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Direct address as a resource for humor

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Abstract

This chapter explores the use of direct address to create humor in scripted jokes and in everyday conversation based on examples from corpora of transcribed conversational English. We take direct address to include any reference to a real or imagined listener with a proper or invented term of address. We show how forms of address in humor build on, extend and subvert the standard system. Direct address always has both an ‘attention, identification’ function and a ‘contact, expressive’ function, with one more prominent in any given context, but both these functions play various roles in the creation of humorous discourse, for instance when reciprocal direct address between friends, partners and family members leads to humorous banter in conversation. Ah, you sweet little rogue, you! Alas, poor ape, how thou sweat’st! Come, let me wipe thy face. Come on, you whoreson chops. Ah, rogue! i’ faith, I love thee. Shakespeare Henry IV, Part II II. 4. 233–236

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