Beckett opens "Murphy" like this:
(i) The sun shone, having no choice, on the nothing new.
Is this an allusion, as someone might ludicrously put it, on the original title to Remarque's famous "All quiet on the Western Front", "In Westen Nichts Neues".
Ah, the Great War.
O. T. O. H., there's allusion in Grice. Of all the Great War songs, Grice
was fascinated by one:
"It's the same the whole world over."
refrain so much, whose melody he found trite (he was a fine pianist) but
first line to the first (out of the 34) verses:
"She was poor
but she was honest".
Grice's conceptual analysis of 'but' reflects
Fregean intentions, only Frege called it 'colour, while Grice prefers
'implicature': there is a conventional implicature to the effect that
'but', while carrying the same logical form of 'and', triggers something in
the addressee (Logical form: "p & q").
As time passed on, Grice came
back to earlier songs, and later ones. For example of hyperbole -- another
type of implicature, this time conversational, rather than conventional, he
"Every nice girl loves a sailor".
The implicature being
that the sailor is perhaps a different one. He was one, so he would not
know, but every girl would.
For example of a metaphor he gives the title
of a late 1920s song,
"You're the cream in my coffee, you're the salt in
Vanderveken and Searle attempted an analysis of 'allusion'.
Surely it's the Alluding that's basic, and even more, the utterer ALLUDING
that p. Holdcroft revises this in "Indirectness" in "Journal of Rhetoric".
What is that Grice is
Grice is alluding to a mock. His surname is French (cfr. the
etymology of the colour 'grey' as in 'fifty shades of grice' -- now playing
in France, dubbed).
allude: literally, 1530, "mock," from Middle
French "alluder" or directly from Ancient Latin "alludere", as used by
Cicero to mean, "to play, sport, joke, jest,". Derived from prefix "ad-"
"to" (see ad-) + "ludere" "to play" (see ludicrous). The figurative
extension "to make an indirect reference, point in passing" is only from
It's all different with Beckett.
In fact, a
student of Grice's alluded to Beckett when alluding to Grice. Qua tutor at
St. John's Grice would often (if not almost always) be late (which are
boring things anyway) since he'd rather stay at the "Lamb and Flag" or
across the street from St. Giles, at "Bird and Baby": therefore he was
by this tutees as "Godo'", which is how Beckett, alluding to a French
pronunciation, referred to a character who is alluded in the eponymous
play, but who is ONLY alluded, 'Godo'' not gracing the scene with his
To allude, figuratively, the utterer must pick up the referent.
When in 1540 'allusion', was first used figuratively, the allusion was
to Latin "allusionem" (nominative "allusio") "a playing with, a reference
to", the mere noun of action from past participle stem of "alludere (see
As Holdcroft notes in his essay in "The Journal of
Rhetoric", crediting Grice, "an allusion is never an outright or explicit
mention of the person or thing the speaker seems to have in mind", but an
Grice knew about this.
There is a book on allusion on
Borges: he used to say that for "x" there is always the possibility that
somone may make the theoretical claim that "x" alludes to "y": "the onus,
however, is on the alluder, not the alludee", and in this, he was being
But then we doubt he read Beckett in the original. What Beckett failed to allude was theat
'nothing new" (nichts new) is usually disimplicated, as per the cliché,
first ascribed to Gertrude Vanderbilt,
"No news is good news" (ii).
Applying (ii) to the orignal Beckett utterance (i) we get that Beckett is
not being really logical.
For starters, the sun stars shining as it raises
from the east. It SETS on the west, and hardly shines as it does so. It may
be analytically true that the sun has no choice, but to ascribe 'choice' to
the sun may trigger the wrong implicature. It is analytically true that the
sun has no choice, -- and this is literally what Beckett is saying. The
gist is the 'nothing new'.
For Vanderbilt, no news is good news (surely the
implicature behind Remarque's title).
For the record, allusion is an art,
and the title of Ronald Christ's essay is "The Narrow Act: Borges's Art of
Allusion". The first chapter of the essay is dedicated to the four words of
the expression: 'art', 'of', and 'allusion'.
The patterns Christ
discovers in Borges's literary reworkings "his own perplexities" and the
perplexities of philosophy is described as the "art of
By "allusion", Christ means the adaptation of themes,
centering mainly around the reality and autonomy of literary invention,
more than borrowing of thoughts and attitudes, as is the case with Beckett.
Christ traces Borges's main significant allusions, and demonstrates how
Borges turns ideas of others into fantasies of his own.
parlance, anyone who has engaged in linguistic
botany, will note that the word ‘allusion’ may be thought to be used in
various senses, even if it only has one.
