论美国《老友记》剧中幽默的修辞手法

论美国《老友记》剧中幽默的修辞手法

来源:www.liuxuelunwen.org作者:sandy发布时间:2013-03-30 13:02
本文通过论述美国《老友记》中六种主要表达幽默的修辞手法,更深刻了解美国的幽默。

 

论美国《老友记》剧中幽默的修辞手法
 
修辞手法Rhetorical Means
Rhetoric is defined as an art of using language impressively or persuasively, especially in public speech. 修辞手法是幽默的主要来源。In daily communication, rhetoric could be one of major sources for humor. The skillful and ingenious employment of rhetoric can expand and strengthen the expressive force of speech with the aim to enhance the interest of language as well as enliven the atmosphere of talking. As a figure of speech, rhetoric contains rich devices during its long development. 分析《老友记》中修辞的手法,采用大量的修辞手段产生幽默的效果,让观众相信,这是一个经典呈现特殊的美式幽默的喜剧。After analyzing the corpus of Friends, it can be concluded that plentiful rhetorical means are adopted intentionally to generate the humorous effect which convinces the audience that it is a classical comedy presenting the special American humor. It is impossible to give full explanation for each rhetorical means, so I just choose six most frequent-used ones, according to their accounting proportions ranking among the whole data, as the focus of discussion. As the following table shows 
Table 6(Frequency Distribution of Rhetorical Means)
 
修辞手法百分比Rhetorical Means Quantity Percentage   
Irony 744 32%   
Euphemism 362 16%   
Digressing from Subjects 260 11%   
Metaphor 243 10%   
Transferred wording 209 9%   
Hyperbole 198 9%   
Others 306 13%
 
 
讽刺幽默(1)Humor Created by Irony
在《老友记》中最显着的修辞手法,是具有讽刺意味的​​,六个朋友可以借此手法表达自己的思想和情感。The most remarkable rhetorical means employed in Friends is irony for which these six friends have a preference to express their thoughts and emotions. http://www.liuxuelunwen.org/usalw/ Among them, Chandler, the character with a most sarcastic, witty and humorous disposition, contributes a lot of ironic remarks in this comedy. Irony is an expression of one’s meaning by saying the direct opposite of one’s thoughts in order to be emphatic, amusing, sarcastic, etc.There are a lot of types such as verbal irony, dramatic irony, situational irony, socratic irony, cosmic irony, romantic irony, tragic irony, stable irony and unstable irony (WenXu,2004:3).The present study focuses on verbal irony, a figure of speech in which the actual intended meaning is expressed in words which carry the opposite meaning. It is really at the tips of people’s tongue in everyday life and used to heighten the humorous effect in sitcom. Consider the following instances:
1. Joey: Yeah, or you can teach him a lesson You know? What you could do is you could rub something that really smells on your butt, all right? Then, when he goes to smack ya, his hand will smell.(thinking aloud)Now what could you rub on your butt that would smell bad?
Chandler :( to Ross and Monica)What if Joey were president?
《老友记》第三季,24集------Episode 24, Season 3
 
