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Why your bad puns could make others concerned?

Updated on September 18, 2016

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 surround you 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 wrong set of structures that are associated with emotions, and then something that wasn’t even the last thing you expected happens. No, the patient does not die, instead he bursts out into a string of bad puns. Yes, puns.

Now this is something that actually happened when Dr. Otfrid Foerster was operating on a patient suffering from a tumour. 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 by author and journalist Arthur Koestler. Koestler explains about this condition in his book, The Act of Creation, and he 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 “so funny”, but imagine 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 may definitely see the difference.

When told a joke, these people don't seem to respond properly with the appropriate laughter, instead they tend to keep a poker face. This doesn't mean that they didn't understand the joke, they simply lack the necessary ability to decide what kind of response they are supposed to make. This also makes them insensitive to social occasions and the proper manners you are required to keep during such occasions, resulting in their inability to stop themselves from making inappropriate and sexual comments in public.

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. But nevertheless, you may want to reconsider before you take your “very funny and light-hearted” friend to your boss’ marriage anniversary party.


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    • Rafa Baxa profile image

      Rafael Baxa 10 months ago

      Thanks a lot for your wonderful comments firstcookbooklady and Jodah.

      I'll try to include some examples when writing something like this next time.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 10 months ago from Queensland Australia

      A very interesting hub, Rafa. The doctors should record the puns being babbled by those being operated on. You should have included a few examples of some puns in the hub. I wrote a hub about "Tom Swifties" which are a type of pun that was popularly used in a series of stories.

    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 10 months ago from Minnesota

      How awful. These victims of frontal lobe injury, have all these brilliant dry humor jokes to tell, and get shut down. Sad. I fell out of trees when a child. Have no sense of humor. Perhaps I have Forrester syndrome? Or not.