Humor Support and Mode Adoption

Authored by: Juanita M. Whalen , Penny M. Pexman

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138843066
eBook ISBN: 9781315731162
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315731162.ch26

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Abstract

Imagine a house-hunting trip for two first-time home-buyers. The buyers are hoping for a sleek, modern home, but have a meager budget for their pricey city and their real estate agent is showing them some entry-level properties. They are excited to view their first option and are greeted with loud, unappealing, early 1970s décor. The following exchange ensues between the partners, in the presence of their real estate agent: Person A

Wow! It’s got such a unique look about it!

Person B

Yes, indeed, it’s really something.

Person A

It’s not quite what I expected.

Person B

You can say that again!

The preceding conversation, though fictitious, is very similar in form and intent to conversations shared between people every day. In this particular exchange, the speaker (Person A) and the listener (Person B) seem to be conveying a critical assessment of the house, but are doing so indirectly, in a jocular fashion. The indirectness of the remark permits them to veil their comments from the real estate agent while conveying humor to one another along with their displeasure. Notably, the listener in this case follows a conversational convention whereby they adopt a particular style, or mode, of speaking in which they follow the first indirect humorous remark with additional indirect humor. This convention is called mode adoption (Attardo, 2002), and the use of mode adoption in humorous exchanges is the focus of the present chapter.

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