Corns, or The Husband as Humorist

Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub (kontinued)

I assume it is a poor husband who does not become a humorist through his marriage, in the same sense as it is a poor lover who does not become a poet; and I assume that every husband becomes somewhat humorous, gets a touch of it, just as every lover becomes somewhat poetic. I cite myself not so much with regard to the poetic as with regard to a sense of humor, a certain touch of it, which I owe solely to my marriage. In falling in love much of the erotic has an absolute meaning; in marriage this absolute meaning alternates with the humorous view, which is the poetic articulation of the quiet and contented security of married life.

I shall cite an example and beg the reader to have enough sense of humor not to regard it as demonstrating anything. [William then relates a story about a family that posted a series of advertisements announcing that they had all, including the daughter of marriagable age, been cured of corns by a certain physician. William used it as a point of jest in recounting the story to his wife.]

…. And at times when some connoisseur and some superclever miss discourse grandiloquently in my living room about falling in love and slenderness and say that the lovers must really get to know each other in order to be sure of their choice, in order to make no error of judgment, I put in a few words, actually playing to my wife, and say: Yes, it is difficult, it is difficult — take corns, for example: no one can know for sure about them, whether someone has them or has had them or is going to have them. (p. 128-9)


  1. Wouldn’t we say the same thing about std’s now? Or am I missing the point?

    What kind of family ‘advertises’ the fact that they’ve had corns?

    I’m reminded of the clip from ‘White Chicks’ (I never saw the whole movie), where one of the Wayans bites off an ingrown toenail and spits it across the table. Maybe a father should do that for his marriageable daughter…

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    No, I don’t think you’re missing the point. Unfortunately.

  3. Jonathan Potter says

    Well, the scene from White Chicks is in the ballpark of the joke; but not STDs, I’d say — I mean, syphillus was around in SK’s time, wasn’t it? and as grave a thing back then as AIDS is now?

    The nuances of the joke would have been clearer if I had quoted the entire passage that I glossed over in the brackets. Part of why the scenario tickles the Judge’s funnybone is that, yes, this sort of thing should not be advertised by a teenage daughter’s parents. But the other side of the comical coin is that whether your fiance has corns or not is something that can reasonably be withheld until after marriage. I think the judge would say such discoveries are, in their way, part of the joy of marriage.

    This entire section on marriage and humor puts me in mind of the treatment of the comical in THE POSTSCRIPT — as the incognito of the religious and the border zone between the ethical and the religious. I don’t see any hint that Judge Wm sees it quite that way, but I think SK must have that in mind — if the judge is the exemplar of the ethical.

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