Punning Wordplay in Czech Advertising Discourse

Juegos de palabras en el discurso de la publicidad checa

Věra Sládková (Institute of Technology and Business in České Budějovice)

Artículo recibido: 21-12-2016 | Artículo aceptado: 20-02-2017

RESUMEN: Este artículo trata de los juegos de palabras en el lenguaje de publicidades checas. Se apoya en la reciente popularidad de los juegos de palabras y la investigación lingüística para las que la nueva teoría de “lexical priming” proporciona un marco léxico-gramatical. Las evidencias del comportamiento combinatorio de los rasgos lingüísticos y los procesos que subyacen la reinterpretación y selección de significado desempeña un papel importante en el análisis de las razones por las que muchos juegos de palabras no logran el deseado efecto de causar diversión al oír o leerlos, y además, muestra los rasgos que sí lo logran. Los procesos de relexicalización y modificaciones del significado se observaron en muchos ejemplos de juegos de palabras en las publicidades del pasado y las más recientes. Fueron identificadas las fuentes de ambigüedad, y los juegos de palabra fueron comparados, confrontados y clasificados en categorías. Al mismo tiempo fue desvelada la transición desde la dependencia del juego de palabra de la ambigüedad de un fenómeno al uso de múltiples fenómenos psicolingüísticos y sus combinaciones.
ABSTRACT: This account of punning wordplay in Czech advertising discourse draws on the recent popularity of pun and the research, for which the theory of lexical priming provides lexico-grammatical framework. The corpus-based evidence of combinatorial behaviour of linguistic features, and the processes behind reinterpretations and sense selections aid an analysis of the reasons why many pun attempts failed to achieve the desired effect, and at the same time explain which features are successful in generating amusement in Czech puns. The processes of relexicalisation and reworking were observed in a considerable number of instances in older and more recent advertising puns, the sources of ambiguity identified, and puns were compared, contrasted and classified. At the same time a shift from reliance on one ambiguous feature to employing multiple psycholinguistic phenomena and their combinations has been identified.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Relexicalización, modificación del significado, campo léxico, colocaciones, homonimia
KEY WORDS: Relexicalisation, reworking, lexical cascading, collocation, homonymy


The scientific study was created during the project No. 201609 of the Internal Grant Competition at the Institute of Technology and Business in České Budějovice.


1. Introduction

Punning wordplay, widely used in English newspaper headlines and advertising as an eye-catching and attention-grabbing technique, has been making its way into Czech advertising since the 1990s when the Czech Republic embarked on the market economy and advertising regained its original function. Considering the enormous number of messages an average person is subjected to in everyday life, copywriters have been well aware of the power of the pun when attracting attention, arousing curiosity and leading the readers in the text. In addition, the puns create a humorous effect, thus helping to imprint them in the long-term memory of the recipient thereby fostering brand preference and loyalty.

In spite of this, establishing punning wordplay as a standard language phenomenon in Czech advertising discourse has been a long process and the pun has not been fully recognized and appreciated until recently. Although Čmejrková admits that “humour and even absurd humour is a favourite strategy of Czech creative teams” (Čmejrková, 2000: 256), in other parts of her book she claims that using humour based on punning wordplay can offend the receiver, ruin the reputation of the product, and draw attention to the advertising text itself. She regards the pun as pure art for art’s sake which is considered by the clients of the advertising agencies as too risky and consequently tends to be avoided by copywriters.

In sharp contrast with her claims, the Internet and the public space in the Czech Republic have recently been permeated by adverts using puns in which ambiguity of meaning can be easily noticed, connection with the product fostered and humorous effect achieved. Since 2000 there has been a considerable shift in the quality of punning wordplay in advertising and this language phenomenon has been also used in personal communication, songs, and public debates. What are the specific features of pun in Czech, a highly inflective language with a very limited number of homophones, a narrow range of homonyms, but a rich history of humour based on ambiguity of meanings from historical periods when the freedom of speech was only a dream?

This paper will briefly consider the reasons behind the unsuccessful attempts to exploit the pun in Czech advertising, and, taking into account the Theory of Lexical Priming (Hoey, 2005); the processes employed in sense selection, and the prevailing language features which constitute individual puns, analyse the principles the meaningful pun is based on.

2. Definition and classification of punning wordplay

Among the available definitions of wordplay, one which is broad enough to cover a wider range of form similarity, various fluctuating levels of semantic disparity and the significance of its communicative effect has been selected.

