The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 10, No 1 (2022)

“Happy wives” and “sad husbands”: a decrypting analysis of Covid-19 humorous expressions

God'sgift Ogban Uwen,Godwin Oko Ushie


The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic (a global health emergency) following its ravaging spread and increasing death toll that led to the unprecedented multi-sectoral crisis and collateral damage.  These, and the non-discovery of reliable therapeutic medicines combined to generate rising fears and tension across the globe. To cope with these realities, discourse participants devised humorous expressions to create laughter, ease tension and melt fears.  The paper seeks to examine the contextual usage of such humorous expressions used in Nigeria, particularly in Calabar, that denote the sociolinguistic milieu, and shared knowledge and experience of the interactants.  The study adopts Relief and Encryption Theories of Humour because the theories account for the situational appropriateness of the humorous expressions as “coping devices” in coherence with the cognitive, linguistic, situational and social contexts. Data were generated by means of participant observation in on-site and virtual interactions in social media platforms. Findings show that COVID-19 pandemic has exerted irresistible pressure on language resources that stimulated the creation of humorous expressions as coping needs for the consequential circumstance. Specifically, the humorous expressions such as “happy wives”, “sad husbands”, “side chicks are hungry” among others were regularly and contextually deployed for comic reliefs and cognitive recreations to stimulate laughter in crisis.  Linguistically, the expressions are devised English structures and other constructs with codemixed elements derived from the registers of several discourse domains that reflect the Nigerian sociolinguistic environment. The constructs are therefore modelled to demystify the pandemic and unify interactants in order to ease tension and cope with the realities of the preventive and survival protocols.




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