In its widest 'alleged' sense
"allusion" is be used to mean any brief or passing reference, direct or
Allusion may also be used, however, to mean
an indirect reference or hint.
In this sense an allusion involves a Griceian utterer choosing a vague
referential term in place of a more specific one so that the addressee is
apparently ‘kept guessing’ for a moment.
Fifne went off in a cab, as we have known more exalted
persons of her nation to do under similar circumstances: but more provident
or lucky than these, she secured not only her own property, but some of her
mistress’s. (Thackeray, Vanity Fair.
passage the vague reference “more exalted persons of her nation” is
generally taken to be an allusion to Louis Philippe, who reputedly fled
Paris in a cab in the 1848 revolution.
This was a topical allusion
at the time of Thackeray's utterance and was
unlikely to be missed by
Thackeray’s Griceian addressees.
Thackeray's is, however, not an
An echoic allusion is what is
sometimes, rather misleadingly, called a ‘literary allusion’.
is misleading because echoic allusions are firstly not limited to literary
works nor are all allusions in literary works of the echoic variety, as
witness the Louis Philippe example.
The echoic allusion is closely
linked to the pun.
Indeed, the Classical rhetorical figure or trope
"allusio" lirrealla meant word-play, and although the
earliest recorded meaning of ‘allusion’ in English is that of ‘illusion’,
by the early Renaissance
it had acquired the meaning of ‘word-play’ or
‘pun’, and by about 1600 was also being used more
generally for any form of
symbolic comparison such as allegory, parable or metaphor (Oxford English
It is these now obsolete meanings of
‘allusion’ which are actually most important for understanding how echoic
allusion works in the manner of a pun.
In echoic allusion, rather than
one referent replacing another, a secondary associative level of meaning is
set up by means of cryptic quotation.
More precisely, a secondary
reference to a text in absentia is established and the addressee has to
supply the relevant associations which it bears for the text in
In echoic allusion the
utterer intends to remind the utterer of another text and, furthermore,
wants the uttererr to recognise this intention, alla Girce.
therefore puts selected features of the source text into the utterance and
relies on the addresee’s familiarity with the two utterances and the genres
and traditions to which they belong for the allusion to be taken, even
though the two texts are quite unconnected, as in the case of
Beckett and Remarque.
Nevertheless, the utterer accepts that not all
uttererers will necessarily take the allusion.
In this connection, we can define echoic allusion as the use of pre-formed
language or names to convey implicit meaning, or implicature.
example of echoic allusion she gives is from David Lodge’s novel Nice Work,
in which a character says:
“Where are they now, the Hillman Imps of
yesteryear? In the scrapyards, every one, or nearly."
We can actually identify two echoic
“Where are they now, the Hillman Imps of yesteryear?”
“Where are the snows of yesteryear?” -- Francois Villon, Le
Grand Testament, 1461: ‘Ballades des dames jadis’, in the translation of
Dante Gabriele Rossetti.
“In the scrapyards, every one, or nearly”
echoes the line “In the graveyards, every one” from the song, ‘Where have
all the Flowers Gone?’, written by Pete Seeger.
Those consulted by Leppihalme were
more or less able to identify the sources and thought the implied meaning
or implicature was nostalgia for innocence and naiveté, together with
perhaps a touch of ironic,wry humour.
Echoic allusion has been described
by literary scholars as a form of quotation.
We can see an echoic allusion as a cryptic or veiled quotation.
are, however, more properly, a sort of anti-quotation in that they break
either one or both of the two crucial requirements for strict quotation,
namely of being, firstly, verbatim with reference to their source texts
and, secondly, discrete with reference to the host texts.
The echoic allusion may be cryptic in various ways; it will often
be morphologically modified so as to incorporate it syntactically into the
It is frequently not set off from the host utterance by
quotation marks or other means.
Its source is normally not
It may be fragmentary, discontinuous or interspersed with
Often the original quotation will have been
deliberately changed at the lexico-grammatical level for rhetorical effect.
If it is preserved in verbatim form, then it will inevitably have undergone
some measure of semantic shift in its new context and often this
semantic shift will be considerable so that there is a
measure of word play
It is in these ways that the quotation is cryptic and the
allusion is echoic.
In literary writing the tradition of allusion by
means of intentional echo can be traced back at least to Latin Classical
Among the rhetorical figures of speech in Roman poetry was
imitatio auctorum, or the reverent imitation of a great poet, which could
easily become aemulatio, or the attempt to improve on the great poet, such as VIRGILIO.
