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Ethnic Jokes

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

The word ethnic comes from the Greek ethnos, which means unbeliever. Early English meanings of ethnic and race were very similar but now the terms are often treated as distinct, with ethnic used to refer to groups with significant cultural or genealogical difference, rather than the biological categorization often associated with racial difference. This entry defines the ethnic joke, provides an outline of the patterns of ethnic joking that have been recorded in humor research, and offers some potential explanations for the existence of this joking.

Ethnic jokes are most commonly identified as jokes in which the butt of the joke is an ethnic group other than that of the joke teller and target audience of the joke. Although ethnic jokes can be told and received ...

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