Why Your Bad Puns Could Make Others Concerned?
Imagine that you are a neurosurgeon standing in the operating room with a scalpel in your hand and a patient lying face down on the operating table with his skull open. A group of nurses and technicians are standing around you, ready to move at your command and assist you in curing the patient of the life-threatening tumour in his midbrain. The life of the patient is in your hands, and with this responsibility you start the surgery. All is going well and you expect the surgery to be a success until… your instrument touches a set of structures that are associated with emotions, and something, that wasn’t even the last thing you expected, happens. No, the patient does not die, but instead, he bursts out into a string of extremely bad puns. Yes, puns.
Now this is something that actually happened when Dr. Otfrid Foerster was operating on a patient with a tumour in his brain. Even though Dr. Foerster was shocked beyond belief, he took control of the situation, ignored the patient’s tasteless blabbering and successfully completed the surgery. Now the patient is alive and well, with a story better than any of us to tell his grandchildren. And the strange syndrome was named as Foerster’s Syndrome, after the brave doctor who successfully completed a surgery even after being bombarded with puns, by author and journalist Arthur Koestler. Koestler explains about this condition in his book, The Act of Creation, and calls this syndrome as a person's inability to stop himself from making puns.
Samuel Johnson considers puns to be the lowest kind of humour, but then you can hardly expect a sense of humour from a lexicographer. It could be true though, as even a person with his skull open on an operating table could make puns. When it comes to pun-related medical disorders, Witzelsucht comes to mind. You might wonder why anyone might want to get treated for being “funny”, but imagine the ways it could go wrong. Let's say that you and your funny friend went to the funeral of someone who passed away unexpectedly, and your friend being funny and all, says in his speech how ‘dead Fred must have had some bad bread the previous night’. One can hardly appreciate this kind of humour under normal circumstances, and this being a funeral, you can expect people to be pissed. Now you can hardly blame him for he is very sick (but that is no excuse for you to not smack him over his head).
What’s strange about this condition is not the tendency to make witty jokes and puns, but the compulsion to make the bad, inappropriate and sexual ones every opportunity they get. Witzelsucht literally means “Addiction or obsession with joking”. Those who are suffering from (or rather, enjoying) it may not really notice it, and may think that they're just being normal and funny, but those who are listening to them will definitely see the difference.
When told a joke, these people don't seem to respond with the appropriate laughter or smile that's expected from them. Instead, they keep a poker face. It may seem like the joke went over their head, or that they are keeping a poker face on purpose. This could even lead to some unnecessary misunderstandings in their social life. But that's not the actual reason. They simply lack the ability to decide what kind of response they are supposed to give. This makes them insensitive to social occasions, where they might make some inappropriate and sexual comments in public, embarrassing family and friends, and making the situation awkward for everyone involved.
Witzelsucht has been noticed in people with frontal lobe damage, and the condition has been seen even in people with high intelligence in respected positions, making the condition unrelated to the level of intelligence of a person. The hyper-sexual comments have been said to be due to damage to the amygdala, but it is not as common a symptom to this condition as making puns is. This makes it hard to diagnose the condition. One can never know if someone is simply being funny, or just can't stop being funny. There is no defined line which can be crossed for you to understand the difference. But nevertheless, you may want to reconsider before you take your “very funny and light-hearted” friend to your boss’ marriage anniversary party.