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On Seeing A Joke
by [?]

Perhaps, however, the “Schweinhund” joke does not afford an entirely fair comparison. It is a simple joke, whereas in the Greenwood joke there are two elements. There is the element of insult, and there is the element of mistaken identity. It is not merely that somebody or other was called “You Irish bastard,” but that the wrong person was called “You Irish bastard.” Thus, if a policeman addressed a woman in Oxford Street in the words: “‘Op it, you old bitch,” it would be only mildly funny, if the woman were a poor woman. But it would be immensely funny if she turned out to be a marchioness. The marchioness, no doubt, would be enchanted, and would tell the story with great glee. If she were a sentimentalist, she might say to herself:

“Is this really the way in which ordinary human beings are treated by the police? This is a hideous state of affairs in which bullies in uniform are allowed to address foul insults to whom they please. Thank heaven, it has happened to someone like me. Now, I can tell the Home Secretary, and he will put an end to the whole system.”

One never knows what a modern Home Secretary might do, but I doubt if one could be found who would reply to the marchioness: “Well, he did you no harm. You know, to me it all seems rather funny.” And yet most things have their funny side if you look on them in the right spirit. It would have been a funny thing if the hangman had executed the wrong prisoner instead of Crippen. The hanged man would not have seen the joke, but impartial onlookers would have seen it, and Crippen would have seen it. Similarly, if a drunken man threw a brick at his wife and hit the missionary by mistake, who could help laughing? Even the wife, if she had a sense of humour, would have to join in. Over-sensitive souls, such as Shelley was might view the incident with pain and mourn over a world in which human beings treated each other in such a way. But life is a hard school, and it is not well to be over-sensitive. After all, if we all became angels, there would be no jokes left. We should have no clowns in the music-halls–no comic boxing-turns with glorious thumpings on unexpecting noses. Heaven is a place without laughter because there is no cruelty in it–no insults and no accidents. As for us, we are children of earth, and may as well enjoy the advantages of our position. So let us laugh, “Ha, ha!”–let us laugh, “Ho, ho!”

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

And never was it so full of a number of things as since a Coalition Government came into power–queer, delightful things, for instance, like policemen who call judges “bastard,” as who should say: “Cheerio, old thing!” Our grandfathers would not have seen that joke. That is one of the things that convince me of the reality of progress.