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Humor Me: Understanding the Meaning and Usage of This Phrase

You may think you know what the phrase “humor me” means, but do you really? Although it may sound as if it has something to do with telling a joke, it actually doesn’t.

A considerable number of the words and phrases that we use in English may sound like one thing but mean another.  The phrase “humor me” is one of these expressions.

“Humor me” is used when asking someone to play along or hear them out. It is meant to request that the other party allow them to indulge in sharing their idea or story. Some people feel that when you choose to humor someone, you placate them without considering your own opinions.

However, it’s not all bad, and there is a time and a place to use such a phrase. 

Humor me for a moment as I tell you all about the origins of the phrase and its meaning as well as how and when to use it.

How to Use the Phrase Humor Me

You’ll seldom hear the phrase “humor me” on its own. It usually comes with some variation. The person may choose to say, “humor me, why don’t you?” or “oh, come on, just humor me!”

Here are some of the more common variations that you will come across.

Just Humor Me

You’ll  often find the phrase “humor me” used in conjunction with the word “just.” 

“Just” is often used when making a request:

Just help yourselves to some sandwiches.

Just wait here while I fetch the mail.

“Just” is supposed to help a request sound more polite, which is why it is probably so often used with the phrase “humor me.”

Fred: Chimpanzees are the coolest animal on the planet!
Earl: No way, sloths are much cooler!
Fred: Ah, come on, just humor me!

Jack: I have to tell you this story!
Jill: What’s it about?
Jack: My goldfish.
Jill: [groans]
Jack: Just humor me, it’s a really great story!

Humor Me With

This slight variation phrase would most likely be used in a work environment. 

Example 1: This business plan looks good, John, but why don’t you humor me with the specifics?

Example 2: I like what I see here, Tracy. I just need you to humor me with the finer details.

In both these examples, the phrase is used to request additional information. A person would most likely use it in a more senior position.

Humor Me for a Minute

“Humor me for a minute,” is another slight variation on the phrase. In this instance, the person employing the phrase uses it to ask for a bit of flexibility.

Humor me for a minute while I take the chicken out of the oven.

Humor me for just a second while I check on the children.

Stop Humouring Me

This is an interesting variation on the phrase in which people ask you not to humor them. This can happen if they are feeling belittled or frustrated.

Stop humoring me and tell me the truth!

Now that we’ve discussed how to use the expression “humor me” in its various forms, other useful expressions that you might like to learn to use are “whether it be” and “with that being said.”

Where, on Who, and When to Use Humor Me

Like most expressions in English, the phrase “humor me” has a time and a place. There are occasions when it is appropriate to use the phrase, and others when it may not be quite right.

It is generally accepted to humor people in the following instances.

Humoring Children

The phrase is often employed when dealing with children. For example, when a child tells a long, involved but unrealistic story, we humor them by letting them finish the story without interruption or criticism.

This is because children often don’t know what is real and imaginary. While they will eventually learn, it’s not helpful to criticize them, and so we humor them.

Child: Today at school, a spacecraft full of aliens abducted our maths teacher.
Parent: That’s nice, dear.
Child: And then they told us she was never coming back and so we didn’t have to do maths homework ever again! 
Parent: Oh, really?
Child: Aliens rock!
Parent: If you say so.

You are unlikely to hear a child use the expression “humor me,” but it is generally accepted that you will do so without being asked.

Humoring Customers 

If you’ve heard of the expression, “the customer is always right,” then you have probably worked in the customer service industry.

In this industry, people often have to humor the customer; otherwise, they might complain. This is especially true with difficult or unreasonable customers who might refuse to talk rationally and calmly. You may be forced to humor them in order to get them to calm down. 

Again, customers may not use the exact wording, but the expectation is there:

Waiter: How would you like your steak?
Customer: I’ll have my steak rare, please.
[Food arrives]
Customer: Why is my steak rare? I said I wanted medium rare!
Waiter: My mistake, I’ll be right back with your medium-rare steak.

When you encounter a difficult person or someone who is behaving erratically, sometimes the best option is not to argue with them or fight them, but just to smile and wave.

Humoring Older People 

Older people, such as your grandparents or elderly relatives, are also often subject to humoring. We do this because they are old, and we do not want to inconvenience them or upset them in any way:

Grandpa: How are you, Jack?
John: It’s John, Grandpa.
Grandpa: What you say, Jack?
John: I said I’m fine, thanks.

So, in some cases, the expectation to humor someone is there without the phrase being employed.

Humoring Your Significant Other

Most people who are married or have a significant other in their lives will have to do a fair bit of humoring. The idea walks pretty much hand-in-hand with compromise. 

