Rhetorical Humor in American TV Dramas
Rhetorical devices are the typical representative of humor, and they are all related to ‘beauty’. They provide audience with understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations. Rhetoric is composed of aesthetic rhetoric and communicative rhetoric. Then, we analyze the styles of American humor in terms of metaphor, pun, hyperbole, euphemism, understatement and sarcasm. And we especially focus on these 3 famous American TV series as following: , , < the Big Bang Theory>.
Firstly, what we will talk about is metaphor. Metaphor is a literary figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object. In the season 4 episode 12 of , Phoebe wanted to be the surrogate mother of his brother. After implanted, she was asked about the feeling. This is the script of her words: Phoebe: They are literally putting all their eggs in my basket. The word ‘basket’ that Phoebe said implies uterus. Using metaphor here demonstrate the similarity between the ‘basket’ and ‘uterus’. It goes straight to the heart of matter. In the season 2 episode 2 of < Desperate Housewives >, after Rex’s death, Phyllis was very sad and cried her eye out. Whenever someone came to express grieve, Phyllis always complained before Bree so that Bree felt very angry and hoped that if only Rex could have lived a little longer. This is the script of the original words of Bree: Bree: No one would notice me with your insistent caterwauling. The original meaning of the word ‘caterwauling’ is the sound made by a cat in heat, but in this case it means complaint or wail. Bree uses the metaphor in order to express the sick and tired of hearing Phyllis‘s endless tearful complaint. In fact, the topic of is ‘dirty laundry’ which is another case in the point of metaphor.
Secondly, the pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. In the season 4 episode 10 of < the Big Bang Theory>, Amy was attracted by a handsome man ---- Zack. When Amy wanted to say ‘hi’, she said ‘hoo’ and it made Sheldon’s face clouded with confusion. This is the script of their talk: Amy：Penny’s friend Zack stopped by and said hello and I said ‘hoo‘. Sheldon：Who？
Sheldon：Then why did you ask？
In this scene, the two meanings of ‘hoo’ are made up of the artful using of a homophone. In fact, the word ‘hoo’ is just an interjection, but Sheldon thought it was a question ‘who’, so they made a farce which made viewers feel funny and laughing. In the season 1 episode 9 of , Joey wanted to flirt with a sexy model. This is the script of their talk: Joey: What’re you wearing?
The model: nothing.
In this case, ‘wear’ is a polysemy. Joey wanted to ask which perfume the model spread on, but, in order to tease him, the model used another meaning of wear ---- put on.
Thirdly, another rhetorical device is euphemism. It means ‘to speak with good words or in a pleasant manner’. Some euphemisms intend to amuse, while others intend to give positive appearances to negative events or even mislead entirely. In season 4 episodes 3 of , Sheldon and Amy were behind time: Sheldon： Sorry we’re late.
Amy： I must take responsibility. I had to stop for feminine hygiene supplies. In this case, ‘feminine hygiene supplies’ is a euphemism to imply the sanitary towel. And the other humorous example in this part is the talk between Raj and Howard. They called going to toilet as ‘wee-wee’ and ‘boom-boom’. Here are some examples to talk about. People often implicitly describe ‘go to toilet’ as ‘answer the call of nature’, ‘do number one’ or ‘move the...
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