 
2.Rachel: Good day for married people huh?
Ross: I’m sorry your husband cheated on you.
Rachel: I’m sorry your wife is gay. I guess women aren’t that great either.
Ross: Try telling my wife that.
------Episode 16, Season 6
3. Monica: Sounds like you need to think about what you want, talk to Gavin, and you definitely should talk to Ross
Rachel: Or...I could call in sick and not deal with it at all...
Phoebe: Wow! Five-month maternity leave, you're back for four days, kiss a co-worker, call in sick, they are lucky to have you!
------Episode 13, Season 9
In example1, Chandler feels very annoyed and embarrassed because his boss used to smacking his butt at office. Joey tries to help Chandler and figures out a stupid idea---rubbing something that really smells on Chandler’s butt. Chandler makes fun of Joey in his rather ironical and humorous reply, which he thinks Joey’s suggestion as ridiculous, so the audience easily gets the real meaning of his speech. That is Joey is such a baby and ridiculous, and it will be terrible if Joey were president which of course will never happen to Joey. As for example2, Rachel finds her husband Barry is messing around with her friend Mindy while she is away at weekend, in the meanwhile, Ross discovers his wife Carol is a lesbian. The two frustrated friends suffer the similar unhappy situation from their own marriages, so Rachel’s‘Good day for married people ‘is easily detected as ‘a very bad day for married people’ through her sarcastic tone. Finally, in example 3, Rachel does a series of stupid things in work, and Phoebe utters a false statement to tease Rachel. The word ‘lucky ’here actually conveys the opposite meaning---it is unlucky for the company to hire Rachel as its staff who doesn’t take responsibilities for work. From these examples, we can see that ironical means functions well in humorous speech acts.
委婉的幽默(2)Humor Created by Euphemism
Euphemism refers to the use of pleasant, mild or indirect words in place of more harsh, rude, unfriendly or more accurate or direct ones. People usually use euphemism on some occasions when talking about some sensible topics, taboos or something else that is not good if expressed in the direct way for considering other people’s feelings and emotions. In this comedy, euphemism is usually used on the situation which needs to soften the embarrassing atmosphere and make the speech more vivid, vigorous and amusing. For instance,
Rachel: Cats, how long do they live figuring you don't...y' know, throw' em under a bus or something?
Monica: Um, maybe 15, 16 years.
‘Throw them under a bus or something’ is a euphemistic expression to indicate that ‘a cat dies of an accident or something else’. In order to avoid the unpleasant word ‘die’, Rachel chooses to express in an indirect and mild way which weakens the grieved aspect and enhances the humorous aspect.
分散注意力的幽默(3)Humor Created by Distracting From Subjects
While lexical and semantic ambiguity resulted from the misinterpretation of meanings of words, which belong to linguistic reasons, the distracting from subjects refer to the deliberate misunderstanding of the speaker’s real intention in conversations. The humorous effect created by this means counts on the listener’s deliberate misinterpretation. The huge gap between the speaker and the listener in respect of semantic meaning usually leads to t novelty, wisdom and amusement.
Phoebe: Awe, this is so sweet of you! But you know what? I won't be needing a veil, I actually won't be wearing a dress at all!
Monica: I told you! I am not coming to a naked wedding!
Phoebe: No, no, no, we're not having a big reception, we took the money we were gonna spend on a wedding and we donate them to the children charity.
------Episode 7, Season10
Here phoebe donated all her wedding fund to children charity, so when she mentions “I won't be needing a veil, I actually won't be wearing a dress at all!” she is indicating that she won’t have a big and expensive reception, and she won’t even wear luxury wedding dress. But Monica get the wrong information that it’s gonna be a naked wedding ceremony, making it sound really absurd and ridiculous. The divergence here makes the audience turn to an unexpected side on the path of thinking and experience the humor.
隐喻的幽默(4)Humor Created by Metaphor
As we know, metaphor is to use of a word or phrase to indicate something different from(though related in some way to)the literal meaning.Metaphorical means can be easily found in Friends and frequently used to create humorous effect.
Monica: Chandler! What is the matter with your face?!I mean this picture is supposed to say" Geller and Bing to be married, "not" Local woman saves drowning moron”!
------Episode 5, Season 7
Chandler is pretty nervous and unnatural when he and Monica take their engagement photos. Monica’s words ‘Local woman saves drowning moron’ is a metaphor vividly figuring Chandler’s dull and awkward facial expression.
Rachel: I don't gossip! (They all laugh.)
Rachel: Well, maybe sometimes I find out things or I hear something and I pass that information on you know kinda like a public service, it doesn't mean I'm a gossip.
Rachel rejects the truth she is very gossip, so she uses a witty metaphorical expression ‘a public service’ to make a good excuse for her gossip. From the above discussion, it’s obvious that these witty, imagery and in speech are widely accepted in communication and elicit laughter.
转换措辞的幽默(5)Humor Created by Transferred Wording
Every word, phrase or other wording usage has its own already established or conventional context with the stable stylistic characteristic widely realized by people. Transferred wording is to use a word, phrase, etc. in an unconventional context by changing its established context or stylistic flavor. It is also called borrowing wording, simply signifying borrowing a word, phrase, etc. between different fields and thus generates humor.
[Scene: The Hallway, Chandler and Joey are just leaving Monica and Rachel's.]
Joey: Night, you guys.(They notice that a woman is sitting by their door)
Chandler: Oh look, it's the woman we ordered.
------Episode 13,Season 1
Chandler notices a woman is sitting by the door, so he makes fun by using the word ‘order’ which should be used in its established context---requesting food, drink, etc. from a shop, hotel, or restaurant, etc. The willful borrowing a word from the ‘ordering food’ context presents Chandler’s humorous sense.
Kristin: That's funny. Who are they?
Ross: The blond woman is my ex-wife, and the woman touching her is her...close, personal friend.
Kristin: You mean they're lovers.
Ross: If you wanna put a label on it.
The word ‘label’ is usually used in commercial context referring to a piece of paper, cloth, metal, etc. on or beside an object and describing its nature, name, owner, destination, etc. But here, Ross borrows it to lessen the awkward and embarrassing atmosphere when talking about his ex-wife is a lesbian.
夸张的幽默(6)Humor Created by Hyperbole
Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement, which is made for special effect and should not taken literally. In short, hyperbole is the figure of overstatement for the sake of emphasis, expressing fierce emotions, reflecting profound feelings, but not of deception. It is frequently employed in Friends’ speech, makes the speech more appealing, and elicits the audience’s imagination in order to achieve the humorous effect. As the following instances:
Monica: This is me in The Sound of Music. See the von Trapp kids?
Phoebe: Nope.
Monica: That's because I'm in front of them.
Chandler: Eh. I thought that was an alp.
Firstly as background information, we should know that Monica is quite fat in the past, especially in her high school. So when she shows her photo in a chorus performance in high school to Chandler, Chandler describes her as ‘an alp’, which means a high mountain, standing in front of other students. This is a typical a hyperbolic way to stress her ‘fat body’ because we know he cannot be that fat.
Monica: I went to one where I wore a band uniform they had to have specially made.
Rachel :( shocked) they had to have that specially made?!
Monica: It was a project for one of the Home Ec classes.
Rachel :( stunned) Oh my God, they told us that was for the mascot!
Here’s another scene people play jokes on Monica’s ‘fat history’. Because Monica is so fat that her uniform is special-made to put her on. Rachael teases Monica and exaggerates the size of Monica’s uniform to achieve a humorous effect.
In short conclusion, all the above materials including Neologism and rhetorical means serve to what humorous elements in Friends make audience feel ‘getting it’. Although I spend so many pages to tell you why the skillful and tactical ways of using language can make you get the humor it wants to convey, it’s still difficult to tell why those jokes are so funny. For example, when we translate those jokes to Chinese, they are not funny anymore. So, no matter how complicated the techniques which characters in Friends use to create humor are, the simple rule is that ‘we laugh, because we ‘getting it’.
 