To make your relationship successful, you may not want to pick a fight about every little difference or disagreement, and so you may humor your partner.

For Example:

My husband didn’t put the toilet seat down again, but he’s had a long day, so I’ll humor him this time.

The husband thought it best, though, to humor his wife when it came to what they watched on TV.

Above are some of the instances in which we humor people, and we do so for a variety of different reasons.

“Humor Me” vs. Ha-Ha Humor

Our most basic understanding of humor is that it is related to comedy. When someone has a “good sense of humor” it means that they have the ability to laugh.

Image by StockSnap via Pixabay

Example: That girl had a wonderful sense of humor. She’s always laughing and telling jokes.

However, humor can also be used to describe someone’s mood and temperament (source).

Example: My father was in poor humor last night. 

However, you may not easily recognize humor in the latter form because it’s become less popular in modern-day use. We don’t regularly talk about someone’s “humor.”

You’ll seldom ask someone how they are and receive the response, “Oh, I am in good humor, thank you.” It sounds very old-timey. 

Instead, we talk about someone’s “mood.” When we are dealing with the expression “humor me,” we are talking about humor in terms of mood and not in terms of comedy. 

The phrase “humor me” means to agree with someone or do what they want to stop them from being angry or upset. Essentially by doing this, you are “humoring them.”

Let’s look at some examples:

It’s not that warm! Wear the nice jersey I made you, please, just humor me. 

I moved the table to the corner; I know it looks different, but humor me.

In English, the phrase is equivalent to “do me a favor,” “please me,” “make my day,” and “bear with me” (source).

Please do me a favor and wear your jersey.

Tell me you like the table in the corner, make my day!

Bear with me while I quickly run into the supermarket.

Humor vs. Humour

It’s important to note at this juncture that the two words, “humor” and “humour” have the same meaning. They are slightly different because “humor” is the American spelling, and “humour” is the British spelling.

British English tends to use a lot more U’s in their words and often replace Z’s with S’s.

Why We Accept the Phrase

Some English speakers tend not to agree with the phrase ‘humor me’ as it means having to listen to something or agree with something when you don’t want to.

Urban Dictionary defines it as going along with something stupid or pointless to make someone happy.

While this is true, the phrase still has some value in modern-day usage. In English, you may hear the expression “keeping the peace.” This essentially means doing something merely to avoid an argument or a fight.

We also use it to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings or to make what they are saying seem invalid or not worth hearing. At heart, most people are “people pleasers” and we don’t want to hurt others or make them feel bad intentionally.

This is one of the reasons we accept the phrase “humor me.” It’s because we don’t want to put someone in a bad mood, especially if it’s not worth the fight.

The expression “humor me” is a way of maintaining good humor. It’s the main reason why we accept the phrase when we hear it and behave as expected. 

Throughout this article, we’ve been exploring the phrase “humor me.” However, there are also variations in how the expression is used.

Humor: A Brief History

Way back in the day, physiologists decided that humans were made up of four different liquids that gave us our physical appearance and temperament. These four liquids were known as “humors” (source).

The four humors included blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile). The ancients viewed them as connected with the four seasons of the year as well as the earth’s four elements, earth, air, fire, and water.

The physiologists theorized that every person was made up of different quantities of each humor. However, it was thought that a person who had equal quantities of all four humors would be ideal.

Based on the four humors in physiology, the ancients believed there to be four main personality types (source).

Sanguine

If someone had too much blood, they were known as sanguine. The ancients believed the liver created blood, which meant that people with this temperament displayed hopefulness, happiness, courage, and optimism. 

Phlegmatic

Someone with an excess of phlegm was known as phlegmatic. They considered phlegmatic people calmer, although more apathetic, because they associated both the lungs and the brain with phlegm production.

Choleric

A choleric temperament was associated with an excess of yellow bile in the make-up of a person. Yellow bile was believed to be created by the spleen. Someone with a choleric temperament tended to be angrier and prone to outbursts of frustration.

Melancholic

A melancholic person was thought to have an excess of black bile. Black bile was thought to be created by the gallbladder. The characteristics of an imbalance in this temperament were severe depression and anxiety.

Having more of one humor than another could result in a mental imbalance or cause someone to be unreasonable. Often physicians would “bleed” a sick person in the hopes of establishing a better balance between the four humors.

This is why, in the 16th Century, the word “humor” came to mean someone’s mood. In order to be healthy, one needed to maintain a balance between all four humors (source).

Final Thoughts 

Thank you for humoring me while I told you all you need to know about the expression “humor me,” as well as when to use it and why.

While the phrase is not as common as some similar expressions like “do me a favor” and “bear with me,” it is still an interesting expression with a fascinating history.