Mrs. Murphy’s Manners for Women, a British how-to from 1897, has very particular ideas about the role of women’s laughter.
“Laughing should be carefully taught. The thing to be guarded against is that the inculcated laugh is apt to grow stereotyped, and few things are more irritating than to hear it over and over again, begin on the same note, run down the same scale, and consequently express no more mirth than the keys of the piano.
There is no greater ornament to conversation than the ripple of silvery notes that form the perfect laugh. It makes the person who evokes it feel pleased with himself, and invests what he has said with a charm of wit and humor which might not be otherwise observed.”
I wonder what Mrs. Murphy might have made of this peculiar ornament?
It has recently become clear that Mrs. Murphy’s strategy may be useful even when the witticism in question isn’t actually uttered by a man, but merely in the presence of one. According to Vanderbilt professor Jo-Anne Bachorowski, who has recorded more than 30,000 laughs, women laugh more frequently and at a higher pitch in the company of men than in the company of other women, even when they’re reacting to the exact same material (in this case, funny movies).
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