Je rigole, tu rigoles, elle rigole …

August 24, 2009

All of a sudden, it seems, Piaf has discovered a sense of humour.

One minute, breaking wind was a simple, automatic bodily function; now, it is a source of mirth.

Peek-a-boo is now a two-sided game, rather than a response-only activity. By extension, so is deception – saying “gone” (with upturned palms and outstretched arms) when a quick check reveals the milk is nowhere near finished or the doll is hidden under a blanket.

Swinging her through the air like a plane, or pretending to drop her, now elicits, not just a contented smile, but outright laughter. Tickling, especially by stealth, has her in fits. 

It is clear that the vast majority of her humour is still very physical. She bears out, in a very immediate and literal way, Bergson’s idea that what makes us laugh is “le mécanique plaqué sur le vivant” (or, for those who can be bothered to read the book to the end, the inverse). Occasionally, the funny sound of a word, the more so if repeated, will extract a chuckle (“hippopotame” is a firm favourite)-  but, in general, it is things she can see, or even better things she can experience, that get a laugh.

Nor does she “get” the jokes in her DVDs – she loves watching them, but apparently sees no humour in the situations. This is probably because they are intended for slightly older children, an inherent problem of buying these things “blind” via internet and getting them to last, so that she “grows” into them like an oversized sweater.

In this respect, what has surprised me is that, unlike most behaviours (most obviously and pertinently, language development) which start out receptive and only slowly become productive, Piaf’s sense of humour is much more active than passive. She does, as stated above, find rough-and tumble, tickling etc vastly amusing – but these are things she cannot do for herself. Where she can do something funny, it is a self-evident truth that she is the best at it and thereby the funniest girl in the world.

Which, though obviously transient, must be a great feeling while it lasts.


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