Humor in code-mixed airline advertising

María José García Vizcaíno

Abstract

This article examines how humor works in the code-mixed advertising campaigns of the Spanish airline company Vueling. Drawing on the fetishism approach to multilingual advertising (Kelly-Holmes, 2005) and the theory of incongruity (Raskin, 1985), this paper explores three main types of humorous deviations in Vueling campaigns: structural, phonetic, and visual. The analysis confirms that humor in Vueling ads is produced by deviations at the formal rather than semantic level of language, specifically through the insertion of foreign languages (mainly English and French) into Spanish colloquial expressions. These foreign elements are partially “domesticated” into local Spanish frames by creative code-mixing mechanisms that serve to break readers’ expectations and trigger a comical reaction. Another finding of this analysis is that in most Vueling ads, humor works according to an incongruity-resolution pattern since the subtle humor of many rhymes, puns, and plays on words is only appreciated by a Spanish audience who knows some English and French and is familiarized with certain cultural references and sayings used in Spain.

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