How Language Creates Humour


Yes, I do have a penchant for parrots!

In case you didn’t recognise it, that’s our native New Zealand Kea in the title photo. Like many parrots, they’re feathered clowns and comedians. While they may not talk in a language we can understand, they have their own ways of communicating that are often hilarious.

All the companion parrots I’ve known thrive on human emotion; laughter, exuberance, crying. They’re always ready to join in and share the emotion of the moment — especially laughter — oh, and singing! So a parrot image seemed appropriate to introduce you to some humour involving language.

Yes, you could argue that language creates all humour

Language, or the misuse of language creates humour — and I’d probably agree. Even non spoken language, such as slapstick can be funny. Yet some humour is only about language.

Language humour includes

  • Double entendres (or innuendo),
  • Interpretations or misinterpretations of words.
  • Oxymorons.
  • Puns.
  • Mixed metaphors.
  • Sarcasm,
  • Irony.
  • Satire.
  • Parody.
  • Sarcasm.

This post contains not all of the above examples, but a collection of pieces where language itself creates the humour.


An oxymoron, according to my dictionary is “a figure of speech in which contradictory ideas or terms are combined (For example: “sweet sorrow”)

Here are my top 15 in reverse order:

  1. Exact estimate
  2. Pretty ugly
  3. Political science
  4. Computer security
  5. Temporary tax increase
  6. Peace force
  7. Taped Live
  8. Clearly misunderstood
  9. Childproof
  10. “Now, then …”
  11. Software documentation
  12. Military Intelligence
  13. Government organisation
  14. Good Grief
  15. And the top oxymoron… Microsoft Works! (You can tell I’m a Mac user!)

Ode to the spell checker

Spelkling mistakes on a typewriter

Text with errors Always Check For Spelling Mistakes typed on vintage typewriter with copy space.

(It makes sense when you hear it, but not when you read it!)

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plain lea marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
It’s letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me so.

Things my parents taught me

Mom taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE : “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside — I just finished cleaning!”

Dad taught me LOGIC: “Because I said so, that’s why.”

Mom taught me RELIGION – “You’d better pray that will come out of the carpet.”

Dad taught me about CONTORTIONISM – “Just look at the dirt on the back of your neck!”

Mom taught me FORESIGHT – “Make sure you wear clean knickers, in case you’re in an accident.”

Dad taught me IRONY – “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Mom taught me about the science of OSMOSIS – “Keep your mouth shut and eat your dinner!”

Dad taught me about STAMINA – “You’ll just sit there until all that spinach is finished.”

And about the benefits of a good DIET – “You’ll never have big muscles like Popeye if you don’t eat all your spinach.” (!!!)

Mom taught me about BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION – “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do that as well?”

We can all make mistakes in writing, wording or phraseology. These misprints are great examples of the resulting hilarity.

Excerpts from church notices and magazines

Church - funny notices

  • Next weekend’s “Fasting & Prayer Conference in Whitby” includes all meals.
  • Sunday morning sermon: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ Sunday evening sermon: ‘Searching for Jesus.’
  • Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.
  • Don’t let worry kill you off — let the Church help.
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
  • For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members, and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  • Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
  • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
  • The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
  • Pot luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.
  • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
  • This evening at 7 pm there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
  • The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
  • Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 pm. Please use the back door.
  • The school drama group will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church hall on Friday at 7 pm. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
  • Weight Watchers will meet at 7 pm at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
  • The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge — Up Yours!’

An Ode to English Plural

Yes another example of the joys (?) of the English language. It’s a wonder anyone ever learnt how to pluralise singular things!

If the plural of man is always called men, why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet, and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those, yet hat in the plural would never be hose. And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren, but though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, but imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

cartoon- we speak English

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;

neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren’t invented in England.

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,

Grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Folks who grew up speaking English should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship…

We have noses that run and feet that smell.We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.

And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?

Other posts that might interest you

Tommy Cooper Classics

14 Ways to Improve Your Sense of Humour And Have More Fun

How Belly-Aching Laughter Helps you Resolve A Problem

8 Seriously Smart Ways To Save Money On Your Professional Development

The Illusion Of Work/Life Balance

Tags: Communication skills, Fun and laughter, Language


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