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Phonological Jokes

  • By: Javier Muñoz-Basols
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The term phonological joke describes a type of humor that uses the words or phonemes of one’s own language to imitate or parody the sounds of another language. The term originates with Pawel Adrjan and Javier Muñoz-Basols, who characterize phonological jokes as tending to follow a structure characterized by the following:

Let us consider the following example:

How do you say, “I stepped in excrement” in Chinese?

Dung on Mai Shu [Dung on my shoe]

The joke provides a “translation” for the expression “I stepped in excrement” by using monosyllabic English words that imitate the Chinese language. Despite appearing to be genuine Chinese to an English speaker, the answer only has meaning in the language of the joke: English. The Anglophone listener readily recognizes that the expression “Dung on ...

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