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Wellerism

  • By: Wolfgang Mieder
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The term wellerism is the international designation for a unique subgroup of proverbs. A wellerism usually consists of three parts: a short statement that is often a proverb or a proverbial expression, a speaker uttering it, and an unexpected situation in which the discourse takes place. Typical wellerisms from folk speech are “‘There’s no fool like an old fool,’ as the old man said when he married his fourth wife”; “‘Let there be light,’ murmured the raven-haired beauty, as she drew forth the peroxide bottle”; and “‘Keep your mouth shut,’ said Daniel, as he entered the lion’s den.” While such triadic formulations have also been called quotation proverbs, Yankeeisms, perverted proverbs, or anti-proverbs, the 19th-century word wellerism has been adopted as the general term. It ...

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