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Most of the time when I need to reference something using the word "laugh", my go-to preposition is "about". However, at times, "over" sounds much more adequate in day-to-day use.

The big question, then, is when do we prefer laugh over to laugh about? For instance, if you Google "laugh over", the following sentence example appears:

We had a quiet laugh over it.

There, for me at least, "about" would not be the suitable choice. Is there some rationale? Or is it a turn of phrase?

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  • 3
    I think have a laugh over doesn't refer to literally laughing, but having a humorous conversation.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 19:00
  • So saying "we had a laugh over the movie" isn't about the movie, so much as during it?
    – zeek
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:22
  • 1
    You can say they were laughing over the movie, to mean that their laughing was drowning out the sound of the movie. I don't think I've heard had a laugh used in that context, though.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 17:27
  • also consider looking into laughing "at" v.s. "with" and the related posts to the right. I agree with @Barmar that "laugh over" isn't appropriate in this sense. Perhaps try "laugh it over"? Another example of "over" - "he mulled over it," meaning he took it seriously. "He mulled about it" - doesn't quite work. Commented May 28, 2015 at 19:50
  • "Laugh over", to me, implies laughing done while reflecting about a humorous (in retrospect, at least) event, rather than immediately after the event.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 18:13

5 Answers 5

2

I think there is a very slight nuance in meaning, but usages vary. For me, 'laugh over' is more for situations of private amusement, shared with another of the same mind. "We had a laugh over your phone message". Slight emphasis on the shared quality of the laughing.

With 'laugh about', the emphasis is on the actual laughing and it can be a solo activity. Like 'laugh at'.

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Take, for example,...

1: We laughed at that
2: We laughed over that

The second (far less common) form usually only occurs in contexts where "that" (whatever it is/was) occurred some time before the laughter. We're recalling / reminiscing about it later, and finding it funny in retrospect (perhaps we weren't amused at the time, or weren't even there).

Because at is the "standard" preposition, whenever we encounter a less-common variant using over, we're inclined to cast around looking for a difference in meaning. So, given...

3: They laughed over his jokes

...we're inclined to discard the interpretation that they were laughing because they found the jokes amusing, and give weight to credible alternatives (they were rudely laughing and joking among themselves, drowning out the stand-up comic trying to entertain everyone else, they found the fact of him telling jokes amusing in and of itself, etc.).

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In British English "about" and "at" sound more natural than "over", and "at" may be more appropriate when it's OK to belittle or ridicule the target.

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I don't think there is a strict line of distinction between using them. But i find laugh over a more natural choice than laugh about in most cases.

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"Laugh about" is better use over "laugh over". "Laugh over" sounds like your above whatever is funny. While "Laugh about" says something is funny. It leads people on to what was so funny. Example:

"I had a Laugh (about/over), some guy tripped on a banana peel, and he farted while still in position of his ass in the air."

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