Books: The Japes of Wrath

NO LAUGHING MATTER: RATIONALE OF THE DIRTY JOKE, 2ND SERIES by G. LEGMAN 992 pages. Breaking Point. $18.

Have you heard the one about the dog with a bucket of hot water who chased two people riding on a tandem bicycle? Do you know why Lucky Pierre is a sui generis joke in English-language humor, or why the gag whose punchline is "Don't make any waves" is one of America's favorites?

These jokes, plus 2,000 others, plus answers to questions most readers have never dared to consider, can be found in Gershon Legman's obsessive—and useful—collection of sexual and scatological humor. The first 811-page...