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Humour that is presented in a matter of fact way, as it weren't even an attempt to be funny, can be described as dry. And any sort of writing or information can be dry if it's overly factual in nature.

As far as I know, though, no one uses wet to describe obvious humour or information with lots of flourishes.

What would be the right word for the opposite of "dry" in these metaphorical senses?

Or, to ask another way, what one word would you place in these sentences:

His joke definitely wasn't dry, it was downright _____!

I thought her lecture would be dry, but it was surprisingly ____.

When was dry first used in this sense, and was wet ever used as it's opposite metaphor?

And if I dare ask a "why" question, is there a reason dry is used in this metaphorical sense without having pulled along the obvious antonym?

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The opposite is not "wet". It's "Juicy!" –  SF. Jul 25 '12 at 9:25
As we are talking about humour, I would like to propose that we use the word Moist in those locations, as that word is down right funny! –  David Watts Jul 25 '12 at 13:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

In this case, dry is not the opposite of wet, but it means bare, and lacking adornment, such as a dry report.

Etymonline, the online etymology dictionary, indicates the word has been used to describe comedy for more than 500 years!

dry O.E. dryge, from P.Gmc. *draugiz, from PIE *dreug-. Meaning "barren" is mid-14c. Of humor or jests, early 15c. (implied in dryly); as "uninteresting, tedious" from 1620s.

As for antonyms, instead of a dry lecture, you might sit through a lively one. When applied to jokes, a joke might be farcical, or whimsical; a comedy routine might be laced with slapstick. One website I found listed 20 distinct forms of humor; others in that list which seem "opposite" of dry include hyperbolic, sophomoric, screwball, but probably not mordant.

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+1 Great answer. –  Ste Jul 25 '12 at 10:23
Instead of "and perhaps mordant", you should write "but not mordant", in that mordant humor often is dry, and dry humor mordant, relationships not held by hyperbolic, sophomoric, screwball. –  jwpat7 Jul 25 '12 at 15:26
@jwpat: You make a good point. It's true that some dry humor is rather mordant, and vice versa. However, some mordant humor may be too harsh, caustic and biting to be considered dry. I've decided to change "and perhaps mordant" to "but probably not mordant," which takes your suggestion as an improvement, but acknowledges that two comedians – one mordant, and one dry – still might have two very different acts. –  J.R. Jul 25 '12 at 17:28

While I have not seen such a usage, the term juicy might convey the sense of the opposite in both these examples.

In regard to humor, the term dry can convey subtlety and indicate a form that may be an acquired taste, like dry wine or martinis. Juicy connotes a more robust and obvious quality.

As to the lecture, the concept of bare or barren does seem to be the closer meaning. I think juicy would work there as well.

This is mere opinion and without reference.

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