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Wednesday, August 10, 2016


I remember when Riffaterre gave a lecture one that I heard at Ohio State possibly, he said that jokes were not really ambiguous. He told a kind of sexist joke, like

"Steve makes love to his wife twice a week. So does his neighbor John."

It's only a joke if you understand it a certain way. If you think John makes love to his own wife, then you won't laugh.

But isn't it also true that it's only a joke because you sense the "straight" reading intended?

So joking about second amendment people dealing with Hillary is only a joke if you are talking about them shooting her. Trump's audience wouldn't laugh if they didn't understand that. If he meant that 2nd amendment gun nuts would take care of her by organizing politically against her, it makes no sense. What makes it a joke (unfunny to me of course) is not the ambiguity, but the vagueness. He doesn't even have to complete the thought because it's understood.

It also seems like you can't be provocative and then have a right to complain that people are being provoked. It's a fundamentally dishonest strategy.


Anonymous said...

Best elucidation of Trump's despicable, dangerous utterance.

Thomas said...

Riffaterre's joke reminds me of e.e. cummings: '"Would you hit a woman with a child?--No, I'd hit her with a brick." Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of the precision which creates movement.'

Andrew Shields said...

Pullum posted a linguistic analysis of the "joke" on Language Log and then another version on Lingua Franca. But the Lingua Franca one has been taken down ...