The situation is of course caricatural: an extreme version of circumstances where this levity is considered inappropriate. Other such circumstances might include church services in general, military parades, job interviews (though there would probably be exceptions here), being interrogated by the police, first meetings with strangers anywhere other than a pub or a party. And we may note that although a joke about sex was specified, in order to make the outcome obvious, it is largely the case that any joke, regardless of its theme or manner of delivery, would be similarly taboo in any of the social circumstances listed here. Such knowledge is part of the common sense of our culture, part of the set of rules for polite conduct which we all learn in the ordinary course of growing up, without any special, institutionalised form of instruction being necessary. No doubt the details vary from region to region, from social class to social class, and to some extent from person to person or family to family. Even more, it is equally clear that deviation from these rules occurs: people do tell jokes under inappropriate circumstances, sometimes no doubt through inadequate awareness of the rules governing the occasion-i.e. the rules observed by the majority of those present-sometimes no doubt in order to subvert the nature of the occasion: say, the dignity of a religious or military ceremony. But we should note that for the subversion to take a form satisfactory to the subverter it is likely that the joke would have to be shared: that is why, in

all likelihood, if you did tell a joke at your grandfather’s funeral it would be more likely that your brother was chosen as audience rather than your aunt.