Ho, Ho, Ho… probably the most famous sound in the world of laughs. Father Christmas on the sleigh to deliver presents to good kids and by the way, I heard from Richard Cock [of orchestra conducting fame] the other day that Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is female. The reason given by a kindly lady writing in to a radio show was simply this: Who, but a woman, would pull a fat guy in a red suit all around the world on one cold night and never get lost because she asks for directions? As a guy, I must admit, she’s right!

So with that, let’s set off with the last of the L’s in L-I-F-E which is our acronym for 12 blogs. Laugh, the verb, or Laughter, the noun, is crucial to all we do. We don’t even want to think about when we don’t laugh – sadness, depression, mourning, “the morning after”, etc – all the times when a laugh does not crease our lips. A smile is a laugh without sound and both pucker up our faces into something very different from our normal looks. A smile we learned from Mother Theresa in a recent blog is “the beginning of love”. It’s really hard to think of a time or occasion where a smile would not bring another to someone else’s face.

Remember the old song by Nat King Cole: [Music by none other than the famous comedian, Charlie Chaplin]

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.
Beautiful, hey?
And then the one my Dad loved by Louis Armstrong:
When you smilin’, when you smilin
The whole world smiles with you.
Yes when you laughin’ oh when you laughin’
The sun comes shinin through.

But when you cryin’, you bring on the rain
So stop your sighin baby, and be happy again
Keep on smilin, keep on smilin baby,
And the whole world smiles with you

Oh when you’re smilin’ keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you
Ah when you’re laughin’ keep on laughin’
The sun comes shinin’ through

Now when you’re cryin’ you bring on the rain
So stop that sighin’ be happy again
Keep on smilin Cause when you’re smilin’
And the whole world smiles with you

The great big world will smile with

The whole wide world will smile with you.

So, just a serious moment before we laugh again with the muscles we use to smile. Aunt Milda, of internet chain letter fame, says it takes 26 muscles to smile and 63 muscles to frown. Others say it’s the other way round but who am I to argue with Auntie Milda. Point is, “when you’re smilin’, the whole world smiles with you”. So what does it take to Laugh? I haven’t a clue. So, back to the mother of all Info… Mrs Google and you, Mom – yes you, the maker of the best peanut butter and syrup [sugar-free] sarmies: Laughing can sometimes be completely involuntary and involves a complex series of muscles, which is why it’s so difficult to fake and also why an active effort is required to suppress laughter.

In the face, the zygomaticus major and minor anchor at the cheekbones and stretch down towards the jaw to pull the facial expression upward; on top of this, the zygomaticus major also pulls the upper lip upward and outward. The sound of our laugh is produced by the same mechanisms which are used for coughing and speaking: namely, the lungs and the larynx. When we’re breathing normally, air from the lungs passes freely through the completely open vocal cords in the larynx. When they close, air cannot pass, however, when they’re partially open, they generate some form of sound. Laughter is the result when we exhale while the vocal cords close, with the respiratory muscles periodically activating to produce the characteristic rhythmic sound of laughing. The risorius muscle is used to smile, but affects a smaller portion of the face and is easier to control than the zygomatic muscles. As a result, the risorius is more often used to feign amusement, hence why fake laughter is easy to detect.

So, now you have it. The risorius is the main smile muscle and one of Aunt Milda’s [I’m sure Google left out “at” in M[at]ilda’s name] 26 muscles, but I can tell you, a laugh involves the zygomatic muscles and all of the thoracic and oesophageal [read: throat, neck and windpipe] muscles as well. So if you’re ever in doubt, don’t smile, just laugh. That’s funny, hey ? Thank goodness for emoticons – what would the world be without them? With all these riso-zygo words, I can imagine why colonoscopies are so much fun…ha,ha…the other most written laughs…right up there with he, he… The one serious thing that did strike me was the fact that the very anatomy of laughter is the reason why it’s hard to fake a laugh. How many micro-aggressions have we perpetrated with a cynical, horrible little smirk of a non-attempt-to-be-funny laugh? How many people have I hurt because they knew I was not being humorous at all?

Then there’s another side to laughing, and its close cousin cheerfulness, that is often quoted. Proverbs 17:22 says: A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired [Message]. Nothing destroys the soul like miserableness and that’s why I say so often in these blogs in so many words, that you’re not truly happy until you’re encouraging others to be happy too. Your broad smile, your loud laughter even in the face of bad news and discouragement, rub off on others. Have you ever listened to a recording when someone just giggles and laughs for minutes long? Eventually, you’re just laughing and laughing at their laughing and it’s so funny that you and everyone are listening, just laugh at laughter. When last did you have a great belly laugh, one where you split your sides or had a little touch of embarrassing incontinence that just made you laugh all the more…

Got the picture? One of the muscles that relax when you, well, “hose yourself” is around the bladder. Use it and then lose it – it’s seriously funny 
Perhaps the guy who teases us the most and makes us laugh across racial boundaries is Trevor Noah. He goes on and on about nothing, but in the process, he rips off every guy, girl and nationality in the audience. Why does he get away with it? Humour, and especially the ability to make us laugh at ourselves. Evita Bezuidenhout, Tannie Evita to some, the former ambassadress of Bapetikosweti, does the same for us. As she takes the mickey out of politicians and every sector of our divide; we laugh at ourselves. She saw us through the dark days of apartheid and Trevor may be doing his own part in these dark days of a reviving democracy. When asked where Pieter-Dirk Uys got his inspiration he replied, I read the newspapers. That’s funny!

In this bumper edition before Christmas, a stack of quotes for you to read and apply:

Smile, it is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart.
Anthony J. D’Angelo

If you’re not using your smile, you’re like a man with a million dollars in the bank and no cheque book.
Les Giblin

Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.
Chinese Proverb

If you see a friend without a smile; give him one of yours.

Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.
Marilyn Monroe

Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.
Paramahansa Yogananda

Nothing you wear is more important than your smile.
Connie Stevens

Smile, even if it’s a sad smile, because sadder than a sad smile is the sadness of not knowing how to smile.

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.
Maya Angelou

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
Joseph Addison

You don’t have the power to make rainbows or waterfalls, sunsets or roses, but you do have the power to bless people by your words and smiles. You carry within you the power to make the world better.
Sharon G. Larsen

And finally:

Give yourself some slack. Don’t take yourself so seriously, nobody else does
Jack E Trevena

Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena
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