agelast /A-jə-last/. noun. One who never laughs; a humorless person. A borrowing from Rabelais’ Middle French agelaste, from Greek agélastos (not laughing).
“But the calumny of certain cannibals, misanthropists and agelasts had been so atrocious and unreasonable that it overcame my patience and I decided not to write another jot.” (Francois Rabelais)
“…a similar confusion underlies the story of one determined Roman ‘agelast’ (‘non-laugher’), the elder Marcus Crassus, who is reputed to have cracked up just once in his lifetime. It was after he had seen a donkey eating thistles. ‘Thistles are like lettuce to the lips of a donkey’, he mused (quoting a well-known ancient proverb)—and laughed. There is something reminiscent here of the laughter provoked by the old-fashioned chimpanzees’ tea parties, once hosted by traditional zoos (and enjoyed for generations, until they fell victim to modern squeamishness about animal performance and display).” (Mary Beard)
“… it is no coincidence that the term ‘agelast’ was most recently revived by Milan Kundera for the apparatchiks of Socialist Czechoslovakia who, if they smiled at an interrogation, did so with a terrible earnestness.” (Charles Martindale)
“François Rabelais invented a number of neologisms that have since entered the French and other languages, but one of his words has been forgotten, and this is regrettable. It is the word agélaste; it comes from the Greek and it means a man who does not laugh, who has no sense of humour. Rabelais detested the agélastes. He feared them. He complained that the agélastes treated him so atrociously that he nearly stopped writing forever. ¶ No peace is possible between the novelist and the agélaste. Never having heard God’s laughter, the agélastes are convinced that the truth is obvious, that all men necessarily think the same thing, and that they themselves are exactly what they think they are. But it is precisely in losing the certainty of truth and the unanimous agreement of others that man becomes an individual.” (Milan Kundera)
“Among Europe’s major writers, one would be hard put to find one who more obviously conformed to the idea of the agelaste than Rousseau.” (Dennis Porter)
“Even the agelast Calvin wrote a pamphlet about relics with a certain comic overtone.” (Mikhail Bakhtin)