Open Dictionary word of the week: laughPosted by Laine Redpath Cole on August 30, 2012
Are you having a laugh?: an informal British phrase used to challenge something someone says or does that seems ridiculous or insulting to the speaker.
The Brits are pretty subtle with this word laugh. If someone says you’re up for a laugh, well, that’s a compliment. One of the highest compliments in terms of personality traits that one should strive to possess or at least emulate. Especially if you’re ‘always up for a laugh’. As in: “Laine? Yes, you’ll like her, she’s always up for a laugh”. That’s never been said about me, but if it were I’d be having much more of a laugh than I’m having at the moment, that’s for sure. If you’re up for a laugh people invite you down the pub and stuff. That’s what I’m told anyway.
On the other hand ‘are you having a laugh?’ is an insult, a sort of reprimand akin to ‘taking the piss‘. If you’re not familiar with this phrase, Ricky Gervais can help you out. “Are you having a laugh?” (for best effect pronounced: are you avin a laff?) was the catchphrase in Ricky Gervais’ TV show Extras. There’s a montage to watch here. If you’re going to adopt this phrase as part of your English usage, a word of warning: you’ll probably sound daft unless you’re British. But if you’re up for a laugh (like I’m not), give it a go. Let me know how it pans out …