Playing with Words - Humour in the English Language - Barry Blake

Playing with Words - Humour in the English Language - Barry Blake

References and further reading

Playing with Words - Humour in the English Language - Barry Blake

Barry Blake [+-]
La Trobe University (retired)
Barry Blake retired from the position of Foundation Professor of Linguistics at La Trobe University, Melbourne, in 2003. He is the co-author of Language Typology (1981) and author of Australian Aboriginal Grammar (1987), Relational Grammar (1990), Case (1994, 2001) and several books on various Australian languages. Most of his past research has been in comparative and historical linguistics, but he is currently researching the functions of language that lie beyond the direct exchange of information, in particular humour and oblique, obscure and secret language.


Humour permeates our lives. People tell jokes, make puns, and engage in witty banter. There is written humour in headlines and captions, in ads, on signs, t-shirts, and bumper stickers, and in the form of graffiti. Nowadays humour is available on the web and circulated by e-mail. Playing with Words shows how every facet of language is exploited for humour. Where a word has multiple meanings or sounds like another, this is the basis for puns (A boiled egg is hard to beat). The word-building rules are used for clever compounds, smart blends and catchy phrases as in 'circulated by word of mouse'. Ambiguities in the syntax afford further scope for humour (Miners refuse to work after death), and the sounds of words can be exploited in humorous verse. There is also humour to be found in slips of the tongue, malapropisms, and funny misspellings. Playing with Words also covers the subject matter of humour and the part it plays in society. It is an informed account in non-technical language, full of examples, a book to be read for information and for fun.

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Blake, Barry . References and further reading. Playing with Words - Humour in the English Language. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 174-176 Aug 2007. ISBN 9781845533304. Date accessed: 23 Jun 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.29387. Aug 2007

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