If anyone has Bergson’s On Laugher in the original French…

I’d like to know what word translator Cloudesley Brereton rendered as “merry-andrew.”


The book is dense with a lot of references to French plays I don’t know, but two points worth thinking on: Bergson says notice something comic in the mechanical, when a mechanical process overrides how we should react. He gives the example of a man who stumbles in the street.

Perhaps there was a stone on the road. He should have altered his pace or avoided the obstacle. Instead of that, through lack of elasticity, through absentmindedness and a kind of physical obstinacy, as a result, in fact, of rigidity or of momentum, the muscles continued to perform the same movement when the circumstances of the case called fro something else. This is the reason of the man’s fall, and also of the people’s laughter.

Wile E. Coyote still running over the canyon came to mind, although Bergson died before he could see that. If we review comic characters, a misguided rigidity does seem to come up a lot. Consider Sheldon.

Bergson notes our vanity is a common source for comedy, and comedy may serve to correct for vanity.



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