Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Four Humors of the Middle Ages. There was nothing funny about them. Most importantly Black Humor.

Today when we think of the word humor, we think of mirth, comedy, and good sense of humor, But what does humor mean? There is nothing funny about the word. In fact in its original Latin it means moisture or dampness. If we go back to the early days of the Greeks there were ideas of health and of good fortune that would be formulated.  As time went on it would become part of Roman thought and medicine.. By the Dark Ages the ideas of the Humors were well worked out and in many texts are described as follows

The Red Humor of blood made flushed a person rosy, feverish, and sweaty.

The Yellow Humor of bile that jaundiced flesh a carrot orange.

The White Humor of mucus that started in the nose and lungs and was spit up coughing.

The Black Humor that formed deep within the body and showed the organs rotting away.

These were the colors of health in the Middle Ages. This was influenced by the Greeks in other ways. For the parts of the universe in the Greek ideal was built into fours


All of this in time would lead to modern medicine. But not till much of this had run its course.

So if we say about someone having a "good sense of humor" there is much more to that statement than meets the eye. If we said that in the middle ages it would met with happy sighs of relief.

In this age of much changed wordage. We associate humor with laughter. Now if we think of it, it might have its roots in the happiness that one would have if they had a good sense of humor.  We do not use red, yellow or white humor at all in our lexicon today. But Black Humor still has a powerful impact.

I looked it up and found this .......

black humor

a form of humor that regards human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable, or that considers human existence as ironic andpointless but somehow comic.

So while not dealing with rotting organs it deals with human suffering in other ways and the next time someone says you have a great sense of humor...say thank you...and sigh in relief.