An orchard invisible: Hidden seeds of wisdom in the English and Croatian proverbial apples

Draženka Molnar, Dubravka Vidaković Erdeljić


In the paper we analyse humorous modified proverbs in light of the theory of conceptual integration. Unlike traditional proverbs, which teach us something and elucidate some aspects of human life, modified proverbs are here primarily to entertain us. The theory of conceptual integration is particularly suitable for the interpretation of modified proverbs since they present novel structures that are not part of our mental lexicon and which we need to interpret online in dynamic meaning construction. Our examples of humorous modified proverbs show that although jokes are verbalised in the form of proverbs, the humour is derived from the same mechanisms that are employed in other types of verbal humour: puns, play on words, metonymies, elements of surprise, exploitation of taboos, etc. The evidence for this is found in the fact that those modified proverbs that employ only some of these elements, or do not employ any of them, are found to be less humorous or not humorous at all.


proverb creation and interpretation, cognitive mechanisms, the theory of conceptual integration, humorous effect, cultural settings

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