Shifting from meaning to its carrier: A common denominator for three strains of humour

Ron Aharoni

Abstract


Incongruity theories maintain that the core of humour is in interplay between meanings. Two incompatible meanings – of situations, verbal utterances or actions – are juxtaposed, one replacing the other or colliding with it. In this paper, I suggest that often the game is not played between two meanings, but between meaning and its carrier. I provide as examples two families of jokes and one general type of humour sharing this mechanism. One of the two families comprises jokes of self-reference, and the other consists of jokes based on deflation of symbols, which means using them in a concrete sense. The general type of humour is the subject of Bergson’s 1900 theory of the comic, mechanical behaviour where flexible human reaction is expected. The mechanism common to all three is a shift of weight from meaning to its carrier. This mechanism is then traced also in other jokes, suggesting possible universality

Keywords


carriers of meaning; meanings of actions; hierarchy of symbols; incidental meaning vs. declared meaning

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7592/EJHR2018.6.3.aharoni

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