Impolite responses to failed humor

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The data discussed in this paper come from a larger project designed to address the neglected area of failed humor. A corpus of 207 elicited responses to failed humor was collected. The focus here is on the 44% that were coded as impolite. Findings show that most responses attacked the speaker using offensive, positive impoliteness strategies. Given that failing at humor is already humiliating, why might these interlocutors have opted to further punish the tellers with aggravated face attacks? Four somewhat overlapping reasons are suggested: the disruptive nature of humor, the expectations hearers held of the teller’s behavior, the characteristics of the study participants, and the identity concerns or face claims of the hearer.


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