Imitatio might necessarily involve modification of the original
quotation to integrate it
syntactically and semantically into its new
Aemulatio would necessarily require tampering with the original in
order to improve it.
However, alongside this reverent tradition of
imitation there was also a tradition of irreverent imitation, which played
with an original and manifested itself in such literary forms as parody,
travesty, burlesque and pastiche.
It is actually this
subversive ludic tradition which is more relevant for an understanding of
the punning echoic allusions.
Clearly the Hillman Imp example from David
Lodge, above, belongs to this tradition of parody.
clearly related to echoic allusion in that both devices trigger two
meanings, a primary and a secondary meaning.
allusion is essentially concerned with playing with the semantics of the
word and the
pragmatics of the sentence.
The utterer not only reproduces the form (or certain features of the
form) of a short text segment, but also adapts its meaning to the new
This results in intertextual punning or word play, achieved by
displacing the quotation from
its original context, possibly modifying it
formally and then so integrating it into the host text that it takes on a
double meaning (or implicature) in the manner of a pun.
Its primary meaning
is determined by the host text but the secondary meaning it bore in its
source text is also activated and interacts with the primary meaning.
as echoic allusions may vary along a scale from verbatim quotation to vague
echoes of a source, so puns may be more or less perfect.
There is a distinction between perfect and more or less imperfect puns.
One example may illustrate this, the punning joke:
luck,” said the egg in the monastery, “out of the frying pan into the
This this joke
involves a perfect pun (on ‘friar’ and ‘fryer’ -- cfr. Grice, "He was caught in the grip of a vice/vyce) as well as an imperfect pun
(on either ‘friar’ or ‘fryer’and ‘fire’).
We can explain the difference
between a perfect and an imperfect pun as follows: a blend is what an
utterer, often by way of a slip of the tongue, if he tries to say two words
or phrases at the same time.
If the two just happen to be identical in
phonological shape (as are ‘friar’ and ‘fryer’), then the effort can
succeed, and the blend is a perfect pun.
Otherwise, what actually comes out
can at most be composed of ingredients drawn from each of the two target
words or phrases (Lewis Carroll’s Richard and William yielding Rilchiam).
But as long as the addressee can detect both of the targets it is still a
pun, though an imperfect one.
A great variety of contaminations,
assimilations and metatheses can be shown to be the result of blending, and
all can occur, by intent rather than accident, in a wisecrack or joke.
We are considering spoken
language, where homophony satisfies the condition for a perfect pun.
However, for puns in the written mode, one might suggest the stricter
criterion of homonymy, namely that the perfect pun must activate two or more
targets which are both homographs and homophones.
definition needs to be extended to cover those cases where two or more
meanings of a polysemous word are activated, rather than two homonyms.
distinction between polysemy (if such a thing exist -- be reminded of Grice, "Senses should not be multiplied beyond necessity") and homonymy is actually by no means clear cut
anyway since what today are homonyms may have started out from a common
origin, for example, ‘bank’ of a river and ‘bank’ in the financial sense.
It's VERY different with "He was caught in the grip of a vice", although Grice uses this as an instance of Modified Occam's Razor in "Meaning Revisited"!
We can distinguish between puns and allusions in terms of langue
The idea is that puns play with two lexicalised meanings,
usually of a single word, whereas allusions play with phrasal meaning,
which is determined by context.
However, in practice, this distinction is
not as tidy as it might appear.
It is a feature of language that it
under-exploits the word combinations permitted by its grammar and prefers
certain formulations for expressing certain meanings in certain situations
In time, repeated co-occurrence of certain
lexical items to express particular meanings become
established in the
language and in the mental lexicon of members of that speech
There thus emerge dominant discourse patterns in a speech community.
before the text is encountered, reader (or listener) expectations are
established by the extra-textual context.
The skilled Griceian utterer and addressee have
knowledge of different text types and the language or register associated
This knowledge functions to insulate a text against the
intrusion of unwanted meanings, or unwanted implicatures (if such a thing exist: be reminded: an unwanted baby is still a baby; an unwanted implicature ain't an implicature!)
During the actual process of uttering and understaning, people are also sensitive to the co-occurrence patterns of words
and match these against their stored knowledge of form-meaning pairings at
the phrasal level.
The intra-textual context of the unfolding text
therefore primes certain meanings of each word as it is encountered and
other meanings are suppressed.
In this way, situation, topic
and the unfolding linguistic context itself function to foreground certain
word meanings and background others, so that many potentially distracting
ambiguities are never allowed to intrude into the consciousness of the
This restriction of meaning potential we can term “the
idiom principle”, even if we have to be careful with what an idiom is (For Grice, 'pushing up the daisies' is one, but 'fertilising the daffodils' is not, yet both are euphemisms for 'dead').
