Baudelaire: The most agelous of poets.

French: agélaste =

Greek prefix a- (no) [as in aphonia = without voice; acephalous = no head] & Greek gelos (laugh).
= without laughter; descriptive of someone who does not know how to laugh, or cannot laugh.

English: agelous (pronounced ə / ʒɛ´/ ləs; or perhaps a´/ ʒə / ləs)

example: François Rabelais, who coined this neologism: Il ne fut onques tant severe Caton, ne Crassus l’ayeul tant agelaste, ne Timon Athenien tant misanthrope, ne Harclitus tant abhorrent du propre humain, qui est rire […] [Never was Cato so severe, nor Crassus, the ancestor, so unlaughing, nor Timon the Athenian so misanthropic, nor Heraclitus so opposed to Laughter, which is peculiar to Man…]

modern examples:

After his untimely death, many admirers of Robin Williams remained in stunned agelous silence.

Molière’s Alceste is a stern and agelous misanthrope who believes there is no hope for mankind.

The French have lost usage of the word agélaste; English never had it.  This, in spite of Rabelais’ insistence on its necessity.  For an author whose motto was «Le rire est le propre de l’homme» (“It is human to laugh”), which emphasizes the importance of laughter in people’s lives, it was essential to denominate those joyless individuals who did not agree, who thought that laughter was foolish and useless.  I believe Rabelais was thinking mostly of the dour ecclesiastics who found that suffering was best for people, for in this way they imitated the life—and agony—of Jesus Christ.  Mirthless and morose, the priests were grave proponents of serious misery, and against joy and comedy.  How can one laugh, they thought, in the face of humanity’s bleak existence on earth?  The only good thing, according to them, was that this existence was also very brief.  Laughter, which the hyena can approximate, is never mentioned as existing in the hallowed halls of heaven.  Spirits, apparently, are inherently agelous.

Rabelais rectified this twisted thinking: God gave us the ability to laugh, therefore we must avail ourselves of this precious gift, and laugh ourselves, as much as we can, all the way to the brink.  Advocates of laughter therapy recognize the value of a good laugh: it relieves blood pressure, cures ulcers, dissipates hives, inferiority complexes and anger issues, and induces intestinal regularity.  It also makes people look more beautiful.  So don’t be agelous, and smile for the camera, for he who laughs last, laughs best.


About the author

Roy Luna: Roy Luna is a retired French professor who dabbles in the arts, tinkers with music, reads heavily in fiction and history, but does not neglect biographies or science. His main efforts these days are devoted to writing a trilogy of novels based on events occurring during the years between the death of Voltaire (1778) and the French Revolution (1789-94), years rich in both enlightened human progress and dark, evil terror. Three times a week he volunteers at Dunbar Old Books, making sure orphaned books find their way to other readers. His library at home may have surpassed the 10,000 mark, and he valiantly tries to read them all… The one important thing to retain about Roy is his horror at the sins, the injustice, the atrocities, the crimes against humanity that are perpetrated and justified in the name of religion. Any belief system that condones such savagery has discarded its humanity, abandoned its compassion, and forsaken its principles of empathy, tolerance and love of one’s neighbor.


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