bad laughter

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mia0815, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. mia0815

    mia0815 Senior Member

    Sometimes I worry that what I did with the Bird Man happened because I really wanted to. And what if it happens forever, Ossie, I'd ask my sister, the bad laughter of that summer? Like a faucet we left running, a sound we have forgotten we are making.

    Swamplandia! (a novel)

    Does bad laughter refer to an interesting but essential bad experience?

    Please help. Thank you.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  2. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    Not an uncommon collocation, it's not an idiom as far as I can tell. I suspect its meaning depends heavily on context. Here's a Google Books example in which I think it is pretty clear:

    Moss Hart knew he finally had a success when an audience laughed through the last act of his first play. The Duke and the Dauphin in Huckleberry Finn knew they had a flop when the audience roared with the wrong kind of laughter. Theater aims at the kind of laughter that spells success. That is one reason for distinguishing between good and bad laughter. - Paul Woodruff, 2008.

    Since your context - what the speaker in fact did with the Bird Man - supposedly is quite different from the above, I would not take for granted that 'bad laughter' means the same in it.
  3. mia0815

    mia0815 Senior Member

    Thank you for your post. But I still can't grasp it.
  4. mia0815

    mia0815 Senior Member

    <Repetitious copy deleted>

    ps. I posted the same question two days ago and now still need help with it. Sorry about the repetition.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2013
  5. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    There's a reason no-one answered before. Without knowledge of what happened that summer it's impossible to interpret what is meant. It sounds as though the experience with the Bird Man was not good, because the speaker says "I worry that..." It sounds as though the bad laughter is not a good thing. :)

    We can't know whether the experience was amusing, but it does sound essentially bad. The only thing that strikes me about your extract is that "like a faucet we left running" makes me think of the expression "to laugh like a drain", but I don't know if that is intentional on the part of the writer.
  6. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    In the context provided in post 2, where laughter is described from the point of view of a theatrical producer, 'good laughter' is an audience's laughter in reaction to scenes that are intended to be funny, and 'bad laughter' is laughter in response to scenes that are amusingly poor or poorly performed: perhaps the actors slip and fall, sing out of tune, forget their lines... Whatever the flaws, the laughter they inspire is unintended and not the kind a producer wants because it spells fiasco.
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Let's look at this on two levels, mia.

    (1) "The bad laughter of that summer" makes absolutely no sense in normal English.

    (2) The author of your text uses English very idiosyncratically. Perhaps by "bad laughter" she means:
    ~ the fact that we laughed at sad things?
    ~ the fact that we laughed but we were wrong to do so?

    To be honest, I think there's no way of knowing:(.
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    My best guess is that bad laughter refers to a period when people were laughing at them (rather than laughing with them)
  9. mia0815

    mia0815 Senior Member

    Thank you, E., Loob and PaulQ. ;)

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