Nevertheless, in a sense the
meaning of each word is redefined anew each time it is encountered.
meanings are dynamic rather than static, flexible rather than rigid.
potential ambiguity of word meaning is resolved only in context.
are more or less amgiguous (many usages) rather than polysemous (many
senses -- if such a phenomenon exists: be reminded of Grice, "Senses should not be multiplied beyond necessity"), and in combination with other words create meanings not
necessarily predictable from the meanings of the individual words in
In punning and alluding, utterers may exploit this feature of
language to deliberately prime secondary meanings in addition to
the primary meaning. We can thus defined a pun as a
foregrounded lexical ambiguity.
Double meaning links allusion to the
pun. The distinction between a pun and an echoic allusion is illustrated in
the following lines from Hilaire Belloc’s poem 'On his Books’, which
actually contain a pun embedded within an
When I am dead I hope it may be said:
sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”
“His sins were scarlet but his books were read” is an
echoic allusion to Isaiah 1.8, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall
be as white as snow".
The allusion may be viewed as a piece of intertextual
word-play, a weak pun at the sentence
It belongs to the
irreverent tradition of parody of an authority, in this case parody of the
Within the allusive piece of language, however, there is a pun at
the word level: ‘read’ puns on its homophone ‘red’, which intrudes
on the addressee’s consciousness, even if he misses the Biblical
allusion, because it has been primed by its near synonym ‘scarlet’.
However, the apt Griceian addressee who has recalled the Biblical quotation will be doubly
reminded of the pun, since ‘white’will also prime ‘red’. This is a
near-perfect pun, since ‘red’ and ‘read’are homophones, although not
The couplet will be understood differently according to
whether the addressee takes the allusion or not.
For the addressee who misses the
allusion, the pun on ‘red’ and ‘read’ will just be seen as a piece of
facetious humour which contributes nothing to the meaning of the text in
For the addressee who recognises the allusion, however, the
Biblical quotation in absentia does
contribute a secondary level of meaning
to the line, suggesting that an utterer’s utterances may in some sense redeem
his personal shortcomings.
This links into the piece of received cultural
knowledge that writers may achieve immortality through their works, an idea
which if expressed directly rather than allusively would be
pompous for Belloc.
The allusion is therefore "sinnkonstituierend", as Frege would put it, because it contributes to the meaning of the text in
The pun demands only
linguistic knowledge of the addressee while the echoic literary allusion
relies heavily on cultural knowledge as well.
Intermediate points on the scale would be occupied by allusions to
lexicalised quotations, proverbial
expressions and the like, since they
represent lexicalised cultural knowledge.
There is a gradational rather than a categorical distinction
between puns and allusions.
However, the boundary between linguistic and
cultural knowledge itself turns out to be rather
fuzzier than this.
What is an allusion to a quotation for one addressee may be a
pun on a lexicalised phrase for another.
This is because frequent
allusion to a specific target quotation may lead to its being lexicalised
in the language.
For example, the genial Max Beerbohm’s description of radio as a
“pot of message”
echoes Chapter 25 of Genesis in the Geneva Bible, 1560,
“Esau selleth his birthright for a mess of potage (sic)” and for erudite
addressees will be an
it will be a piece of word play since the phrase has become lexicalised.
Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary defines it as “a material
advantage accepted for
something of higher worth, as by Esau (Genesis
Sometimes an original quotation will be forgotten and a later
allusion to it will become better known.
For example, Margaret Thatcher
“The lady’s not for turning”
and this quotation has
become better known to many people than the title of Christopher Fry’s play
The Lady’s not for Burning to which she alluded.
It is, of course, too early to say
whether it will become a lexicalised phrase.
Puns which play with a
lexicalised phrase rather than a single word, even where no quotation is
involved, are often highly culture-bound and demand not only linguistic but
also cultural knowledge if they are to be understood.
It is therefore
doubtful whether the separation of linguistic and cultural knowledge is a
workable distinction for marking off puns from allusions.
Consider for example:
"Into injury time – for life"
This punning headline headed a report
about the dangers of chronic injury resulting from children overtraining
‘Injury time’ will initially be understood by the reader in
its lexicalised sense as meaning the
playing time added on to games such as
football to compensate for time lost during play because of attending to
However, this initial meaning will then be deconstructed
by the unfolding text in praesentia and
the reader will have to reinterpret
the phrase in a novel manner to mean something like ‘time spent being
(chronically) injured’, without dismissing the initial meaning, which now
secondary rather than primary.
