“Semi-word” games and “fairy tales” – mechanisms for introducing taboo content in language jokes
The aim of this paper is to describe the language-based mechanism for introducing taboo content in jokes. Two types of language jokes are discussed: so-called “semi-word” games and “fairy tales.”They are both examples of hiding taboo topics by saying conventional, innocent sentences or phrases. In case of “semi-word” games, the taboo content is discovered when parts of words in a given word play are exchanged and the receiver must know how the mechanism works. Otherwise, a joke will not be understood. In case of “fairy tales”, the receiver does not have to know the mechanism as the core of this kind of joke is to divide words or sentences and to show the other possible hidden meaning. The sudden contrast between innocent and hidden content is a main source of humour. Both “semi-word” games and “fairy tales” are examples of simple, somewhat primitive jokes based on the same topics (sex, physiology, etc.) and exist mainly among teenagers.