Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The Use of Amphiboly in Jokes
A newly married man asks his wife,
"Would you have married me if my father hadn't left me a fortune?"
"Honey," his wife replied,
"I'd have married you no matter who left you that fortune."
. . .
A doctor said to his patient,
"I can't find the cause of your illness,"
then paused thoughtfully and added,
"but frankly I think it's due to drinking."
"That's OK," replied the patient,
"I'll come back when you're sober."
Amphibology is a phrase or a sentence that is grammatically ambiguous. This intentional use of humorous misunderstandings and confusions is one of the elements that make jokes FUNNY!
Many amphibological jokes start out with an irrelevant clause, i.e., "Alcohol is fine," followed immediately by irrelevant facts that distract from the first statement, i.e., "as long as you don't apply it internally."
The conflicting failure in logic, an unsound argument, or a misleading contradiction of a strand of thought, is what the logical mind detects, which in turn is recognized as humorous, thus evoking enjoyment or laughter.
The amphiboly is usually quite recognizable, as it is in the two examples above. If the husband in the first joke voices his concern about his wife marrying him for his money, he's probably right!