Wordplay is the general name indicating the various textual phenomena (on the level of performance or parole) in which certain features inherent in the structure of the language used (level of competence or langue) are exploited in such a way as to establish a communicatively significant, (near-) simultaneous confrontation of at least two linguistic structures with more or less dissimilar meanings (signifieds) and more or less similar forms (signifiers). (Delabastita, 1993: 57)

Ambiguity is created as a confrontation of (at least two) similar/identical forms and (at least two) dissimilar meanings, “where the subtler the formal contrast and the sharper the semantic one, the finer the punning effect” (Delabastita, 1993: 57).  Attardo (1994) stresses two key elements, which distinguish the pun from unintentional, vague ambiguity often passing unnoticed due to the semantic properties of the context. He suggests that the meanings used in a punning wordplay must be in opposition and the ambiguity deliberately pointed out. Partington (2009) agrees that even puns that “arise spontaneously in the flow of discourse” must be deliberately brought to “the attention of the other participant(s)”. Delabastita further explains that the pun can be of a phonological, polysemous, idiomatic, morphological and syntactical nature and more than one of these linguistic features can be exploited to obtain a single pun. This is also supported by Partington who claims that “puns generally do not play with single words but phrases, larger units of discourse” (2009: 1795).

The traditional classification of the pun adopted by Delabastita (1993) and Partington (2009) is based on the relation of identity between the pun components and distinguishes four types: homonymy, homophony, homography, and paronymy. Delabastita (1993) also presents another taxonomy according to which the puns are divided into horizontal and vertical ones depending on the position of the pun components within a text. When the contrasting linguistic components occur one after another in the text and the repetition of the component triggers the secondary meaning, he has the horizontal pun in mind. The non-identical position of the two or more similar/identical forms is responsible for the near-simultaneous confrontation of meanings. The simultaneous confrontation of meanings, on the other hand, is achieved when the confronting linguistic components are exposed in the same text fragment and the contextual setting triggers the secondary meaning in the vertical pun.

Partington (2009) considers the distinction between exact puns and near puns fundamental. Exact puns play with two identical sound sequences which rely on a process called relexicalisation for its punning effect, whereas near puns employ two sound sequences which only resemble each other and require the recipient to recognize the original and reconstruct it in a process called reworking.

3. Psycholinguistic processes explaining punning wordplay

The recipient starts processing the text assuming it will make sense and activates the relevant mental schemata, which are responsible for certain expectations about the text. Once this first script is activated, suddenly there comes the feeling of incongruity, or contradiction, usually as an unexpected jump between two or more senses that are mutually incompatible. Then the recipient must engage in some cognitive work which requires identifying the element causing the semantic obstacle and/or the common part, which makes the shift from one meaning to another possible. When the contradiction is overcome and another (sometimes hidden) interpretation discovered, the moment of resolution usually causes the pleasant feeling of surprise, intellectual satisfaction, playful amusement, and sometimes humorous effect.

Partington claims that the whole process can be “understood in terms of lexical priming” (2009: 1796), a theory firmly grounded in corpus linguistics research and proposed by Michael Hoey (2005). Priming is seen as a sub-conscious psychological concept that influences the accessibility of information in memory. Lexical Priming is a theory explaining that whenever we encounter words in combinations, we store them in combinations and the repeated encounter reinforces the occurrence pattern. Combinations that have been frequently activated in past experience are more available in memory than those that have been less frequently primed. Firth (1957) is cited in Partington when he holds that “through lifelong exposure to a language, native speakers acquire expectancies which items commonly co-occur with which others in texts” (2009, 1797) and which occurrence patterns sound unusual. The linguistic features which are particularly affected by lexical priming are collocations, semantic associations, colligations, and textual collocations. According to Hoey (2005), creativity with language is achieved by the deliberate overriding and exploitation of normal primings, and Partington adds that in wordplay, “primings are deliberately confused by the punster” (2009: 1798).

