Word play

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Artist Tavar Zawacki painted a site-specific wordplay painting in Lima, Peru, commenting on the cocaine crisis and exportation ABOVE wordplay from LIMA PERU.JPG
Artist Tavar Zawacki painted a site-specific wordplay painting in Lima, Peru, commenting on the cocaine crisis and exportation

Word play or wordplay [1] (also: play-on-words) is a literary technique and a form of wit in which words used become the main subject of the work, primarily for the purpose of intended effect or amusement. Examples of word play include puns, phonetic mix-ups such as spoonerisms, obscure words and meanings, clever rhetorical excursions, oddly formed sentences, double entendres, and telling character names (such as in the play The Importance of Being Earnest , Ernest being a given name that sounds exactly like the adjective earnest).

Wit form of humour

Wit is a form of intelligent humour, the ability to say or write things that are clever and usually funny. A wit is a person skilled at making clever and funny remarks. Forms of wit include the quip, repartee, and wisecrack.

Amusement positive emotion

Amusement, from the old French à muser – to put into a stupid stare, is the state of experiencing humorous and entertaining events or situations while the person or animal actively maintains the experience, and is associated with enjoyment, happiness, laughter and pleasure. It is an emotion with positive valence and high physiological arousal.

Pun figure of speech

The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or figurative language. A pun differs from a malapropism in that a malapropism is an incorrect variation on a correct expression, while a pun involves expressions with multiple correct interpretations. Puns may be regarded as in-jokes or idiomatic constructions, as their usage and meaning are specific to a particular language and its culture.

Contents

Word play is quite common in oral cultures as a method of reinforcing meaning. Examples of text-based (orthographic) word play are found in languages with or without alphabet-based scripts; for example, see homophonic puns in Mandarin Chinese.

An orthography is a set of conventions for writing a language. It includes norms of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation.

Homophonic puns in Mandarin Chinese Common linguistics and jocular phenomenon

Mandarin Chinese, like many Sinitic varieties, has a significant number of homophonous syllables and words due to its limited phonetic inventory. All languages have homophones, but in Chinese they are especially abundant. The Cihai dictionary lists 149 characters representing the syllable "yì". Many Chinese take great delight in using the large amount of homophones in the language to form puns, and they have become an important component of Chinese culture. In Chinese, homophones are used for a variety of purposes from rhetoric and poetry to advertisement and humor, and are also common in Chinese loans, for example phono-semantic matching of brand names, computer jargon, technological terms and toponyms.

Techniques

Some techniques often used in word play include interpreting idioms literally and creating contradictions and redundancies, as in Tom Swifties:

Idiom combination of words that has a figurative meaning

An idiom is a phrase or an expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. Categorized as formulaic language, an idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. There are thousands of idioms, occurring frequently in all languages. It is estimated that there are at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language.

"Hurry up and get to the back of the ship," Tom said sternly.

Linguistic fossils and set phrases are often manipulated for word play, as in Wellerisms:

In linguistic morphology, fossilization refers to two close notions. One is preserving of ancient linguistic features which have lost their grammatical functions in language. Another is loss of productivity of a grammatical paradigm, which still remains in use in some words.

A set phrase or fixed phrase is a phrase whose parts are fixed in a certain order, even if the phrase could be changed without harming the literal meaning. This is because a set phrase is a culturally accepted phrase. A set phrase does not necessarily have any literal meaning in and of itself. Set phrases may function as idioms or as words with a unique referent. There is no clear dividing line between a commonly used phrase and a set phrase. It is also not easy to draw a clear distinction between set phrases and compound words.

Wellerism comparison by quotation with facetious sequel

Wellerisms, named after sayings of Sam Weller in Charles Dickens's novel The Pickwick Papers, make fun of established clichés and proverbs by showing that they are wrong in certain situations, often when taken literally. In this sense, wellerisms that include proverbs are a type of anti-proverb. Typically a wellerism consists of three parts: a proverb or saying, a speaker, and an often humorously literal explanation.

"We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.

Another use of fossils is in using antonyms of unpaired words – "I was well-coiffed and sheveled," (back-formation from "disheveled").

An unpaired word is one that, according to the usual rules of the language, would appear to have a related word but does not. Such words usually have a prefix or suffix that would imply that there is an antonym, with the prefix or suffix being absent or opposite.

