[Ads-l] "Only When I Laugh!"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 10 22:53:17 EST 2018

A similar, albeit more realistic, anecdote appears in a Canadian newspaper in 1935, attributed to a man named Philip Gosse, a medical officer who served in WWI.  The anecdote is taken from his memoir,  Memoirs of a Camp Follower, London, Longman's Green & Co.,  1934.  He quotes a young English soldier, fighting in an Irish unit, with delivering what later became a punch line. The newspaper reference is available on newspapers.com, the memoir is available on archive.org.

The Gazette (Montreal), June 22, 1935, page 3.

[Begin Excerpt] Philip Gosse saw most of his war service in the Medical Corps and some of his experiences leave a hospital patient lost in admiration of the pluck exhibited by the wounded.  I should have liked to know little John Bishop, who belonged to the Irish Rifles; although he was English and came from Guilford.  Gosse found him, a pale-faced boy, covered with mud, soaked with rain and blood, obviously in desperate plight, and asked him while gently examining his wound, "Does it hurt you very much?"  The answer came: "No, sir, only when I laugh." That is worth remembering. [End excerpt]

Memoirs of a Camp Follower, pages 72-73.

[Begin excerpt] The stretcher-bearers had a very tiring carry, not only because of the shrapnel barage but because of the deep mud and shell holes.  When I went to see the wounded man I found a pale-faced, spectacled boy, covered with muc, soaked with rain and blood, and obviously in a desperate plight.  He belonged to the London Irish Rifles; whi, I never fathomed, for he was not Irish, but English, and lived at Guildford.

While I was gently examining his wound I asked him, more for the sake of something to say than anything else, if it hurt him very much.  His answer, which I shall never forget, was "no Sir, only when I laugh."
[End Excerpt]

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Saturday, November 10, 2018 3:06 PM
Subject: Re: "Only When I Laugh!"

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Re: "Only When I Laugh!"

Here are some earlier instances in the U.K. (London) and the U.S.A. (Boston=

The instance below appeared in the "Daily Mirror" of London in
September 1939. The tall tale about the Zulu War was presented by a
columnist. The story was attributed to a "tough-sergeant-major who
professes to have seen service in three wars". The military man was
talking to a "new recruit". An assegai is a spear.

Date: September 23, 1939
Newspaper: Daily Mirror
Newspaper Location: London, England
Column: Cassandra
Column Section: No Apologies
Quote Page 8, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com
Database: British Newspaper Archive

[Begin excerpt]
The air was black with them assegaies that they were chuckin=E2=80=99 at us=

Suddenly, my chum, Bert, gets one of them clean through his gizzard.
Nailed him proper. I fights on.

Suddenly, I hears old Bert letting out a couple of yelps if he wasn't
feeling too good, so I says:

"What's the matter, Bert=E2=80=94does it hurt much?"
Yes, son, that was a tough war, that was!
[End excerpt]

The U.K. story moved to the U.S. by August 1942. In the passage below
an "old colonel" was speaking about the Zulu War.

Date: August 14, 1942
Newspaper: The Boston Globe
Newspaper Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Article: Tickled (Filler Item)
Quote Page 12, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
"Gad, sir," said the old colonel at the club, "the Zulu War was much
worse than this one. Why, I remember the time when a Zulu threw his
spear at me and it pinned me to the ground. I was lying there for
three days."
"It must have hurt."
"Not much," said the colonel.
"Only when I laughed:"=E2=80=94Tit-Bits.
[End excerpt]


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