A fairly new phenomenon has been happening at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in recent years. When contestants ask the judges to use the word they were asked to spell in a sentence, that sentence might be hilarious. Why? — Because bee officials have hired comedy writers to come up with humorous ones.
For example, when asked to use the word "odyssey" in a sentence, one of the pronouncers said it was like getting lost in Costco for 35 minutes.
Leaders throughout history have known this. During one troubled period of his presidency, for example, Lincoln told his cabinet, "Gentlemen, why don't you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh, I should die. You need this medicine as much as I do."
Laughter can be a great tension reliever, even in the heaviest of matters. Another example of that comes from the Cuban missile crisis when Soviet and American negotiators became deadlocked. There they sat in silence, until someone suggested that each person tell a humorous story. One of the Russians told a riddle: "What is the difference between capitalism and communism?"
The answer? "In capitalism, man exploits man. In communism, it's the other way around."
The tactic worked; with the mood relaxed, the talks continued.
O.K., now it’s your turn to spell a word. Are you ready?
Good! Spell: "guffaw."