In etymology, back-formation is the process of creating a new lexeme by removing actual or supposed affixes. The resulting neologism is called a back-formation, a term coined by James Murray in 1889.

Examples

Many businesses use word play to their advantage by making their business names more memorable. This business is located near the United Nations Headquarters and plays on the term UN Peacekeepers. UNPieceCleaners.jpg
Many businesses use word play to their advantage by making their business names more memorable. This business is located near the United Nations Headquarters and plays on the term UN Peacekeepers.

Most writers engage in word play to some extent, but certain writers are particularly committed to, or adept at, word play as a major feature of their work . Shakespeare's "quibbles" have made him a noted punster. Similarly, P.G. Wodehouse was hailed by The Times as a "comic genius recognized in his lifetime as a classic and an old master of farce" for his own acclaimed wordplay.[ citation needed ] James Joyce, author of Ulysses , is another noted word-player. For example, in his Finnegans Wake Joyce's phrase "they were yung and easily freudened" clearly implies the more conventional "they were young and easily frightened"; however, the former also makes an apt pun on the names of two famous psychoanalysts, Jung and Freud.

<i>The Times</i> British newspaper, founded 1785

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

James Joyce Influential Irish novelist, short story author and poet, 20th century

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, his published letters and occasional journalism.

An epitaph, probably unassigned to any grave, demonstrates use in rhyme.

Here lie the bones of one 'Bun'
He was killed with a gun.
His name was not 'Bun' but 'Wood'
But 'Wood' would not rhyme with gun
But 'Bun' would.

Crossword puzzles often employ wordplay to challenge solvers. Cryptic crosswords especially are based on elaborate systems of wordplay.

An example of modern word play can be found on line 103 of Childish Gambino's "III. Life: The Biggest Troll".

H2O plus my D, that's my hood, I'm living in it

Young Thug used a play on words in his verse on "Sacrifices" by Drake featuring 2 Chainz and Young Thug. [2]

I'ma use her name, like, "Who is he?"
You get it? I said I'ma username, like, "Who is he?"

Word play can enter common usage as neologisms.

Word play is closely related to word games; that is, games in which the point is manipulating words. See also language game for a linguist's variation.

Word play can cause problems for translators: e.g. in the book Winnie-the-Pooh a character mistakes the word "issue" for the noise of a sneeze, a resemblance which disappears when the word "issue" is translated into another language.

See also

Related Research Articles

Rhyming slang is a form of slang word construction in the English language. It is especially prevalent in the UK, Ireland and Australia. It started in the early 19th century in the East End of London; hence its alternative name, Cockney rhyming slang. In the United States, especially the criminal underworld of the West Coast between 1880 and 1920, rhyming slang has sometimes been known as Australian slang.

Euphemism innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive

A euphemism is an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes to downplay. Euphemisms may be used to mask profanity or refer to taboo topics such as disability, sex, excretion, or death in a polite way.

Rapping is a musical form of vocal delivery that incorporates "rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular", which is performed or chanted in a variety of ways, usually over a backing beat or musical accompaniment. The components of rap include "content", "flow", and "delivery". Rap differs from spoken-word poetry in that rap is usually performed in time to an instrumental track. Rap is often associated with, and is a primary ingredient of hip-hop music, but the origins of the phenomenon predate hip-hop culture. The earliest precursor to the modern rap is the West African griot tradition, in which "oral historians", or "praise-singers", would disseminate oral traditions and genealogies, or use their formidable rhetorical techniques for gossip or to "praise or critique individuals." Griot traditions connect to rap along a lineage of Black verbal reverence that goes back to ancient Egyptian practices, through James Brown interacting with the crowd and the band between songs, to Muhammad Ali's quick-witted verbal taunts and the palpitating poems of the Last Poets. Therefore, rap lyrics and music are part of the "Black rhetorical continuum", and aim to reuse elements of past traditions while expanding upon them through "creative use of language and rhetorical styles and strategies. The person credited with originating the style of "delivering rhymes over extensive music", that would become known as rap, was Anthony "DJ Hollywood" Holloway from Harlem, New York.

Slang is language of an informal register that members of particular in-groups favor in order to establish group identity, exclude outsiders, or both.

