The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 11, No 1 (2023)

‘Are we laughing at the same?’: a contrastive analysis of Covid-related memes in Czech, Chinese and Spanish

Iveta Žákovská,Carmen Maíz-Arévalo,Ying Cao


Humour is often employed as a coping mechanism, with therapeutic effects on those producing and receiving it (Christopher 2015; Samson & Gross 2012). This buffering effect of humour might explain why, at the time of an international pandemic like Covid-19, human beings, independently of their cultural origin, have resorted to humour as a means of alleviating uncertainty and fear, and of enhancing feelings of connection and bonding with others. The proliferation of Covid-related humour has also led to a wide range of studies, with special attention to memes. However, contrastive studies are more limited, especially those comparing very different languages and cultural realities such as the Chinese, the Czech and the Spanish ones. This paper aims to redress this imbalance by analysing a corpus of 300 Covid-memes (100 memes per language). More specifically, we intend to answer the following questions: (i) what dimension(s) of humour are predominant in each language? (ii) what actors do the memes in the three countries target? and (iii) to what extent can these preferences relate to cultural differences/similarities? Applying a mixed-method approach, results show that there seems to be a global preference for affiliative humour while aggressive (and self-deprecating) humour appears to be more culturally bound, with a higher frequency in the Czech and Spanish datasets in contrast to the Chinese one. Likewise, the Czech and Spanish dataset share a significantly higher number of common frames, which might be pointing to a more European, Western type of humour in comparison to the Chinese approach (Jiang et al. 2019).


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