|Author:||Nola||Published:||over 3 years ago|
|Tags:||double meanings, malapropism, spoonerism, comedy, comedy, funny, wordplay, humour||Category:||Writing tips|
Have you ever felt better after a good laugh? Well it’s not a coincidence. Research shows that humour and laughter can facilitate good physical and mental health. Humour can also add zing to a dry topic, give your readers a welcome break during a ‘heavy’ piece, and help them pay attention for longer. This series isn’t just about comedy. It’s about injecting humour into any piece of writing. Let’s start with word choices.
Some words sound funnier than others. Rather than saying you were confused by the IKEA instructions, try ‘bamboozled’. Rather than being surprised that your husband gave you power tools for your birthday, say you were ‘flabbergasted’. A thesaurus can help you find quirkier synonyms or you could check out ‘funny word’ lists such as the one compiled by Leigh Anne Jasheway. (I dare you to use canoodle, lackadaisical and rapscallion in the same sentence!).
A malapropism is the ‘ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound’ (The Free Dictionary). Think Kath and Kim, those quintessential foxymorons from Fountain Lakes. Kim doesn’t want to be rich, she wants to be effluent. When she’s mad, she’s gropable. You can find more examples at Your Dictionary.
Coined after the Reverend William Spooner, spoonerisms involve mixing the beginning sounds of two words. Some of the phrases attributed to the Rev Spooner include ‘it is kisstomary to cuss the bride’ and ‘the Lord is a shoving leopard’ (as opposed to loving shepherd). Click here for more examples. You wouldn’t want to overdo it, but the odd spoonerism could add a touch of lunacy to an otherwise serious character.
While double entendres usually have a sexual connotation, any word or phrase with more than one meaning can lead to humorous misinterpretation. For example, consider the following newspaper headline: ‘British left waffles on Falkland Islands’. I assume they mean that those on the left of British politics were still undecided about what they should do regarding the Falklands. Though it did make me wonder whether they’d left muffins and crumpets on the Falkland Islands as well as their waffles. For more examples of ambiguous headlines, click here. Why not scan a few entries in a dictionary to find some words with more than one meaning. Could you use any of those to create a comic scene?
If you can’t find the right word, why not make one up? In one of my poems, I needed a rhyme for onomatopoeia. My solution was to have ‘my thoughts in disarraya’. I also had ‘malarkey’ rhyming with ‘Hallmarkey’, though I doubt I’m the first person to think of that. Click here for the poem.
Next week we’ll expand these techniques to look at humorous phrases. For now, why not indulge in a little wordplay or try your spand at a hoonerism. I’d be interested in seeing the results.