3.1. Relexicalisation

Partington also presents Sinclair’s (1987) two basic principles of language organisation.  According to the first one called the idiom or collocation principle, normal discourse is “composed of preconstituted or semi-preconstituted blocks of language” (2009, 1798).  In Sinclair (2004) it is also referred to as a phraseological tendency and it allows idiomatic interpretation of a single semantic constituent which consists of several words. The other, the open-choice principle, in Sinclair (2004) also called terminological tendency, views discourse as “a series of open-ended choices” (2009,1798), in which every word carries its own meaning and can be analysed as the smallest element of discourse with positional mobility in order to discover literal meaning of the text. Sinclair argues that the phraseological tendency is dominant, because it requires less time and cognitive effort to interpret a single semantic constituent. When this is not possible, however, the recipient applies the terminological tendency. “Switching from one mode of interpretation to another, from the idiom to the open-choice” (Partington, 2009:1799) is the key principle the punning wordplay is based on. Partington calls the process that forces the recipient to read again relexicalisation and defines it as a “freeing up of the parts of a normally fixed or semi-fixed, preconstructed lexical unit” (2009: 1799).

Cruse on the other hand claims that “individual speakers may differ markedly in respect of the degree of establishment of different senses” (1986: 68), which depends on the way the established and potential senses are represented in the mental lexicon of the language user. He also recognizes “two kinds of contextual selection” (Cruse, 1986: 68) and speaks about “passive selection”, when the user chooses among pre-established senses, and “productive selection” when unexpected context acts as a stimulus for a process generating the unusual sense.

3.2. Reworking

The recipient is subjected to a different process when “a (semi)-preconstructed phrase is presented in some modified form” (Partington, 2009: 1802). This is typically the case of the near pun, when a collocation, an idiom, a proverb, a saying, a quotation, the name of a film, book, TV programme, etc. is altered in some way and the intellectual challenge lies in recognizing the (semi)-preconstructed phrase and reconstructing the original. In the modified form, the normal priming prosody is overridden by the punster and the native speaker’s communicative competence gained by a lifelong exposure to a language is a vital tool assisting in recognising the allusion. Again, the pleasant feeling of surprise and amusement comes after the process which Partington coined as “reworking of a phrase” (2009, 1802) has been completed. He further presents his findings based on the corpus research, that “two distinct cognitive mechanisms” (2009, 1807) are employed when linking the new, modified version to the original. These processes are “identification of a phrase structure” and “co-occurring-item or collocational recognition” (2009: 1807). Partington (2009) also classifies the ways in which the (semi)-preconstructed phrase can be altered. He suggests four different sorts of changes: substitution, abbreviation, insertion or expansion, rephrasing (re-ordering) or reformulation.

3.3. Lexical cascading

A different kind of wordplay also briefly presented in Partington and termed as lexical cascading is based on “the accumulation … of words and phrases which belong to some particular lexico-semantic class” (2009: 1808) defined as “a set of lexical items which have a high probability of being found together in a text or collection of texts of the same discourse type” (2009, 1808). The accumulation of topically connected sets of words in advertising slogans helps achieve coherence at macro-level and creates internal patterns within the texts. In combination with punning wordplay, the key words can also function as “disjunctors” (ambiguous lexems) and “connectors” (linking elements) in Attardo’s sense (1994).

4. Methods

Instances of punning wordplay found in Čmejrková (2000) have been analysed as well as other banned and sexist advertisements on the internet in order to discover reasons behind the ruined reputation of the pun in the past and why, in many cases, it did not provide the recipients with the feeling of intellectual satisfaction, which was supposed to be its main purpose. The aim was to create a list of the most problematic features.

When analysing the pun, first, slogans with contextual ambiguity were selected and the decision was made whether they were easily noticeable, motivated, and amusing. The ambiguous slogans that did not fit these criteria were further analysed and later, the five most common, frequently recurring problems were stated.

The corpus of current puns consists of advertising slogans collected within a six month period (February – July 2016) in the public space of South Bohemia and on the Internet. It is not an all-inclusive collection as the data gathering was characterised by a significant degree of subjective selection. All collected puns were subjected to analysis, and classified according to the prevailing strategy (relexicalisation, reworking, lexical cascading). Their constituent parts were detected (homonymy, interlanguage homonymy, paronymy, collocation, idiom, saying, quotation, etc.) and groups were created based on similar features. Finally, the groups were ordered from the most to the least productive.

5. Results

Out of the 39 instances of punning wordplay, that Čmejrková (2000) also used to illustrate other features of advertising discourse, 24 satisfied all three above mentioned criteria. These 24 instances relied only on a single phenomenon, ie. either homonymy, or idiom. Many of them (15) failed to hold the recipient’s attention or generate amusement because:

  1. The interpretation was based on an open-choice principle and sometimes the idiomatic principle also failed.

The adverts used ambiguous expressions which were felt as enforced in the discourse. The ambiguity is easily spotted, but the recipient switches from one mode of interpretation to another only to come to an impossible or anomalous trait, which was likely to cause disappointment instead of amusement.

