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Professor Louis Lippman combines science and humor in new book

Professor Louis Lippman discusses his new book ” “Wince: a Pun on Thyme: Scientifically Crafted Tales,” in the Wilson Library reading room, April 13. // Photo by Kaelyn King

He’s an experimental psychology professor, sports psychologist, humor researchist and has announced his most recent title: author. A retired Western psychology professor, Louis Lippman, has written his first book entitled, “Wince: a Pun on Thyme: Scientifically Crafted Tales” which contains a collection of 176 short stories wrapped up in a pun.

On Wednesday, April 13, in Wilson Library, he spoke about his experience writing a scientific joke book.

The process Lippman used to develop these puns incorporates a formula that was worked on between him and his past students.

The perfect pun requires the right amount of context, redundancy and obscurity, Lippman said.

“I spent months grinding out these ungodly pun stories,” Lippman said. “We took those pun stories with and without added context, randomized it properly, handed it over to students, got their readings and hurray! It turns out that what we had found about added contextual connection did infact enhance the quality of these puns.”

Lippman said all humor is based on incongruity, which is the theory people laugh at things that surprise them or seem out of place. A pun uses different meanings of a word to tell a story that makes sense and feels unusual.

“It’s not just a long natured word substitution like a knock knock joke. There’s a little more to it,” Lippman said.

Librarian Jenny Oleen organizes events for Western’s Library Reading series, which showcases the scholarly and creative work of Western’s faculty and staff. She said she heard of Lippman’s work through a colleague and decided he was the perfect recipe of humor and knowledge the program needed.

Work like Lippman’s shows how professors at Western are not just involved with academic work, but fun projects as well, Oleen said. “ It shows off how we can have fun, we can enjoy these things and make it a part of what we’re doing at western to really show off the neat and unique things that we have.”

Lippman taught at Western for 42 years. He has written articles for Worm Runner’s Digest and the Journal of Irreproducible Results, a science humor publication. He is currently on the editorial board for the Annals of Improbable Research.

Lecture attendee Jeff Finkbonner said he found Lippman’s presentation interesting because he learned some of the literary structures and psychology behind humor.

“His sense of humor is so bad, it’s good,” he said.

Lippman’s book can be found on Amazon and Kindle as well as in local Bellingham bookstores.


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