Modified On August 27, 2013
From Ask The Past, a website that provides wisdom on contemporary problems from “old books,” comes this advice on “How to Tell Jokes”:
“Where your pleasantries are not rewarded with the laughter of listeners, cease and desist from telling jokes in the future. The defect is in you, not in your listeners… For these are movements of the mind, and if they are pleasant and lively, they are an indication and a testimonial of the nimble mind and the good habits of the speaker– this is particularly liked by other men and endears us to them. But if they are without grace and charm, they have the contrary effect, so it appears a jackass is joking, or that someone very fat with an enormous butt is dancing and hopping about in a tight-fitting vest.”
Giovanni della Casa, Il Galateo overo de’ costumi (1558)
Initially, we thought this was a fabrication. (Our suspicions were raised by the inclusion of the word “butt” in a 16th-century text. We allowed that it might have been a matter of loose translation.) A reader of Ask The Past also suspected something was up and brought up his suspicions in the comments. The curator of the blog replies, “Butt: even more amusing in the Italian original — “forte grasso e naticuto” (literally, “very fat and buttocked”)”
We suppose that Senor della Casa, were he to attempt to do standup, would go by the name of “Johnny House,” which has a nice, snappy ring to it and also sounds like a euphemism for an outhouse.