  1. The meanings were not in opposition.

A common problem of many vertical and horizontal puns lay in the fact that the meanings of words were not dissimilar enough to cause confrontation and consequently the variation within the senses caused by modulation left the viewer largely indifferent.

  1. The natural collocation pattern was distorted.

The copywriters tended to enforce certain words in adverts to achieve the feeling of novelty, or to exploit the merits of lexical cascading, but the distortion of normal collocation patterns violated the natural primings and only disturbed the recipient.

  1. The connotation of disgust was created.

A large number of puns exploited the homonymy of a noun that was also an insult often causing a shock due to the insensitive degrading of a specific group of people. Consequently a very negative connotation could be assigned to the product.

  1. An overtly sexual message caused embarrassment.

The existence of a wide range of core vocabulary with the second meaning pertaining to activities connected with sexual intercourse triggered punning wordplay that met with rejection and disgust. Pictures of barely dressed women were used to sell DIY tools and equipment, construction services, flash discs, loans, etc. purely because the catch-phrases of the adverts based on homonyms were deliberately incorporated in sentences offering or describing sex. The specific use of language ambiguity in those adverts, coined as “language pornography” (Valdrová, 2013: 26), discredited the pun and fostered public disapproval of punning wordplay for many years to come.

The majority of currently successful puns, as the internet search revealed, could be found in adverts for beverages, namely beer and cider, and for an insurance company. While the beer adverts play on the difference between beer and people and target largely the male, fun-seeking audience, the insurance company delivers forcible warnings to reckless drivers by instigating images of drastic car accidents and the notion of death. The most recent puns target much a wider audience stressing social values and recent trends.

RELEXICALISATION RELEXICALISATION AND REWORKING REWORKING TOTAL
2000 19 3 2 24
2016 45 11 6 62

Chart 1: Comparison of the number of meaningful puns

When classifying the recent puns, the difficulty lay in multiple mechanisms employed by a single pun and without a degree of generalisation the number of categories would be much higher.

The categories are presented in order of frequency within each process. The number in brackets states how many instances of each type were collected. An example in Czech is followed by an English equivalent. The order of interpretations follows the natural priming in Czech; “i” stands for interpretations based on the idiomatic principle and “o” for those based on the open-choice principle. Ambiguous words are underlined and members of lexical cascading are in italics.

5.1. Relexicalisation

  1. IDIOM + COLLOCATION + LEXICAL CASCADING (9)

MÍT ZA VOLANTEM OPICI JE VÁŽNĚ ZVĚRSTVO.

/ i: Drink-driving is really beastly.

o: To have an ape behind a steering wheel is really beastly./https://www.freshjam.cz/wp-content/uploads/602335_523022187708320_743318957_n.jpg [21-6-2016]

The constituent parts of the opaque idiom mít opici / be completely drunk/ are separated by a common collocation za volantem /behind a steering wheel/ which means when driving and is followed by another collocation je vážně zvěrstvo / it is really beastly/, often used when despicable behaviour is described. Only the idiom principle would be applied if it was not for the last word zvěrstvo, which as a member of lexical cascading triggers the open-choice principle. An ape is a meronymy of beasts. The fact that the message relies only on the phraseological tendency combined with the fact that the switch in interpretation comes quite late is a typical feature of this type of pun.

  1. IDIOM + HOMONYMY + LEXICAL CASCADING (8)

BEZ TROJÚHELNÍKU SI KOLEDUJETE O KŘÍŽEK

 /o: Without a triangle, you are asking for a cross

i: Without a warning triangle you are dicing with death/https://www.freshjam.cz/wp-content/uploads/617047_523022741041598_1134440179_o.jpg [21-6-2016]

All examples of this pun invite the recipient to apply the open-choice interpretation first, but it leaves the reader dissatisfied as the message is too simplistic, or empty. The members of lexical cascading enter syntagmatic relationships, or there is a very powerful paradigmatic relationship, i.e. there are co-hyponyms in our example: trojúhelník /triangle/, křížek /cross/. The idiom is either infrequent, out-dated, or a dead metaphor and after the enforced relexicalisation, a very powerful message is usually revealed. In our example, koledovat /go carolling, singing and begging/ has been so frequently used to mean koledovat si o – act in a way to induce a particular reaction, that only a few readers would retrieve an image of Christmas and a well-preserved tradition of cutting apples in half to find either a star or a cross as symbols of either happiness or death. They arrive at the same notion of death by a short-cut of reinterpretation due to an awareness of the symbolic meaning of the word křížek /cross/.

