Tag Archives: humor

On My Relative Good Fortune

While reading Marius Jansen’s biography of Sakamoto Ryōma (1836-1867), I came across this wonderful quote from Sakamoto in an 1863 letter to his sister:

I must say that it’s beyond me the way things work out in a man’s life. Some fellows have such bad luck that they bang their privates on getting out of a bath tub and die as a result. When you compare my luck with that, it’s really remarkable.

That sort of observation really puts my own problems into perspective. Sakamoto would be assassinated a little over four years after penning those words, but I suspect that even he would consider that good luck, at least relatively.

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Good Ol’ Fashioned Racist Humor

Reports the Deseret News, December 26, 1855:

An Irishman, on arriving in America, took a fancy to the Yankee girls and wrote to his wife as follows: “Dear Norah–These few lines are to inform you that I died yesterday and I hope you are enjoying the same blessing. I recommend you to marry Jemmy O’Rourke, and take good care of the children. From your affectionate husband till death.”

Those Irishmen. Scamps, every last one of them.

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Amusing Notes from the Past

In doing some research recently on the contemporary reception of Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, I stumbled upon an interesting recurring page in the New York Times called “Footnotes on Headlines.” It’s unfortunate, really, that I don’t have a better grasp on the history of the period–I admit a principled disinterest in anything that happened between World War I and the 2011 Missoula Cow-a-bunga competition–because, if I did, I imagine the humorous snippets would be even funnier. Here are just a couple from 1927 that very little advanced historical knowledge is needed to enjoy:

Bert Acosta and Clarence Chamberlin demonstrate that they can stay up in the air about as long as any pair of filibustering Senators in these United States.

The Balkans again. Italy shrieks that Yugoslavia is starting a war against Albania. Yugoslavia shouts that Italy schemes to use Albania as a catspaw in seizing control of the Adriatic. France, England and Germany turn those hose on them all. It is felt in the world that the Balkans should be seen, not heard, for a change.

High-heeled shoes continue their health-wrecking course in the world, despite the wholesome warnings periodically broadcast by the medical professionals and this public-spirited department. The latest victim is General Primo de Rivera, who slipped on the polished floor of his palatial office and lit on his head. When will our dictators, military and otherwise, get a little sense about footwear, we ask in despondent tones.

In forty-two years of public service, Dr. William H. Guilfoy, Registrar of records in the Department of Health, has seen smallpox, cholera and typhus almost eliminated as causes of death in New York City, and the death rate from typhoid fever and diphtheria reduced to a small fraction of its old proportions. The automobile epidemic has, of course, come in to rage in our midst. There is always something.

There are countless others, of course, and assuredly more in years beyond 1927. Perhaps, time permitting, I may rummage through them and share some more.

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