gallows humor

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gallows humor

Humor that aims to make grim subjects, like death, funny or comical. (A "gallows" is the wooden frame from which criminals were traditionally hanged.) A: "Why would he say a morbid thing like that?" B: "Oh, that's just how Uncle Ned is—he's prone to gallows humor."
See also: humor
References in classic literature ?
When all was ready the merchant was brought from prison and led to the foot of the gallows.
On hearing the declaration of the Jewish doctor, the chief of police commanded that he should be led to the gallows, and the Sultan's purveyor go free.
Well then, on this river there was a bridge, and at one end of it a gallows, and a sort of tribunal, where four judges commonly sat to administer the law which the lord of river, bridge and the lordship had enacted, and which was to this effect, 'If anyone crosses by this bridge from one side to the other he shall declare on oath where he is going to and with what object; and if he swears truly, he shall be allowed to pass, but if falsely, he shall be put to death for it by hanging on the gallows erected there, without any remission.
Presently he came to the market-place, and beheld thereon three gallows erected.
A moment before I had been safe of all men's respect, wealthy, beloved--the cloth laying for me in the dining-room at home; and now I was the common quarry of mankind, hunted, houseless, a known murderer, thrall to the gallows.
But the chief president had replied with his habitual coolness, without betraying either disturbance or surprise, that should the agitators refuse obedience to the king's wishes he would have gallows erected in the public squares and proceed at once to hang the most active among them.
The place of execution was a high hill, on the outskirts of Salem; so that many of the sufferers, as they stood beneath the gallows, could discern their own habitations in the town.
Since you demand the truth, monseigneur, here it is: -- I have a hundred and twenty friends or companions of pleasure, who are sworn to me as the thief is to the gallows.
said the countryman; but the judge told him that was not likely, and cut the matter short by ordering him off to the gallows.
The gallows is a balance which has a man at one end and the whole earth at the other.
If you don't see the doctor again soon, under the gallows, you will probably not have the pleasure of meeting with him for some considerable time.
gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it.
To take away my girl's bird was wrong, in my opinion; and my neighbour Allworthy may do as he pleases; but to encourage boys in such practices, is to breed them up to the gallows.
This was frightful enough, but Mrs Verloc, though not a well-informed woman, had a sufficient knowledge of the institutions of her country to know that gallows are no longer erected romantically on the banks of dismal rivers or on wind-swept headlands, but in the yards of jails.
The gallows,' continued Fagin, 'the gallows, my dear, is an ugly finger-post, which points out a very short and sharp turning that has stopped many a bold fellow's career on the broad highway.