  1. IDIOM + LEXICAL CASCADING (7)

CELÉ ČESKO PEČE V NEJLEPŠÍ FORMĚ /i/o: The whole Czech Republic bakes in the best form/

imagen1
http://marketingsales.tyden.cz/obrazek/201604/5702693029971/31032016-cele-cesko-pece-v-nejlepsi-forme-57026cc6f0fd7.jpg [20–6-2016]

Although the picture anchors the text in the open-choice interpretation, informing the people that they have a chance to buy the best possible baking tray, the collocation v nejlepší formě /in the best form/ forces the sentence to be reinterpreted revealing several other meanings. It can either mean that baking, as a very popular and traditional activity, is now reaching its peak, or that the whole country, where baking is popular, is economically doing very well. It can also be an allusion to the recent keep-fit obsession of many people and the message can also be interpreted as slightly antagonistic – although all people are into baking, they are fit and in the best shape.

  1. ACCUMULATION OF COLLOCATIONS (6)

NA ROZDÍL OD LIDÍ JÁ SI NA UMĚLÁ VYLEPŠENÍ NEPOTRPÍM

/IN CONTRAST TO PEOPLE I’M NOT INTO ARTIFICIAL IMPROVEMENTS/
Imagen2
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ILU5r5SFcI/SivkKIjbfGI/AAAAAAAAAes/VWieNrEXbJo/s400/billboard-01-big.jpg [2-6-2016]

Chains of collocations are frequently exploited, because patterns of co-occurring lexical items provide familiarity, on which novelty can be built. The wordplay is then based on the relationships of the meanings expressed by the collocations, or sometimes also on the paradigmatic relationships between the words. In our example there are three generally recognized collocations: na rozdíl od lidí / in contrast to people/, já si na … nepotrpím /I’m not into/, and umělá vylepÅ¡ení /artificial improvements/. The first two attribute human qualities to beer and allow relexicalisation of the third one by switching between cosmetic surgery and chemical additives.

  1. HOMONYMY (5)

MOJE MÁMA BYLA KRÁVA /i: My mother was a cow (an insult – 4th most common according to SYN corpus) o: My mother was a cow (an animal)/

imagen3
http://img.ihned.cz/attachment.php/440/64340440/aoInd8Bj0CmDzMO2Fv3cPiGS9yTh1ksl/1280x629x77f7/BB-MA_ma.jpg [15-6-2016]

Strong mutual antagonism of meanings is achieved when an insult is employed. It immediately attracts attention and induces an idiomatic interpretation regardless of the picture. The constituent parts of the rhyme máma /mother/ – kráva /cow/ enhance its effect as the denotation of mother here is strongly pejorative if not uttered by a toddler learning to speak.  After applying the open-choice principle, the recipient realises that the personification is the main strategy and the strongly motivated advert stresses the use of real milk in yoghurt.

  1. HOMONYMY + LEXICAL CASCADING (3)

JEN TROUBA UPEČE ŠTRÚDL /i: Only a blockhead will bake an apple-pie. o: Only an oven will bake an apple-pie./

imagen4
http://www.mediar.cz/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/zlate01.jpg [11-7-2016]

The phraseological principle is dominant and the recipient comes to understand that only a stupid person will use apples to make an apple pie. Trouba is a mild but common insult (9th in SYN corpus) as well as a noun denoting an oven. When the lexical cascading triggers the switch in interpretation, the second meaning is likely to amuse people by the low density of information value that it carries.

  1. ACCUMULATION OF HOMONYMS (3)

VŠICHNI JSME STEJNĚ TEPLÍ /i: We are all gay, anyway o: We all have the same temperature/

imagen5
http://www.mediar.cz/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/zlate02.jpg [4-7-2016]

The recipients are primed to interpret the sentence idiomatically, leaving the people who consider themselves heterosexual baffled, which may even engender a kind of antagonism towards the homosexual community. However, the information about the temperature concealed in the bottom left-hand corner as the last place to be read, encourages reinterpretation and the recipient discovers a very powerful message – we are all equal, the average temperature of our bodies is the same. Teplý, an adjective with the literal meaning /warm/ has a pejorative connotation when it denotes a /homosexual person/. The relatively free word-order allowed the adverb stejně to modify either the adjective with the meaning the same, or to express the mode of the whole sentence and mean anyway.

