Derailment (Humor Challenge Day 16)

One of the theories of humor is that it comes from incongruity or derailment. That moment of absurdity that occurs when your mind thinks your train of thought is heading one direction, and then suddenly goes another, triggers our brain to laugh.

Today’s humor challenge: Practice derailment by playing with aphorisms.

An aphorism is a short phrase that expresses a truth or wisdom. For instance, you’ve probably heard the following aphorisms:

  • The early bird catches the worm.
  • Crime doesn’t pay.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • Fish and guests smell after 3 days.

One way to play with aphorisms is to take your list of phrases, cut them in half, and then mix them up to create new and funny phrases, like

  • The early bird doesn’t pay.
  • Crime catches the worm.
  • Fish and guests spoil the broth.
  • Too many cooks smell after 3 days.

Another way to play with derailment and incongruity is to take the first half of the aphorisms and then make up your own endings. A first grade teacher did this with her class. They came up with some great creative—and funny—sayings, like

  • A penny saved is… not much!
  • Two’s company. Three’s… the Musketeers!
  • Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Cry and… you have to blow your nose.

That’s today’s challenge. Practice derailment and incongruity by playing with aphorisms. Stretch your humor muscle.

Congratulations for committing to another day. I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for the next humor challenge. I’m Karyn Buxman reminding you to create a humor habit and reap the benefits. Humor is power!

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman’s mission in life is to enhance global business, improve global health, and achieve global peace through strategic humor. See all Humor Challenge blog posts and videos at


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