#2. Primate Operas Gave Us Language
All right, so now humanity is in its infancy. So how did we get from being a bunch of screeching, filthy nomads hunting gazelle with sharpened sticks to the kind of species that can sit down and have a conversation and eventually create the written word?
Eat wheel, dolphins.
After reading Shakespeare, or a poem by Yeats, or getting called a "fuck-boob whore" by a crazy hobo, it's only natural to marvel at the invention of language. How, in such a short period of time, did we possibly go from mutely hitting women on the head and hoping for the best to creating sounds meant to trick them into thinking we own a Ferrari?
Singing came first. Talking came second.
Something tells us this guy only does covers of Holy Diver.
According to neuroscientist Dr. John Skoyle, singing had to come first, because all you need to sing is a mouth, vocal chords, some breath control and a big heart. Speech, on the other hand, requires vocabulary and syntax and a host of other complex brain and throat functions to work. In other words, singing is easy, which is why it's evolved dozens of times among dozens of different species. Speaking is hard, which is why it's only happened once.
According to Skoyle, Darwin and others, humans couldn't have learned to talk first, because singing prepped our vocal tracts to one day handle more complex sound formations, which eventually became words and dick jokes. Then, understanding intonation and repetitive patterns taught the early humans syntax, which was the last step on the road from rhythmic animal grunts to bona fide language.
So it only makes sense that humans figured out crooning before they figured out talking.
And why it took so long to figure out rapping.
#1. Laughter Was a Deadly Serious Matter
And so here we are. A species that can think and converse. But what about laughter? How did we start joking with one another?
Has man always laughed at other men taking hits to the groin?
After all, laughter is one of those things we take for granted as natural, but is weird as hell if you think about it. Why would we go into a spasm of uncontrollable verbal nonsense every time we see somebody accidentally hit themselves in the crotch by stepping on a rake?
It turns out that, like everything else in our evolution, it was literally a matter of life and death.
It's also an excellent way to test whether or not someone is British.
Before we laughed at fart jokes, droll puns or adorable kitties playing peekaboo, we laughed in relief that the noise in the bushes wasn't a saber-tooth tiger ready to rip our throats out.
To understand the origin of laughter we have to first define "humor." The most popular definition of humor is "incongruity" -- the state where something isn't quite right. It can be anything from a difference of expectations between a joke's build-up and the result (the punchline) or just general absurdity (an armadillo riding a scooter made out of dildos).
It's leaning against a tree just out of frame.
OK, but how about this: a guy marries his high school sweetheart and the next day he tortures her to death. That's definitely incongruous, but it's not really funny (unless he did it while wearing a Big Bird costume). So there's definitely something missing in this theory, and according to psychology professor Peter McGraw, that something is the key to laughter itself: safety.
And monkeys doing people jobs.
According to McGraw and other researchers of humor (which is apparently a thing and no one fucking told us about it), if people don't feel safe and secure, then they won't laugh. And back during the early days of man, that is exactly what laughing was used for: to signal that the situation was under control.
"NO TIGERS! NO TIGERS!"
Say our ancestors heard a rustle from the nearby bushes and one of them checked it out, only to find out it was just the wind. He would then laugh to tell everyone, "There are no tigers there, man, so chill." If he just said (or sang) it with a straight face, everyone would assume that he's lying to get a head start for the jungle as it feasted on the rest of the tribe. But with a "Ha ha ha, it was only Enlil, the wind god, fucking with us," everyone could relax and go back to lice picking.
So be sure to tune in tomorrow for more reassuring and safe laughs with Cracked, as we tell you about the 6 Deadliest Parasites That Live Inside Your Brain Right Now.
#No. 6 ...
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online writer and Japanese-English-Polish translator. If you pay him, he will write words for you. Contact him at email@example.com.
For more insane theories, check out 5 Scientific Theories That Will Make Your Head Explode and 6 Insane Fan Theories That Actually Make Great Movies Better.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover the origins of The Chief.
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