Linguistic Humor, and Language Play

jabgoldfishAI and Robotics

Oct 19, 2013 (4 years and 22 days ago)

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Linguistic Humor, and
Language Play



by Don L. F. Nilsen

and Alleen Pace Nilsen

A Pun and a Polish Joke:

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The Semi
-
Colon

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Double Vision:

Kale Fish


We usually need to be
surprised to find
something funny. In
texts that have two
contradictory
meanings, our minds
are happily surprised to
resolve the “problem”
by figuring out that it is
an intentional joke as
with these vegetables
cut to look like animals.

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Egg Plant Penguins

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Green Pepper Frogs


This kind of creative art
work is frequently
posted online where it
serves not only as
amusement, but also as
inspiration for others to
create their own visual
puns and examples of
incongruous imagery
that will bring smiles to
viewers.

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ALLUSION


“Allusion” is the noun form of the English
verb “to allude.”



“Allude” comes from Latin “ad
-
” plus
“ludere” meaning “to play.”



Modern English is filled with allusions,
thanks partly to modern media, where
“instant” allusions can be puffed out in
readers’ or listeners’ minds to full stories.

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JIMINY CRICKET

AS AN ALLUSION


The expression “By Jiminy” used to be a swear
word. In fact it was a double swearword, because it
was swearing by the constellation “Gemini” which
represented the twins (Castor and Pollux) from
Greek mythology.



Americans, who were not as familiar with Greek
mythology, changed the expression to “Jiminy
Christmas” and later to “Jiminy Cricket” after the
Walt Disney version of Carlo Collodi’s 1882
The
Adventures of Pinocchio
.

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In
Collodi’s

original
Pinocchio

there is a “talking
cricket,” who offers advice to the naughty little
puppet who has miraculously been changed into a
boy. However, the boy doesn’t like taking advice
and throws a hammer, killing the cricket.



The cricket’s ghost later appears as a minor
character, but it was the genius of the Walt Disney
makers of the 1940
Pinocchio
film, to name the
cricket and give him a major role as the little boy’s
conscience.



What better conscience could one have than
someone with the same initials as Jesus Christ?

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The Humor in Confused
Allusions


Comedian Michael Davis juggled with
the ax that George Washington had
used to chop down the cherry tree.



“However,” he explained, “I did have to
replace the handle,” ………..



“and the head.”


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On the “George Burns and Gracie Allen”
television show, Gracie often got her
allusions wrong.



GEORGE: If you keep saying funny things,
people are going to laugh at you.



GRACIE: That’s OK. Look at Joan of Arc.
People laughed at her, but she went ahead
and built it anyway.

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ANTITHESIS =
opposite
concepts being connected in a
surprising way



A MasterCard advertisement showed a picture of a
tall man looking at a shirt. The caption read, “You
found a 50 long. But you’re $17 short.”



The
World Book Encyclopedia
ran a summertime
advertising campaign under the slogan, “Schools
are closed…Minds are open.”



The Hoover Company advertised its irons with “The
iron with the bottom that makes it tops.”


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CHIASMUS =
Words repeated in
inverted order


Mae West said, “
It’s not the men in my life that
count; it’s the life in my men.




A bumper sticker reads, “
Aging is a matter of mind:
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter
.”



Another bumper sticker reads, “
Marijuana is not a
question of “Hi, how are you” but of “How high are
you?”



A one
-
liner that is popular around tax time reads,

The IRS: We’ve got what it takes to take what
you’ve got.


Clipping

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EPONYMY=
Applying the name of a real
or a mythical person to new uses



During the first Gulf War, American soldiers complained
about
JOHNNY WEISSMULLER showers
where the cold
water made them scream like Tarzan.



When the wealthy Ross Perot was running for president,
he was accused of hold the
DADDY WARBUCKS theory
of presidential qualifications.



When a report stated that over 500 out of the 700
shooting incidents in which Los Angeles police were
involved between 1987 and 1994 were potentially life
-
threatening mistakes, the officers were said to have
succumbed to the
JOHN WAYNE syndrome.

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More Playful Eponyms

Based on “generic” first names:


Lazy Susan




To Peter out


Great Scot




By George



Rhyming names:



Even Steven

Flap Jack


Ready for Freddie



Alliteration:



Gloomy Gus


Dumb Dora


Nervous Nellie


Assonance:


Alibi Ike



Fancy Dan



S
neaky Pete





Long Johns





Screaming
Meemie

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The Common Name
Joe

is Probably the
“Mother of all Eponyms”

Older Examples


Joe Six
-
Pack


Good Old Joe



Joe Blow



Joe
Schmo


G.I. Joe

(from
“General Issue”) for a
soldier
.


Holy Joe

for an army
chaplain


Newer Examples


Joe

(or
J.
)
Random

Hacker

for a computer
whiz


Joe
College

for a
student


Joe
Camel

for the
controversial cartoon
character that sold
Camel cigarettes.


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Metaphor: “Raining Cats and Dogs”

This saying originated
when London had such
poor sewer drainage
that in city streets small
animals could easily
drown. After a heavy
rainstorm, dead cats
and dogs were lying in
the gutters. Today it is
just a humorous kind of
exaggeration.

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“Dog Tags”


Soldiers in the
military are required
to wear dog tags.



As with dogs, these
tags helped to
identify soldiers
who might be
unable to speak.

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METONYMY = Being named for an
associated quality

This full
-
page ad in
USA
Today
was protesting a
decision made by Direct
TV to no longer offer
Nickelodeon,
as well as
other channels. Talk
about the two different
kinds of metonymy
related to the word
“Square.”

