Monday, July 03, 2017

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical."

My Kiwi buddy John once told me a joke that went something like this:

"How's that motor running?"
"Like a raped goat!"

Humor is an interesting phenomenon that often follows its own bizarre associative logic. The above exchange is a prime example of this, so let's get nerdy and do a bit of discursive analysis.

The joke is an exchange between two blokes, and the humor relies on a punny misunderstanding by the answerer that is, in truth, a correct understanding of the intentions of the questioner.

The pun hinges on two senses of the participle "running." When the questioner asks how the motor is running, he's asking about how the motor is functioning. The answerer deliberately misunderstands the word to mean "travel quickly on foot." He employs the simile "like a raped goat!" to evoke, on one level, the speed and fervor of a desperate farm animal fleeing the scene of its sexual violation. But on a deeper level, what the answerer is truly saying is that the motor is indeed running (i.e., functioning) at a high level of efficiency. So: what seems at first blush to be a misapprehension is shown to be a correct apprehension. The answerer, despite seemingly misinterpreting the questioner's meaning, has in fact directly answered the questioner in a humorously vivid way.

This simple exchange is fascinating for what it reveals about the layers of meaning and intent that are possible when at least one interlocutor is in a humorous frame of mind. The joke, of course, is ruined by over-explaining it in this way, but every now and again, a little discourse analysis is good for the mind.


TheBigHenry said...

"That raped goat shouldn't be running, yo."
"No! More rape."

Kevin Kim said...

That poor, poor goat.