It underlines the fact that the
chronic injuries referred to in the article cannot be quickly cured in a
few minutes of treatment so that the game can go on.
The two meanings
interact, rather than the lexicalised meaning being replaced by the nonce
The pun is at the level of parole rather than langue, since a
lexicalised meaning and a nonce meaning are involved.
The context in
praesentia and the context in absentia interact in the manner of an echoic
allusion, even though there is no source quotation.
The allusion is
situational, the reference is to a secondary script.
Two contexts, one for
each meaning of the word to be punned on, are primed.
Contextual priming is
very important in the genre of punning jokes (jokes with a double
Freud gives various examples, one of which is the
following, topical at the time of the Dreyfus affair:
“The girl reminds
me of Dreyfus. The army doesn’t believe in her innocence.”
This is a
perfect pun on ‘innocence’, but it has an allusive element in that
alongside the overt reference to the Dreyfus affair, in which the legal
meaning of ‘innocence’ applies, there is an implied imaginary situation in
absentia in which the sexual meaning of ‘innocence’ would obtain. In fact
two separate scripts are set up in two separate contexts (triggered by the
separate associations of ‘girl’ + ‘innocence’ and ‘Dreyfus’ + ‘innocence’).
Each script primes a different meaning of ‘army’, too (‘soldiers’ in the
‘girl’-script versus ‘generals’ in the ‘Dreyfus’- script).
phrasal puns may be viewed as an allusion to some sort of set phrase in
The method is
to achieve maximal semantic change with minimal phonological change.
target may be a lexicalised quotation, as in Queen Elizabeth II’s
description of the year 1992, when the marital problems of her children had
caused her great adverse publicity, as an annus horribilis (reported in T
This neologism clearly puns on or alludes to
the annus mirabilis or year of wonders, which has become a lexicalised
phrase in English, but was also the title of a poem by Dryden.
phrasal puns often depend on set phrases which have no source in a
quotation, but the method of slot and filler substitution is still the
same, as in the Independent, which described a meeting as
“short and sour”, with obvious allusion to the set phrase “short and
Even verbatim echoic allusions to literary sources, complete with
quotation marks, may function in the manner of a pun.
The following example
hinges on a perfect pun at the word level and is taken from a reader’s
letter to The Times.
It may be compared in its method to allusive puns
such as the Dreyfus example above:
I consider this “the most unkindest
cut of all”. (The Times, Letters to the editor)
example the writer is complaining about having to pay capital gains tax on
the investments he has been forced to sell in order to pay for nursing home
care for his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
The phrase in
quotation marks is a verbatim quotation from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar,
III, iii, 188.
In its new context, however, the quotation takes on a
completely new meaning.
This semantic shift is based on the pun on ‘cut’.
It is a perfect pun.
In this case, as in the example from Freud, above, the
effect is one of double meaning at the phrasal level.
In other cases
the allusive chunk of discourse may differ lexico-grammatically from the
If lexico-semantic manipulation is employed, it will
often involve minimal formal change with maximum semantic shift, for
example by substituting a similar sounding word with a very different
meaning, in the manner of a weak pun. In such cases, the punning allusion
functions in the
manner of a deliberately distorted echo, often with
humorously grotesque effects.
These perlocutionary effects (recall Grice, "I may be mistaken, but I'm not confused" -- Cited by Neil Wilson, "Grice's Ultimate Counter-Example", Nous) may contribute
to various aspects of pragmatic
meaning, especially irony, parody and
Yet the modified quotation must nevertheless still remind the
reader of the wording of the underlying quotation in its
original context, otherwise the allusion will be lost.
In the following
newspaper heading to an article about gardening in the winter months the
hinges on a weak pun at the word level:
When your tiny land
This alludes to the line
“Your tiny hand is frozen”
in Act I of La Bohème, music by Puccini, libretto
by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.
The words ‘hand’ and ‘land’ differ phonologically only
in terms of the initial phoneme, but the meaning of the whole phrase is
Sometimes the weak pun may not be limited to a single word,
but may extend to a phrase.
An example from a newspaper headline
They’re guarding the change at Buckingham Palace.
-- Daily Telegraph.
The headline is to a consumer survey which
reported that Buckingham Palace is Britain’s most overpriced tourist
attraction and the allusion is to “They’re changing the guard at Buckingham
Palace”, the first line of the refrain in A. A. Milne’s poem for
children, ‘Buckingham Palace’.
Here a weak phrasal pun is created by
the permutation of ‘guard’ and ‘change’ while maintaining the syntax,
prosody and rhythm of the original because the ‘ing’ suffix does not move
with ‘change’ but attaches itself to ‘guard’.
