I am looking for an idiom that can be used when someone is trying to make fun to alleviate of a unpleasant situation.

Example: Stockholm City has a big construction in its center that clearly affects both locals and tourists and of the way to make fun of this is through nice and funny banners.

My native language has something that translates to "fun of trouble", but I do not know if this sounds OK in English.

Question: Is there an idiom describe makinging fun of an unpleasant situation?

  • 1
    This might not be exactly what you're looking for, but I like to say Time flies when you're having fun in a sarcastic way, when things have been going badly. Also there is a funny poem about cats that describes them as "galloping about doing good" (for example, caterwauling, waking people up, knocking over trash cans in alleys). Sep 29, 2019 at 6:38
  • In English, making fun of something means you are making a mockery of it. A joke that is not pleasant. You'd have to add the preposition out. Making fun out of something.
    – David M
    Oct 9, 2019 at 0:11
  • Possible duplicate of Make something great out of a bad situation
    – David M
    Oct 9, 2019 at 0:12

5 Answers 5


One modern proverb that may be suitable for this situation is "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade." The idea is that with the right attitude (and the right ingredients) you can turn something sour into something sweet.

Charles Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder & Fred Shapiro, The [Yale] Dictionary of Modern Proverbs dates the expression to 1910:

If life hands you lemons, make lemonade. [First cited occurrence:] 1910 William G. Haupt, The Art of Business College Soliciting (Chicago: for the author) 89: "Don't be a pessimist, but be optimistic. If anyone 'hands you a lemon' take it home and make lemonade of it." ...


Making light of the situation

This is one of the more common expressions where someone is trying to downplay the seriousness or the negativity of a situation.


I'd say whistling past the graveyard, and Wiktionary agrees, but I think that has connotations of being unaware of the full gravity of the situation.


The term you are looking for is self-deprecating. The Oxford Dictionary of English by Angus Stevenson defines the word as meaning:

Modest about or critical of oneself, especially humorously so: ‘self-deprecating jokes

  • I may hardly be a lexicographer of Samuel Johnson's calibre, yet still must I question how your proffered term purports to answer the question asked. Jocularly making little of one's own meagre accomplishments strikes this forgotten writer as a rhetorical device fundamentally different in kind from that of the gallows humor alluded to by our question's asker.
    – tchrist
    Sep 29, 2019 at 20:10


is a loanword from German, composed of

  • "Schaden" - damage, loss, scathe (viz unscathed - "unbeschadet")

  • "Freude" - glee, joy, happiness, fortuneate surprise

This is rather negatively connotated.

For a well intended joke after tragedy concider

comic relief


  • 1
    While this is close Oxford dictionary via Google tells us that it is another one's damage.
    – Alexei
    Oct 8, 2019 at 18:19
  • @Alexei I feared that would come up, and I agree. I didn't even read the body of your question to be honest. I'd say a degree of Schadenfreude can be found in the situation anyway, because it involves many people; first and foremost the observer. I am now biased to apologize for my answer, so at least note that Schadenfreude thrives because its a seemingly paradox oxymoron and does not (not anymore) imply contempt. But it has a sense of evil and thus does not fit too well.
    – vectory
    Oct 8, 2019 at 18:59
  • Re: Sw susseln, cp Ger schusselig "tardy, unreliable", verb schusseln "make a mistake due to haste [or lack of focus, preparation, etc" (now primarily in school work) ... which leads me somehow to suggest to mock, vs to mock up, very ambiguous: "to make a mock of the situation". Yet, "Schussel-fehler" (a sorry mistake, a small but glaring omission like a typo, switched numbers etc) is like an admittedly lame excuse. // I'm sure there's a fitting Latinism, anyway, many in fact, depending on how general or precise it needs to be, or how much one interprets into the example.
    – vectory
    Oct 8, 2019 at 19:14

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