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The Language of Humor: An Introduction

By: Kelly Epperson Simmons, Ghostwriter/Editor/Coach

Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L.F. Nilsen

Prolific authors Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L.F. Nilsen have published another book, The Language of Humor – An Introduction. The couple, who are considered pioneers in humor studies, have received Lifetime Achievement Awards from AATH and also the International Society for Humor Studies.

Their latest book is designed to be used as a text, a resource, a foundation.

Don and Alleen retired from teaching at Arizona State University in 2011 and have kept busy writing and giving presentations related to humor across the disciplines at various retirement communities across Arizona. As you may be aware, they often share their Power Point slides about various aspects of humor studies with the AATH community.

Alleen Pace Nilsen & Don L.F. Nilsen

They have developed this “Features, Functions, and Subjects of Humor” way of analyzing humor and have compiled a collection in this latest book. The language of humor does indeed cross disciplines and the authors have “narrowed it down” to 24 in this time: Anthropology and Ethnic Studies; Art; Business; Computer Science; Education & Children’s Lit; Gender Studies; Geography; Gerontology; History; Journalism; Law; Linguistics; Literature; Medicine & Health; Music; Names; Performing Arts; Philosophy; Physical Education & Sports Mascots; Politics; Psychology; Religion; Rhetoric & Composition; and Sociology.

At the end of each chapter, they provide “points of departure,” several talking points or exercises to contemplate and then share with the class or even instruction to write a short 200-word essay on a certain nuance. They point out that:

"Some humorists and humor scholars stress the features of humor, like ambiguity, exaggerations, understatement, hostility, incongruity, irony or surprise. Others stress the functions of humor, like to amuse, to tease, to test limits, to establish superiority or gain control, to bond people in a community or to cope. Some investigate the subjects of humor, often the most significant subjects in our lives – ethnicity, gender, political leanings, religious beliefs, sexuality, etc."

Don and Alleen address these features, functions, and subjects in their ongoing work and this book. Each chapter in The Language of Humor provides an array of examples to “stimulate discussion and interaction even in large classes.” Supplemental Power Points for each topic are also available online.

The extensive bibliography contains enough reading material on humor to last a lifetime. Spending a lifetime focusing on humor is what Don and Alleen have done. “We’ve devoted our lives to humor, and therefore, we find everything humorous. In our lives, everything is humorous.” What a way to live!

About the Author:

Kelly (Epperson) Simmons has written 30+ books, some for New York Times bestselling authors. She has been writing her weekly newspaper column since 2001, and is a judge for the international Erma Bombeck Essay Competition. As Book Coach and Editor, Kelly has helped countless clients fulfill their dreams of becoming an author. Kelly hosts workshops and retreats, teaches courses live and online, and is a popular speaker and teacher BOOKS CHANGE LIVES. The first to change is yours. It's time to write. NOW.

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