The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 6, No 2 (2018)

Typowy Janusz and Bad Luck Brian: On meme characters from a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective

Joanna Szerszunowicz


The Poles’ observations regarding the reality of the last decades motivated the creation of certain meme characters deeply set in the Polish culture and reflecting the new social phenomena which have come into existence recently. The  examples of such persons include the characters named Janusz, Grażyna, Seba and Karyna. Previously, the names had no connotative potential and they were not used as components of idiomatic expressions. In the modern Polish, the names function as labels evoking many features (personality, given intellectual potential, appearance, stereotypized behaviour etc.). For instance, Janusz is a man in his fifties, with a beer belly and reddish face, unattractive, with very limited knowledge in a field in which he himself considers to be an expert, complaining and stressing that life was much better in communist times, wearing unfashionable clothes, putting on sandals and white socks. It is worth adding that because of the connotations, the name is used in the expression typowy Janusz/janusz and in the construction Janusze/janusze + a discipline/area of activity, e.g. janusze biznesu. Both in informal communication and in the journalese discourse, their belonging to labels is of importance – the names evoke complex pictures. As culture-bound items, such units are interesting from a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective. They will be analyzed and compared with the character of the English-language Bad Luck Brian memes.


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