Cunt is a vulgar word for the vulva or vagina and is also used as a term of disparagement. Reflecting different national usages, cunt is described as "an unpleasant or stupid person" in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, whereas Merriam-Webster states that it is a "usually disparaging and obscene" term for a woman or an "offensive way to refer to a woman" in the United States. The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English gives "a contemptible person". In Britain, New Zealand, and Australia, it can also be used as a neutral or, when used with a positive qualifier, a positive way of referring to a person.

Charades word guessing game

Charades is a parlor or party word guessing game. Originally, the game was a dramatic form of literary charades: a single person would act out each syllable of a word or phrase in order, followed by the whole phrase together, while the rest of the group guessed. A variant was to have teams who acted scenes out together while the others guessed. Today, it is common to require the actors to mime their hints without using any spoken words, which requires some conventional gestures. Puns and visual puns were and remain common.

Crossword type of puzzle in which the player uses clues to put words in a grid

A crossword is a word puzzle that usually takes the form of a square or a rectangular grid of white-and black-shaded squares. The game's goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues, which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer words and phrases are placed in the grid from left to right and from top to bottom. The shaded squares are used to separate the words or phrases.

A cryptic crossword is a crossword puzzle in which each clue is a word puzzle in and of itself. Cryptic crosswords are particularly popular in the United Kingdom, where they originated, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, and in several Commonwealth nations, including Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, Malta, New Zealand, and South Africa. In the United States, cryptics are sometimes known as "British-style" crosswords. Compilers of cryptic crosswords are commonly called "setters" in the UK.

Figure of speech

A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is figurative language in the form of a single word or phrase. It can be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words. Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use, as figures of speech can introduce an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation.

Homophone word that has identical pronunciation as another word, but differs in meaning

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. A homophone may also differ in spelling. The two words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose, or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too. The term "homophone" may also apply to units longer or shorter than words, such as phrases, letters, or groups of letters which are pronounced the same as another phrase, letter, or group of letters. Any unit with this property is said to be "homophonous".

Magic word

Magic words or words of power are words which have a specific, and sometimes unintended, effect. They are often nonsense phrases used in fantasy fiction or by stage prestidigitators. Frequently such words are presented as being part of a divine, adamic, or other secret or empowered language. Certain comic book heroes use magic words to activate their powers. Magic words are also used as Easter eggs or cheats in computer games, other software, and operating systems.

Etymology study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. By extension, the term "the etymology " means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

<i>Orange</i> (word) word in the English language

The word orange is both a noun and an adjective in the English language. In both cases, it refers primarily to the orange fruit and the color orange, but has many other derivative meanings.

Untranslatability is the property of text or speech for which no equivalent can be found when translated into another language. A text that is considered to be untranslatable is considered a lacuna, or lexical gap. The term arises when describing the difficulty of achieving the so-called perfect translation. It is based on the notion that there are certain concepts and words that are so interrelated that an accurate translation becomes an impossible task. Some writers have suggested that language carries sacred notions or is intrinsic to national identity. Brian James Baer posits that untranslatability is sometimes seen by nations as proof of the national genius. He quotes Alexandra Jaffe: "When translators talk about untranslatable, they often reinforce the notion that each language has its own 'genius', an 'essence' that naturally sets it apart from all other languages and reflects something of the 'soul' of its culture or people".

In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease". An eggcorn can be described as an intra-lingual phono-semantic matching, a matching in which the intended word and substitute are from the same language.

The New York Times crossword puzzle is a daily puzzle published in The New York Times, online at the newspaper's website, syndicated to more than 300 other newspapers and journals, and available as mobile apps.

<i>XHDRbZ</i> television series

XHDЯBZ. The show was a Mexican sitcom produced by Televisa and broadcast by the Canal de las Estrellas network. XHDRBZ emulates a television channel that broadcasts sketches, not unlike the Canadian sketch show SCTV. When a sketch finished, credits were shown, like in a real television program. XHDЯBZ was created by Eugenio Derbez in 2002, whose series marked his debut as producer.

Chopper or Chopper rap is a hip hop music style that originated in the Midwestern United States and features fast-paced rhyming or rapping. Those that rap in the style are known as Choppers, and rapping in the style is sometimes referred to as Chopping. The style is one of the major forms of Midwest hip hop, though by the early 1990s it had spread to other parts of the United States including California and New York City, and it has spread across the world since.

References

  1. "wordplay: definition of wordplay in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)". Askoxford.com. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  2. "Drake - Sacrifices Lyrics in Genius". Genius.com. Retrieved 19 March 2017.