Tuesday, June 22, 2010

David’s Definitions for August 2010

Risible

Laughable, but in a negative sense. You wouldn't call a comedian's jokes risible if you liked them. If he was a painfully bad comedian, you could say that his attempt at comedy was risible. This is not a common word in modern English. It usually only shows up in pompously written book or movie reviews or political essays - the sort of thing written by people who can't see that their stuffy prose isn't admirable but is instead risible. The word appeared in English in the 1500s. Back then, it meant able to laugh, capable of laughing. By the 1700s, it had come to mean evoking laughter, laughable, but it didn't have a negative connotation yet. That's more modern. The root is the Latin word ridere, to laugh. Our word "deride" comes from the Latin combination de (down) combined with ridere. Someone who uses "risible" in ordinary speech is likely to encounter derision.

(Will be published in the August 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at:
http://www.dvorkin.com/davidsdefs.html

6 comments:

Charles said...

i will use it tomorrow.

promise.

Thanks!

http://arealgoodblog.blogspot.com

TGirsch said...

Sadly, I find myself using the phrase "risible premise" in a political context quite frequently. I guess that makes me pompous, but frankly, the shoe fits.

Also, "risible" is easier to type than "so fucking ludicrous that it makes me want to laugh so hard I cry." Perhaps you can suggest a better word? ;)

P.S. Finally caved and put in a captcha check, eh?

David said...

You don't seem pompous normally. I probably shouldn't have put that in, but I see the word used in book reviews by writers whom I know online and who are pompous in general, so I indulged myself.

Yeah. I hate captcha, but the advertising spam was getting out of hand. Now it's gone.

TGirsch said...

Come to think of it, the phrase, "so fucking ludicrous that it makes me want to laugh so hard I cry," does come across as a wee bit pompous, in retrospect.

kristentsetsi said...

I've just started playing Scrabble regularly, and I have a feeling this word will get use at some point. Thank you! (And not to describe my Scrabble efforts, either.)

David said...

Hmm. Maybe I should seek out words containing letters that get high scores in Scrabble. That would get more readers for the column in the local paper.

Actually, it's surprisingly hard as it is, some months, to come up with an interesting word or phrase.