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Ambiguity, jokes, and trick questions

“If you choose an answer at random, what is your probability of being correct?” The question is, I think, pragmatically ambiguous. It features neither lexical nor structural ambiguity, yet the joke hinges on understanding the question in more than one way.

Ladies, Gentlemen, and English usage

Recently I have been re-reading James Thurber’s “Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Guide to English Usage”, a parody of Henry Watson Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage. The parody is built around a central conceit: that a language usage guide is equivalent to lifestyle or relationship advice. This is not merely a conceit around which to build a parody; it is also a fair assessment of what usage guides are used for.

Steve Harvey’s white voice

Black Comedian Steve Harvey compares white and black communication styles. He imitates a white man’s voice at 2:35-4:13. (2:35-4:13) [youtube][/youtube]

Mock Asian in Margaret Cho and Long Duk Dong

Examples of Mock Asian Margaret Cho (8:32-end) [youtube][/youtube] Gedde Watanabe (Long Duk Dong) on NPR

Obama sings Al Green

President Obama sings in a nod to Al Green during a speech: [youtube][/youtube]


“My Mom’s Name is Jean?”: Discussion of deixis- [youtube][/youtube] Suriya’s Aircel Ads (first two only): silly lead-in to deixis- [youtube][/youtube]