Everyone has noticed by now the non-laugh laugh of Mitt Romney, a kind of half-stifled barking. But what does it mean? It is blurted out as abruptly as it is broken off. Is it a kind of punctuation, part comma, part full stop, part interrogatory mark? What, if anything, is it trying to convey? Why does it seem more like coughing or burping than laughter?
Does it mean: “I know you are saying something critical about me, and I don’t know how to answer it, so I’ll just pretend that you did not mean it seriously”?
Or: “I want to show I am just a regular fellow, so I’ll try out my regular-fellow laugh”?
Or: “I hope you will take what I just said as something humorous, though I doubt it, but I’ll see if I can start a laughing chain reaction”?
Or: “I want to change the subject, but there is no natural way to do that, so I’ll just throw in this comic rictus as a non-sequitur”?
Or: “The Cheshire Cat could evanesce by leaving just a smile behind, so maybe I can avoid attention by disappearing away from my laugh”?
(read more via Why Is This Man Laughing? by Garry Wills)