One of the most primitive forms of the joke is teasing — a little innocent fun at the expense of another. The small boy discovers it by instinct and thoroughly enjoys himself in making his little sister cry. In later life, the sister does not shed tears. She merely sharpens her wit against her tormentor and tries, if she can, not to show irritation.
Farmers excel in this kind of joke for their social circle is narrow and akin to a large family gathering. They get to be too familiar with each other as it were. In decent society, the unmarried woman is not teased about her condition unless she willingly lays herself open to it.
From scraps of talk I hear when I am north of the Border, I fancy that Scottish country people are more addicted than English to this form of pleasantry. “A’m tellin’ her it’s juist a man she needs noo” is the kind of remark which is delivered with a hearty chuckle that one hears about the middle-aged woman who, single-handed, breasts the world.
An unmarried friend was telling me not long ago that a would be humorous acquaintance of hers always greeted her with the question, “Ony word o’ a man yet?” When she told him she was going to visit some friends in England, he jocularly remarked, “Ye’ll probably get haud o’ a man there.”
After relieving her feelings with a good laugh, she said to me, “The absurd thing is that the poor man thinks he is witty when he is merely showing his lack of wit in not being able to think of anything brighter than that to say to a woman.