The meaning is of course
completely transformed with minimal formal change.
Provided the prosody and
rhythm of the original are not disturbed, allusion can be achieved by
similar sounding phrases (phonological play), as in the next example: ...if
he needs a slogan, he should look no further than Shakespeare’s “King
Richard III”, Act I, Scene I:
Now is there discount / On our winter rent.
This is taken from a newspaper report of
an estate agent who was fighting a slump in the housing market by announcing
a ‘sale’ of properties on his books.
The original is, of course, “Now is
the winter of our discontent.”
In this case the allusion takes on the
form of a deliberate misquotation, complete with quotation
marks and exact
reference to the source.
There are other echoic allusions which retain an
element of language play not at the phonological level but at the semantic
level, by exploiting the structural relations in the lexicon.
In the next
example this involves substituting one colour word for another:
New York Post.
This headline broke the news that Jerry Hall was
suing Mick Jagger for divorce to the tune of 50 million dollars.
face of it the headline bears no relation to the news item reported, at
least no direct relation.
Most addressees will, however, perceive it as a
punning allusion to the title of the Rolling Stones song “Paint it Black”.
The substitution of ‘green’ for ‘black’ is semantically motivated and is
presumably to be taken as an allusion to the fifty million dollars, with
‘green’ being metonymic for ‘greenbacks’.
Interestingly, in 2000, when
Luciana Morad, the Brazilian lingerie model, sued Mick Jagger for child
support of $35,000 a month, the New York Post repeated the punning
The mother of Mick Jagger’s love child wants the wrinkly Rolling
Stone to paint it green.
New York Post.
influential account of how indirect language works remains that of Grice.
Herbert Paul Grice, an Oxford philosopher, regards the processing of indirect language as
involving two steps, firstly a recognition phase and secondly an
Essentially interested in the way conversation
functions, Grice makes the crucial point that many conversational utterances
are potentially ambiguous and only disambiguated by an agreed understanding
(or etiquette) of conversational conduct, which he called the Co-operative
This maintains that, unless they have good reason to suppose
otherwise, addressees will assume that
utterers are being helpful or
co-operative by observing various conversational maxims
(He's making fun of
Grice formulates these as maxims following under the four Kantian
categories, adding that there might be other as yet unidentified
The four categories are Quantity, Quality, Relation and Modus
is using an English translation of Kant -- none of this Kantian allusion is in the earlier Oxford "Conversation" tutorials).
Utterers assume that
utterers will normally provide neither too little nor too much information
for their communicative purpose (Quantity), will be truthful and will not
make statements for which they have no evidence (Quality), will be relevant
(Relation) and will be sufficiently clear (Modus).
Unlike the other
three maxims, the Maxim of Manner refers not to the content of the
utterance but to its form, the manner of expression.
Grice specifies four
sub-categories of the Maxim of Modus: avoidance of obscurity of
expression, avoidance of ambiguity, succinctness and
These desiderata (the term used in the earlier "Conversation" tutorials: he refers to clarity, candour, self-love and altruism) enable conversation to be conducted in
an economical manner and dispense with the need for utterers to explicitly
exclude logical possibilities of interpretation which are not intended by
the utterer and not assumed by the addressee.
In order to cope with the
problem of how addressees understand figurative language, Grice introduced
the notion of ‘conversational implicature’, which is determined by context
and has to be
Grice does not specifically refer to echoic punning
allusion (but cfr. "He is in the grip of a vice", and "Peccavi"), but among the figures of speech he did refer to are metaphor,
hyperbole, litotes and irony.
These will tend to be incompatible with one
or more Maxims.
According to Grice, the Co-operative Principle is so robust
that when the addressee perceives discrepancy between the utterance and a
maxim, he will look for clues which might resolve the discrepancy in terms
of non-literal meaning.
Grice thus distinguished two sorts of non-observance
of a maxim, ‘violation’ versus ‘flouting’.
Violation of a maxim
involves unostentatiously departing from it, as for instance in lying,
which would be a violation of the Maxim of Quality.
Flouting a Maxim, on
the other hand, involves ostentatiously breaking with it and thereby
creating a ‘conversational implicature’.
Non-literal language will flout
rather than violate one or more maxims.
Echoic allusion may be seen as a two-stage process of conversational
implicature, namely allusive reference and allusive implication, if an
additional maxim to those of Grice is added, namely a
“Avoid repetition of your own or anyone else’s discourse or any
However, it is probably not necessary to introduce this
new maxim since echoic allusion will flout one or more of Grice’s original
Cfr. Speranza, "Do not multiply maxims beyond necessity").
