Women and men laugh at different jokes, scientists have discovered.
Men chuckle at jokes simply for being jokes, while women analyze the situation in a funny story before laughing more selectively but louder.
This news comes from a study of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a comedy processor in the brain, quoted in a Reader’s Digest special edition on humour out this month.
This discovery does not surprise me.
When a piano drops on the Roadrunner’s head in the cartoon of the same name, I laugh. My wife winces and says, “Ouch, poor thing.”
But when we watch a movie about two marriage counselors having an affair, my wife is mightily amused, while I sit there and say, “So when is something interesting going to happen, like maybe a piano falls on someone’s head?”
I was thinking about then when I stumbled on a report in my cuttings file which said that the world’s last speaker of Womanese had died.
The death of Yang Huanyi meant the end of a language with which women communicated “through a set of codes that were incomprehensible to men,” reported Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.
Excuse me? Don’t all women speak in a set of codes incomprehensible to men?
Most males quickly learn to avoid misunderstandings by opting for minimal communication.
The one thing that every man has thought, but possibly none has ever said out loud, is: “Why are you asking me? If you think you look fat in that, you probably do.”
The late Mrs. Yang wrote and spoke a language called Nushu (in Mandarin, nu means woman and shu means writing) designed “to describe women's misfortunes,” the news agency said. (Note that women in China don’t have periods of good fortune alternating with misfortune. They only have misfortunes, as you know if you’ve read Wild Swans and all those other books.)
When Chinese government officials realized that Mrs. Yang was the last native Nushu speaker, they bestowed upon her the nickname “Living Fossil”.
What better evidence is there that men and women think differently? I mean, can you imagine a female choosing a name like that for herself? “Guys, I’ve decided to change my nickname from Partygirl to Living Fossil as I feel it is more ‘me’.”
Nushu or not Nushu, men and women communicate poorly, and in Asia this often leads to tragedy. Consider the sad case of a woman named Ueda who lived in Kameoke, Kyoto. She was in poor health, and felt she was a burden on her farmer husband.
So she decided to alleviate the pressure on the harassed man by stabbing him to death. "I caused my husband a lot of trouble. I killed him so as not to give him any more trouble," she told investigators who found the body in the bedroom, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
I can’t think of a more dramatic example of a disconnection between male and female logic. “I’m so sorry you’re so stressed out, darling husband. I wish there was something I could do to stop you feeling stressed. I know. I’ll stab you to death.”
The situation would only make sense to a man if it appeared in a comedy movie and a woman decided to drop a piano on a man’s head.
Now that’s something a guy can understand.