Formulaic Language Research Network

Formulaic humour

Have a funny story regarding the use of, teaching, working on, etc. whatever formulaic?

Thanks to  Catrin Bellay

Musical, Audio-visual, Poetic and Narrative Input in a bilingual context: In my corpus-based study of bilingual acquisition I have the following example.

One day, Loïc (2;1;18) upon seeing a flower, encountered homophone confusion when he said:
“Flower, butter and sugar”
He had been watching an episode of “Oswald” around that time, in which Oswald and Daisy make super sticky honey buns and list the ingredients, “flour, butter, sugar”.
The very next day the following occurred
C: Babar’s children are called Alexander, Pom and Fleur.
L (2;1;19): Butter and sugar

I heard the following joke today, which reminded me of Loïc’s confusion. I hope he sorts it out before it’s too late!
Many aspects of human sexuality are puzzling. Take celibacy, for example.
This can be a choice in life, or a condition imposed by environmental factors.
While attending a Marriage Encounter Weekend, Tony and Julie listened to the instructor declare, ‘It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.’
He addressed the men. ‘Can you each name and describe your wife’s favourite flower?’
Tony leaned over, touched Julie’s arm gently and whispered,

‘Self-raising, isn’t it?’

Thus began Tony’s life of celibacy.


Thanks to Helen Osimo

There have been some cute jokes going around following the Icelandic volcano, clearly exploiting formulae! Here are a couple:

I see that America has declared war on Iceland. Apparently they are
accusing them of harbouring a weapon of ash eruption.

Waiter, there’s volcanic ash in my soup. I know, it’s a no-fly zone.


Thanks to Alison Wray

Joke heard on the radio the other day:
“So what if I can’t spell Armageddon? It’s not the end of the world.”
There must be loads of these…
“So what if I can’t spell homicide? It’s not a crime”
What else, guys?


Please see also this paper by Koenraad Kuiper on formulaic humour.

Kuiper, K. 2007. Cathy Wilcox meets the phrasal lexicon. In Judith Munat (ed) Lexical creativity, texts and contexts. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 93-112.