.
Weird Map is a beautiful thing. It searches all your favorite news by state. A quick glance has California with 238 entries while Mississippi has only three. Insert your own joke here... FAQ’s gives some background on the website. I have a few entries myself that would work well on this site. But then I find out that Chuck doesn’t supply gifts to those whose entries he uses. Weird Central displays a selected story for that day. Chuck’s Bio is self-explanatory. He looks like the stereotypical editor with a mean caffeine fix. No offense, Chuck. Books is a sales pitch. One of the titles is “The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics.” My kind of book. Syndication discusses legal matters. Perhaps like who to sue when you become the subject of one of these stories.
So there you go. We hope that this column provided a welcome respite from the daily grind. And if you don’t have a daily grind, then I hope this only enhanced your day. If not, do me a favor -- humor me.
On the lighter side
Simple layout, easy to navigate and free access to daily updates add up to a site worth visiting. All seriousness is thrown out the door once the site includes David Hasselhoff of “Baywatch” as its lead quote newsmaker. But that’s what we want.
Ever wonder where that often-used phrase you spew out every day comes from. Wonder no more. This site has a growing list of entries that will make you say, “Hmmm.” If you’re not feeling fulfilled, add one or two of your own.
Sick of hearing about the economy or someone’s political slant at the office? Throw them off with some of these tantalizing tidbits. The odds are they have not heard these “news” stories. And they’ll never forget them, either.
EXTRA -- More light fare