Summary
In the essay, I try to discover why we feel humorous about some incidents or some jokes in the definition section. As defined, incongruity, absurdity, an unexpected future, a pleasant surprise, a startle, getting it and/or emotional chaos remembered in tranquility, all of those can cause humor. However in the sitcom Friends, the most two common ways to make audiences laugh are create the sense of incongruity and absurdity and make them “getting it”. Even though the principle is very simple, the playwright adopts various techniques to achieve the humor effects. To conclude, they are ambiguity, including pronunciation and lexical, Neologism and Rhetorical means, which also contains six sub-techniques. 
Go back to the start point of writing this essay, which is to solve the problem that why I as a Chinese can be fascinated by such an American culture-based sitcom, and why I can never express the humor to my parents in Chinese, the answer comes out is that I understand English and American culture, at least some, while my parents know nothing about them. Therefore, humor is culture-based and language-based, sometimes not universal and shared by different races and nations.
 
Bibliography
[1]Attardo,Salvatore.The Violation of Grice's Maxims in Jokes[A].Hall,K.et al.,(Eds.) Proceedings of the 16th Berkeley Linguistics Society Conference,1990:355-362.
[2]Attardo,Salvatore&Raskin,Victor.Script theory revis(it)ed:joke similarity and joke representational model[J].Humor.International Journal of Humor Research 4-3,1991: 293-347.
[3]Attardo,Salvatore.Violation of Conversational Maxims and Cooperation:the case of jokes[J]. Journal of Pragmatics,1993(19):537一558.
[4] Sultanoff, Steven M. "Integrating Humor into Psychotherapy." in Play Therapy with Adults. Ed. Charles
 



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