In particular, apart from flouting the Maxim of Quality
(truthfulness -- the key for disimplicature), allusive language, like other forms of figurative language,
is likely to be stylistically marked (flouting of the Maxim of Modus), and
also perhaps apparently unrelated to the topic at hand (flouting of the
Maxim of Relation)
Grice suggests the addressee will use the
following sources of evidence in working out the implicature:
conventional meaning of the words used, together with the identity
of any references involved
(2) the Co-operative Principle and its
(3) the context, linguistic and non-linguistic, of the
(4) other items of background knowledge
(5) the fact (or
supposed fact) that all the relevant items falling under the previous
headings are available to both participants and both participants know or
assume this to be the case.
For punning allusion the basic two stage model
may be expanded and adapted as follows into a three stage model, with the
third stage optional:
(a) parallel processing of the
alluding language and the source
(b) holding of the remembered meaning of
the source and the constructed meaning of the alluding language in
(c) experience of productive cognitive dissonance
(a) comparison at the micro-level of the form and meaning
differences between the alluding language and the source in the manner
of metaphor topic and vehicle
(b) macro-comparison of the two contexts or
(3) appreciation of the writer as alluder (optional level of phatic
The above model departs from Grice’s model in one important
respect, namely that at 1a it allows for parallel processing.
In fact, since
Grice’s contention that figurative meaning is only understood indirectly
meaning has come under heavy attack from various
that communication is necessarily aimed at reducing the potential
words can be challenged.
Activation of apparently irrelevant
senses of a word at the referential level has important pragmatic
functions in language generally, especially in jocular language where the
interpersonal, phatic function is important.
This is ‘conspicuous’
or ‘purposive’ ambiguity and one may want to counterbalance
of Modus (“Be perspicuous”) by a Maxim of Conspicuity, which would have
two sub-maxims: “Make your conversation as interesting / witty / surprising
as possible” and “Make your utterance / text as expressive as
possible, but still accessible”
In punning echoic allusions a stored
holistic meaning of a piece of composed language competes in processing
with a meaning arrived at by lexical and syntactic analysis (top-down
versus bottom-up processing).
Apt Griceian utterers may have as many as 80,000 fixed expressions stored in
memory, including quotations, proverbs, idioms and so forth.
In cases where
a stored holistic meaning is held in consciousness, rather than losing out
an epistemic meaning before it reaches consciousness, the addressee will assume in accordance with the Co-operative Principle, the principle of effort after meaning that the
secondary meaning is relevant at the pragmatic and affective levels in the
manner of a pun.
The addressee will be alerted to the possibility of
an intended allusion by experiencing a stumbling block or check in language
processing as the meaning of the piece of composed language in its original
context intrudes on consciousness alongside a meaning being constructed
This is the first stage of
recognising a conversational implicature.
There then follows the
The echoic allusion works first by means of metonymy at
the recognition stage as the piece of alluding language triggers a larger
text or context of use and then in the manner of a
covert metaphor or
simile at the interpretation stage as an implicit comparison between the
two scripts or texts is perceived.
It is a characteristic of allusion,
however, that the intertextual reference may be missed by some
even if it is taken, that the implied meaning may not be understood in
exactly the same way by all addressees.
It is legitimate to ask why
writers use echoic punning allusions at all.
There are various reasons.
stylistically marked language, echoic punning allusions may function first
of all to attract reader attention.
In this respect they work
according to the foregrounding principle, which depends on ‘linguistic
As an example consider the advertisement for cheese which used the phrase
“the smell which launched a
This alludes to “the face that launched a thousand
ships” (Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, 1604, Act V, scene 1), where the
reference is to Helen of Troy.
The effect achieved by replacing ‘face’ with
‘cheese’ and ‘ships’ with ‘barbecues’ is one of grotesque incongruity and
The allusion functions solely as an attention catcher.
However some allusions may also contribute to the meaning of the text in
The sound and the fury
-- The Times --
is a verbatim quotation from Macbeth, which functions firstly
to attract the addressee’s attention by re-using a familiar Shakespeareian
The accompanying article is about the infuriatingly poor quality of
the sound track to some
films, and the reader who recalls that the
phrase occurs in Macbeth’s nihilistic expression of despair,
“Life’s but a
walking shadow ... a tale /
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, /
Signifying nothing” (Macbeth Act
V, scene v, lines 16–18),
prompted to reinterpret the semantics of the quotation to suit its new
The phrase may be seen as elliptical for something like “the fury
the cinema-goer experiences when confronted with a poor sound track”.
allusion also contributes affective meaning since the implied comparison
with the text in absentia is humorously incongruous.
illustrates the way in which allusions may, on the one hand, ease the
processing load for the addressee, because the well-known quotation
is quickly recognised, and, on the other hand, present a cognitive
challenge for the addresseer, who has to reinterpret the meaning of the
quotation in its new context.
