In everyday language, the word maxim refers to a rule of conduct adopted by an individual to get on in life (e.g., “Trust your crazy ideas!”), or it is used as a synonym for aphorism, a general truth expressed in a laconic form (e.g., François de La Rochefoucauld’s maxims). Theoretically, in the seminal framework developed by the philosopher Herbert Paul Grice (1913–1988), maxims are understood to be basic assumptions of rational conversation mutually shared by the participants. Grice subsumes his maxims under a cooperative principle (“Make your conversational contribution such as is required”) and four categories borrowed from Immanuel Kant. They are cornerstones of bona fide communication, and, thus, their opposites might be regarded as containing the recipe for humorous conversation.

Grice’s work has attracted enormous ...

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