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Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

humor

 

The torrential response to my recent call for puns is vivid testimony to our collective need for humor. The profound act of laughter is a special blessing to us living in the long, dark shadow of contagion. The late and beloved humorist Richard Armour contends, “Comedy is as high an art as tragedy. It is as important to make people laugh as to make people cry.”

An Apache myth tells us that the Creator made human beings able to walk and talk, to see and hear — to do everything. But the Creator wasn’t satisfied. He gifted humans with laughter, and when we laughed and laughed, the Creator said, “Now you are fit to live.”

In Navajo culture, there is something called the First Laugh Ceremony. Tradition dictates that each Navajo baby is kept on a cradle board until he or she laughs for the first time. Then the tribe throws a celebration in honor of the child’s first laugh, which is considered to be his or her birth as a social being. We are not only Homo sapiens, the creature who thinks. We are Homo guffawus, the creature who laughs.

“Humor is not a trick,” writes former Prarie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. “Humor is a presence in the world — like grace — and shines on everybody.” As bread is the staff of life, laughter is its nectar. “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures,” winks an Irish adage. What soap is to the body laughter is to the soul,” observes a Yiddish proverb.

Five-year-olds laugh naturally about 250 times a day. How sad it is that as we age, we almost inevitably gain girth and lose mirth. Many of us don’t laugh 250 times a month! You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.

“Man is the only animal who blushes — or needs to,” declared Mark Twain. He could have added, “Man is the only animal that truly laughs — or needs to.” Recent studies show that he or she who laughs lasts. Norman Cousins, who used laughter to conquer a debilitating disease, wrote, “Illness is not a laughing matter. Perhaps it ought to be. It has always seemed to me that hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.”

Scientists affirm what we have known to be true since biblical times: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Laughter can be hazardous to your illness. A belly-shaking guffaw stimulates circulation, tones the muscles, energizes the lungs, excites endorphins, adds T cells in the immune system, relaxes muscle tension, reduces pain and inflammation, boosts the neurotransmitters needed for alertness and memory, stabilizes blood sugar levels, increases motivation to learn, provides superb aerobic exercise — well, you get the idea.

In Make ‘Em Laugh, Stanford University professor William Fry explains, “When laughter gets to the point where it is convulsive, almost every muscle in the body is involved.” According to a Vanderbilt University study, robust laughter burns up 40 calories in 15 minutes and increases metabolism by about 10 percent. You can giggle away about four pounds a year.

Laughter is also an elixir for the mind. It is better to be optimistic than to be misty optic. Tests administered before and after humor therapy reveal a reduction of stress and depression and a heightened sense of well-being and creativity. More and more, science is discovering that it hurts only when we don’t laugh. “Laughter is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles. It won’t take the potholes out of the road, but it sure makes the ride smoother,” avows Barbara Johnson. Or, to press into service another simile, laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper: It doesn’t permanently solve problems, but it makes things more tolerable for a while.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” laughs pianistic comedian Victor Borge. “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter,” advises poetry wizard e. e. cummings. Go forth and practice random acts of laughter. One of those acts should be to laugh at yourself. If you can do that, you’ll never cease to be amused.

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The National Football League is contemplating playing a regular season of games but with no fans in the stadiums. Commissioner Roger Goodell is reaching out to the Chargers for advice. (Now didn’t that laugh feel good?)