Funghi; Fun Guy

Text: Question: What do you call a mushroom that likes to party?

Answer: A fun guy.

Context: SV is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying neuroscience. Befitting her scientific major, she remembers hearing this joke is biology class. This is one of her go-to jokes because, as she says, “I’m a sucker for puns, and that’s probably why I remember it.”

Interpretation:  Jokes are a very popular form of folklore, and can take on different forms in different societies. The use of punch-lines is a distinctly American behavior, and is employed in the joke above through the use of a pun. A pun is a joke exploiting different possible meanings of a word, or a joke that uses the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings. There is still a cognitive switch going on, but puns resemble riddles in the way that they propose a solution to a seemingly impossible question and end up creating a magical transformation of meaning through the use of language.

In the example above, the participant is asked to link two seemingly unrelated things in order to derive an answer to the joke. However, the pun reveals that the answer was hiding in a play on words the entire time.