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Evan Esar

Evan Esar (1899-1995) had more than 2000 books of humor in his library. Born on a New Jersey farm, he was the son of Russian immigrants and was probably named Esar Levine. The family was said to have moved to New York two or three years later. He lived in New York for most of his life. He collected humor and his own books included: The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949), The Humor of Humor (1952) and The Comic Encyclopedia (1978).

He said in one interview in 1945: “I am not interested in dull stuff like the psychology of humor. I am interested in classifying humor, in the nature and evolution of humor. I am a man of science.” Here are a few entries from Esar’s Comic Dictionary (1943). Good luck finding this one anywhere.

Abuse: what to try when argument fails.

Clever person: one who puts his problems aside for a brainy day.

Creditor: one who has a better memory than a debtor.

Economist: Somebody who has a plan to do something with somebody else’s money.

Firmness: the admirable quality in ourselves which is detestable stubbornness in others.

Hypochondriac: one who enjoys poor health.

Island: A place where the bottom of the sea sticks up through the water.

Luck: the idol of the idle.

Mean people: they are generally people of means.

Probable: it is probable that many things will happen contrary to probability.

Pullover: a traffic violation.

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