Publication details [#62873]

Hirsch, Galia. 2017. Humor appreciation in the digital era. Lingua 197 : 123–140.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher


This inquiry compares audience ranking of popular Internet jokes and the mechanisms of humor underlying their successfulness. It examines the audience's perspective, in order to elucidate a potential correlation between high rankings and specific mechanisms, as well as different preferences of specific languages. Jokes were selected as the research object, as they are regarded to be “prototypical members of humorous discourse” (Tsakona, 2007:35). The inquiry is based on the pragmatic assay of 540 occurrences in context, proposing examples in three languages – English, Spanish and Hebrew – extracted from nine popular sites (540 jokes in total). The findings point out that Internet jokes have some common traits. However, comparison according to popularity ranking has disclosed differences in the existence of a clash between human's physical and moral nature (Bergson, 1911), and the use of absurdity resolution mechanisms (Dynel, 2012): popular jokes relied more on the garden-path mechanism and less on the red-lights, while with regard to non-popular jokes, the opposite happened. Differences were also disclosed in the choice of the “butt” of the joke, and in the comparison of the three linguistic cultures: jokes in Hebrew targeted women and minorities to a greater degree; while in English jokes were more prone to target men and refer to sexual relations. In comparison, a predilection of verbal humor, as opposed to superiority humor, was perceptible in Spanish, along with the extensive usage of the riddle narrative strategy and the crossroads mechanism.