Inversion, Topsy-Turvy

Inversion and topsy-turvydom can be understood as a range of processes involving the reversal of normal expectations and conventions. Inversion plays an important part in several theoretical humor models as well as in many practical examples, and it can take many forms. Folklorist Barbara Babcock (1978) defines “symbolic inversion” as “any act of expressive behaviour which inverts, contradicts, abrogates, or in some fashion presents an alternative to commonly held codes, values and norms be they linguistic, literary or artistic, religious, or social and political” (p. 14). Examples involving humor range from isolated inversions in language (e.g., spoonerisms) or situation (e.g., pratfalls) to more complex reversals of social or power relations, often associated with a ritual or carnival element.

Inversion and topsy-turvydom are best understood as a ...

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