  1. COLLOCATION + LEXICAL CASCADING + INTERLANGUAGE HOMONYMY (3)

VÍTÁ VÁS PLZEŇ. ALE ZDRAVÍ HUMPOLEC

 /o: WELCOME TO PILSEN.   BUT   HUMPOLEC SAYS “HELLO”

i: PILSNER URQUELL(brewery or beer) WELCOMES YOU. BUT HUMPOLEC SAYS “HELLO”/

imagen6
http://v1.adc-czech.cz/image-cache/real/3425-Bernard%20BB%20Plzen.jpg [2-6-2016]

Positioned as a welcome sign outside Pilsen, the city famous for Pilsner Urquell brewery, this pun plays with the homonymy of two words. Plzeň /Pilsen is either the city, the famous brewery, or even the beer. The multiple meaning is the consequence of the process of metonymy. But another brewery in a small and unknown place called Humpolec makes ale. The same spelling of a Czech coordinating conjunction ale /but/ and the English word for a type of beer called ale lie at the heart of the pun.

  1. PARONYMY (1)

ČAS PRO HRY – ČAS PROHRY /THE TIME FOR PLAYING – THE TIME OF LOSS/

imagen7
https://www.email.cz/download/k/5ETlhxy-2gLvSucRj8Q8Ktss_6UZKo-tbK6yUgWrDpNieyWS72AM4MR7jv3QB5qJ7ZOmFds/pozvánka Jaroslav Malina.jpg [21-6-2016]

Horizontal puns based on two identical sound sequences differing considerably in meaning because one of them was created across word-boundaries of two or more words, are a common source of humour and intellectual games for children. An absolutely identical sound sequence is achieved, especially when one of them consists of a noun with the preceding preposition. They occupy the end-weight position, often playing with the rhyme and connotative meanings of the words.

5.2. Relexicalisation and reworking

  1. IDIOM + COLLOCATION + PROVERB (6)

KDO PŘECHÁZÍ ÚNAVU, ODPOČÍVÁ V POKOJI.

/ i: HE WHO OVERCOMES FATIGUE, RESTS IN PEACE

o: HE WHO OVERCOMES FATIGUE, RESTS IN A ROOM/

original proverb: HE WHO DIGS A PIT FOR ANOTHER FALLS IN HIMSELF.

imagen8
https://www.freshjam.cz/wp-content/uploads/522180_523022421041630_62676203_n.jpg [21-6-2016]

Reworking proverbs, sayings, quotations, etc. is common in advertising as it requires active participation from the recipient and carries the weight of an everlasting truth. Here a collocation přechází únavu /overcomes fatigue/ substitutes a collocation denoting a nasty activity usually done by somebody to other people. The consequence is expressed by a familiar euphemism used to describe death odpočívá v pokoji /rests in peace/, which is an idiomatic interpretation. Reworking comes across now as a much more powerful process and the recipient realises that overcoming fatigue is a very nasty thing that can backfire on the person who attempts it. Switching to the open-choice principle yields only a simplistic meaning.

  1. IDIOM + LEXICAL CASCADING + PROVERB (5)

LEPŠÍ RUCE NA VOLANTU NEŽ SRDCE NA DLANI /i: BETTER HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL THAN BEING EXTREMELY NICE o: BETTER HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL THAN THE HEART IN THE PALM/

original proverb:  BETTER ONE BIRD IN THE HAND THAN ONE HUNDRED ON THE ROOF

imagen9
https://www.freshjam.cz/wp-content/uploads/177349_523022391041633_7293307_o.jpg [21-6-2016]

When reconstructing this proverb, the recipient receives some useful advice not to move the hands off the steering wheel even if out of a necessity to be nice to other people such as, for example, in order to answer the mobile or to give a passenger something. Mít srdce na dlani /To have a heart in one’s palm/ is an opaque idiom describing a really nice person who would sacrifice a lot for the others. But the words in lexical cascading ruce, srdce, dlaň / hands, heart, palm/ instantly trigger a very powerful open-choice interpretation by means of a dramatic picture of an exposed human heart held in a palm.

