By Alison Ross
The Language of Humour:* examines the significance of the social context for humour* explores the difficulty of gender and humour in parts equivalent to the hot Lad tradition in comedy and stand-up comedy* contains comedian transcripts from television sketches equivalent to Clive Anderson and Peter prepare dinner
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Additional info for The Language of Humour
Some people even talk about language as a linguistic straitjacket. The German nonsense poet, Christian Morgenstern, used this sort of image to claim that we are imprisoned by language and that this causes our unsatisfactory relationship with other people, the society and the world in general. What we need to do, he said, is ‘smash language’ before we can learn to think properly. Some contemporary humour, like that of Monty Python, moves from wordplay towards nonsense and the absurd. But it is not a modern phenomenon.
Some people are protectively aware of their own ‘superior’ status and try to maintain a rigidly formal register of language, as well as dress and manners, in any situation. The effect may often be to impress their audience into nervous silence or agreement. The humorist, like the child in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, sees such language as covering up their nakedness of ideas, sense, sincerity etc. and reveals this by exaggerating the tendency to ‘gobbledygook’—pompous or pretentious jargon. Jeff McNally follows the familiar morphological rules for word formation, but the politician’s tendency is to prefer the long and complicated, even where a perfectly good version exists.
The trouble with Ian (Fleming) is that he gets off with women because he can’t get on with them. (Rosamond Lehmann) Idioms are groups of words that should be regarded as a single unit, as their meaning cannot be worked out from the constituent parts: ‘go bananas’. There is ambiguity, if the group of words can be interpreted both as an idiom and as individual words: (miserable) (resulted) When down in the mouth, remember Jonah. He came out all right. ’ The words ‘skip, gambol, scamper, toddle’ all describe a type of lighthearted, perhaps shaky movement, but their collocations are different: ‘gambol’ is a verb usually collocated with lambs.