Almost everyone tells and appreciates jokes. Yet the nature of jokes has proved elusive. When asked what they really mean, people tend to laugh off the question, dismissing jokes as meaningless or too obvious to require explanation. Of those who have seriously sought to understand humor, most have explained jokes as expressions of aggression-- a socially acceptable way of showing contempt and displaying superiority.
Elliott Oring offers a fresh perspective on jokes and related forms of humor. Criticizing and modifying traditional concepts and methods of analysis, he delineates an approach that can explain the peculiarities of a wide variety of humorous expression. Written in an accessible and engaging style, Jokes and Their Relations will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered how jokes work and what they mean.
Humor, Oring argues, depends upon the perception of an appropriate incongruity. The first step in understanding a joke, anecdote, or comic song is to unravel this incongruity. The second step is to locate the incongruity within particular individual, social, or cultural contexts. To understand the meaning of a joke, one must know something of its tellers, the social and historical circumstances of its telling, and its relation to a wider repertoire of expression.