The word Twain used was "nub," which he defined as "the gist, the point,
the soul" of a humorous story. Twain believed that a good nub was essential
to a successful humorous story, and that it should be delivered at the end
of the story for maximum effect.
Mark Twain used the word "nub" in some of his writing. One example can be
found in his essay "How to Tell a Story," where he writes:
"The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty
story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner
of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter. The
humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as
much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and
witty stories must be brief and end with a nub, point, or sting."
Another example can be found in Twain's short story "The Invalid's Story,"
where the protagonist says:
"So I brought the conversation around to diamonds, crookedly, of course,
but yet in such a way as to not excite suspicion. Then I waited — and
waited. For a time there was no sound, no movement; then a deep-drawn
breath — then the nub of the whole thing came exploding out, and Tom wiped
the perspiration off his face and said he had been through enough to break
a man's heart, and went away to find something to brace it up with."
These examples illustrate Twain's use of the word "nub" to describe the
essential, impactful element of a story.
On Thu, May 4, 2023 at 5:54 PM <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> As I'm sure you know, "sockdalagizing" was one of the last words President
> Lincoln heard before he was shot.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mark Tai Forum <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Dave Davis
> Sent: Thursday, May 4, 2023 5:31 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Lightning/bug
> What about --
> On Thu, May 4, 2023 at 5:14 PM Railton, Stephen F (sfr) <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Maybe you’re thinking of “snapper.”
> > ________________________________
> > From: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Clay Shannon <
> > [log in to unmask]>
> > Sent: Thursday, May 4, 2023 5:07 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
> > Subject: Lightning/bug
> > Twain used a certain word for the part of a story that caused a jolt
> > to the reader or that made them laugh. He didn't use the word
> > "punchline" for this; does anybody remember what it was?
> > -- B. Clay Shannon