5.3. Reworking

  1. PROVERB + LEXICAL CASCADING (5)

LEPŠÍ VOLANT V HRSTI NEŽ AUTO NA STŘEŠE /BETTER A STEERING WHEEL IN THE HAND THAN A CAR ON THE ROOF/

original proverb: BETTER ONE BIRD IN THE HAND THAN ONE HUNDRED ON THE ROOF

imagen10
https://freshjam.cz/wp-content/uploads/925_523022584374947_1565074937_n.jpg [21-6-2016]

The process of substitution magnified the effect of lexical cascading: volant, auto, střecha /steering wheel, car, roof/ with the expected trait of the car turned upside down on its roof.

  1. THE NAME OF THE FILM (1)

KONEC VODY LEDOVÉ -KONEC DOBY LEDOVÉ

/THE END OF ICE-COLD WATER – THE END OF ICE-AGE/ – public space, Okružní St. České Budějovice [4 – 7 – 2016]

The original name: ICE-AGE

The Czech version of the name of the film Ice-age in English was used to advertise boilers for heating water. A word that rhymes with the original was used in the substitution.

6. Conclusion

When comparing puns recorded by Čmejrková (2000) with contemporary ones, many significant differences were discovered, the main one being the number of lexical features used to create a single pun. A considerable shift from the reliance on one homonymous word or one idiom only to the exploitation of more psycholinguistic features and their mutual combinations and accumulations has been demonstrated. Generally, the most common pun in current Czech advertising discourse is based on a combination of three features and it is very likely to contain lexical cascading and idiom.

Lexical cascading is novel and the most frequent phenomenon, which can enforce reinterpretation, connect the idiom with collocations, anchor one interpretation within the text, and induce connotations. They enter paradigmatic and also syntagmatic relationships, and communicate subconsciously.

Idiom as the second most common feature no longer relies only on the picture for reinterpretation since it is aided by homonymy outside the idiom, lexical cascading, and proverb. The meanings of normal collocations are creatively confused, but natural primings are not distorted.

Homonymy is still frequent, but the enforced ambiguity of words failing either open-choice or idiomatic interpretation in the particular context have not been observed in the current puns. Instead, homonyms are empowered by their accumulation, combination with idioms or lexical cascading. Interlanguage homonymy is still rare. The difficulty concerning the desired semantic distance within the domain of senses has been overcome by the avoidance of polysemous structures and the emphasis on forms carrying mutually antagonistic meanings when activated in the particular context. The homonymy of a noun still borders on the verge of insult, which is a risky strategy for advertising discourse.

The process of relexicalisation lies behind the majority of the collected puns, although it is not mandatory. Reworking as a novel approach to wordplay is rare and relies mostly on proverbs and quotations, whose phrase structures are retained, but the (semi)-preconstructed segments are either reordered or substituted by common collocations or idioms which allow further relexicalisation. The puns in which both these processes act in collaboration are much more frequent.

7. Works Cited

Attardo, Salvatore (1994). Linguistic Theories of Humour. New York: Mouton.

Delabastita, Dirk (1993). There’s a Double Tongue: An investigation into the Translation of Shakespeare’s Wordplay, with Special Reference to Hamlet. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Cruse, D. Alan (1986). Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Čmejrková, Světla (2000). Reklama v češtině. Voznice: Leda.

Díaz-Pérez, Francisco Javier (2012). “The use of wordplay in advertisements published in men’s magazines. The comparative study in the UK and Spain”. Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense 20: pp. 11-36.<http://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/EIUC/article/view/39993>. (14-09-2016).

Hoey, Michael (2005). Lexical Priming: A New Theory of Words and Language. London: Routledge.

Partington, Alan Scott (2009). “A linguistic account of wordplay: The lexical grammar of punning”. Journal of Pragmatics 41: pp. 1794-1809. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378216608002397>.  (25-06-2016).

Sinclair, John (2004). Trust the Text: Language, Corpus and Discourse. London: Routledge.

Valdrová, Jana (2013). “Jazykově vyvážené pojednávání mužů a žen v reklamě” Jak na sexistickou reklamu – Manuál pro posuzování sexistické reklamy. Praha/Brno: Otevřená společnost a Nesehnutí. <http://www.otevrenaspolecnost.cz/dokumenty/jak-na-sexistickou-rekla.pdf>. (04-07-2016).

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