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Metonymy in the Names of
Antique Shops


Another Fine Mess



As You Were



The Collected Works



Fourscore and More



A Touch of Glass



Den of Antiquity



These include the
owners’ names:


Suzantiques


Shair’s

Wares


Young’s Oldies


Fine’s finds


Taken from a Collection of 300
names made by Professor Jeff
Gordon at Bowling Green Univ.

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Explain the Metonomy in This Ad for
a Las Vegas Show

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NONSENSE


The literal meaning of
Nonsense

is that it doesn’t
make sense; however nonsense verse and other
nonsense is carefully put together so that it has a
strong rhythmic quality that serves to highlight
logical infelicities and
nonce

words.



Nonce

means “only once.” Nonsense words are
coined for a particular use as in Lewis Carroll’s
“Jabberwocky” poem where he created
frabjous

and
galumphing.



Try thinking of new words that have been created
both for fun and for communication in our digital
world.



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OXYMORON=Contradictory Terms

Oxymoron

comes from two Greek words
oxys

meaning
“sharp” and
moros

meaning “foolish or dull.”



This kind of paradox or contradiction can be seen in such
brand names as:


Icy
-
Hot
(an arthritis medicine)



Cool Fire
(a line of shoes)



Soft Brick
(a floor covering)



Oxymorons

also appear in such phrases as:



All
deliberate speed

Civil War



A
peace offensive


Friendly fire



And in the ironic slogan:



“Anarchists Unite!”









In this little story, created by W. S. Blumenfeld and
published in
People Magazine
, see if you can find at
least a dozen oxymorons.



It was a new tradition
---
the First Annual Florida Snowmobilers’
Ball.



As he gazed across the crowded room, he saw her sitting on
the real vinyl banquette.



She was a relative stranger, but he was attracted by her
seductive innocence.



Sophisticated good ole boy that he was, he adopted an air of
studied indifference as he mused upon the planned serendipity
of their meeting.



“What if she is a closet exhibitionist?” he wondered.



“What if she thinks my minor surgery is old news?” Still, she
was his only choice.



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PERSONIFICATION

And
sometimes Animalification


Even before infants have
mastered language, they
respond to toys as if they
were human, and in the
earliest nursery rhymes and
stories, animals, dolls,
“choo
-
choo” trains, and
teapots come to life.



This kind of personification
is a kind of fun that we never
outgrow.



Describe a couple of
examples that you have
recently seen.


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Personification


What was photo
-
shopped into this
photo of two baby
dolphins?


Besides personifying
the creatures, what
else did it do?


How does this relate
to basic human
emotions?

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PUNS


Richard Lederer in the introduction to his
Get
Thee to a Punnery

said that puns are “a
three
-
ring circus of words: words clowning,
words teetering on tightropes, words
swinging from tent
-
tops, words thrusting
their heads into the mouths of lions.”



Tony Tanner said that a pun is like an
adulterous bed in which two meanings that
should be separated are coupled together.


Two Visual Puns

A Salted Peanut

Frosty Picks His Nose

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Is “Knott Your Ordinary Vacation” a Pun
or a Metaphor? What’s the Difference?


Debra Fried defined puns as
“the weird accidents,
amazing flukes and lucky
hits that the one
-
armed
bandit of language dishes
up….”



Her statement is itself a case
of once
-
removed
personification, since a
“one
-
armed bandit” is a
personified reference to a
gambling machine.

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Double Meanings (Puns) Used to
Market TIME Magazine



TIME
flies (1924


TIME

marches on (1932)


TIME

to get the facts (1932)


It’s
TIME

(1944)


TIME
to get it straight (1951)


A man hardly ever had
TIME
all to himself (1954)


This is the time to start
reading
TIME
(1960)


Make time for
TIME (1989)


Understanding comes with
TIME
(1994)

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Creative Spellings

Even before text
messaging,
product names
had to be spelled
creatively to
allow registration
of brand names.



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SYNECDOCHE

Synecdoche is a specific kind of metonymy in which a part
of something is used to represent the whole thing.



We refer to the movies as
the big screen
or to television
as
the tube.



In a popular example from
The Lone Ranger
radio show,
Tonto used synecdoche when he responded to the Lone
Ranger’s announcement that “We are being followed by
Indians,” with “What you mean
we
,
Paleface?”



Brant Parker drew a
Wizard of Id
cartoon in which a girl
brings home a boy and introduces him with, “Father, he’s
asked for my hand.” The father replies, “Marv. . . It’s the
whole package or nothing.”


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ZEUGMA=Faulty Parallelism
as in these examples:


Chuckles the Clown on the
Mary Tyler Moore
show offered, “A
little song..., A little dance…, A little Seltzer down your pants!



Naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch wrote that “the most serious
charge that can be brought against New England is not
Puritanism, but February.”



Henry Clay declared that he “would rather be right than
President.”



A
Wall Street Journal

cartoon by D. Cresci pictured a bank
robber informing the teller, “You won’t get hurt if you hand over
all the money, keep quiet, and validate this parking ticket.”




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“You were never lovelier, and I think it’s a shame.”



“One swallow does not a summer make, but Humpty
Dumpty makes a great fall.”



“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may be
radioactive.”



There’s no fool like an old fool; you just can’t beat
experience.



An apple a day keeps the doctor away; an onion a
day keeps everyone away.



Rome wasn’t built in a day; the pizza parlors alone
took several weeks.


Truthiness:

Stephen Colbert’s
“truthiness” is shown
in the gag names of
the Asiana Airlines
flight crew.


The plane crashed in
San Francisco in July
of 2013.

Captain Sum Ting
Wong


Wi Tu Lo


Ho Lee F*k


Bang Ding Ow

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