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TO THE PURITAN MINISTERS in the colonies of the New World in the 17th century, joke-forwarding was anathema. In his famous sermon "On the Ungodliness of Idle and Profane Correspondence," Cotton Mather declared:
It is an unutterable Grief that the Ungodly Youths in the Town urge one another on in the Wicked Practice of writing Letters which do Mock and make Light of every Thing, as, for example, one Thoughtless Youth had written a List, called, Everything Which You Have Always Wished to Know of Bundling, but Were Afeared to Ask, which was most Debauched, and an Abomination, and caused Unholy Laughter among such Wretches as Cast an Eye upon it, for this same Sinner had copy'd out his Vile Writings and shewn them to all the Town.

(Manuscript courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard)

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