In headline allusions, as in ‘the sound
and fury’ example, this involves reading on. In other cases it may involve
retracing and reflecting.
Recognising and interpreting allusions also
involves a measure of aesthetic pleasure, as Freud notes.
important for writers to impart aesthetic pleasure to their readers.
This is one way of establishing rapport with the addressee.
Not only is
stylistic embellishment involved, but, more
importantly, the utterer is given the chance to display wit and linguistic
In this way common-ground (as Grice would have it -- 'common ground' was his third favourite expression) can be established with the reader
against the background of shared cultural knowledge.
Comic effects of incongruity may function to
achieve phatic bonding between utterer and addressee.
Humorous allusions may
also serve as a vehicle for indirect criticism or ridicule by means of
grotesque implicit comparison (Grice's "You're the cream in my coffee").
Often multiple functions of a given allusion
can be identified, some major and some minor.
The weightings of these
different functions may vary for different addressees according to how
fully they understand the allusion, as is illustrated by the following
Soufflé and up she rises.
This was a headline to an article about baking.
It alludes to
“Hooray and up she rises”, the chorus line to the sea-shanty ‘What shall we
do with the
By the use of this allusive headline
(1) the utterer attracts the addressee’s attention, the main function.
(2) the addressee also
experiences the pleasure of recognition and
(3) the utterer has the chance
to display some wit.
However, the borrowed stylistic effects of rhythm
and inverted word order (4) embellish the text in praesentia, the
productive ambiguity of the word ‘rise’ (of pastry versus of a ship) is
exploited so that (5) physical economy of expression is assured and the
implication is that, if you read on, you will learn how to make a
successful soufflé (more is meant than is said).
At the interpersonal,
phatic level, (6) there is a touch of grotesque humour evoked by the
juxtaposition of the two contexts.
At the processing level, (7) initially
comprehension is eased by the recognition of
the familiar refrain, but then
the reader is (8) cognitively challenged to infer the relevance of the
refrain for an article about cooking.
This will (9) encourage the reader to
From the utterer’s perspective the echoic punning allusion
functions to (10) establish common ground with the reader (the song is
shown ro be part of their mutual stored cultural knowledge).
there is also (11) an element of the facetious in “Souffé and up she
This links the allusion to the genre of corny jokes involving play
with hackneyed quotations to raise a groan response.
In other cases an
allusion may function to (12) debunk a famous quotation from a revered
Famous quotations from Shakespeare (such as “to be or not to be”)
are a frequent source for such ‘groan response’ allusions.
This debunking of
famous quotations may also be seen as part of the ‘low’ irreverent
tradition, which also delights in using language to confuse and confound.
We have focussed on the form and function of
punning echoic allusion.
The form is that of cryptic quotation.
a short phrase from a well-known source text is incorporated into the text
in praesentia, either verbatim or, more usually, deliberately manipulated
so as to achieve maximum
semantic contrast with the original at the expense
of minimal phonological change in the manner of a pun.
The distance between
the contexts of the source in absentia and the unfolding text in praesentia
makes for strong contrasts in terms of pragmatic meaning at the sentence
This in turn results in interplay in meaning between the two
different meanings in their two
different contexts, so that the secondary
allusive meaning may be taken as a sotto voce gloss or commentary on the
In this way, the allusion may contribute to the meaning of
the unfolding text in important ways.
However, punning echoic
allusions also function at the language processing level and at the
They both ease processing loads for addressees by providing familiar language chunks while
simultaneously presenting a cognitive challenge to the reader who has to
solve the riddle
of the allusion.
In this way the responsibility for
meaning construction is transferred to the addressee.
The utterer, for his or his
part, is challenged to so engineer the allusion that the addressee will
both recognise it and understand it in the way intended.
This in turn
requires that the utterer correctly estimate not only the reader’s
linguistic, but also his or his cultural knowledge.
It is necessary that
reader and writer understand each other at each move in the ludic (if not ludicrous -- cfr. etymology above of 'alludere') process.
In this way allusions also contribute to phatic bonding between utterer and addressee.
In this connection, as a variety of indirect language, they are an
important means of bringing humour, but also censure, into texts and of
expressing certain attitudes indirectly which it would be inappropriate to
Belloc, Hilaire (1954) ‘On his Books’. In: Roughead, W.N. (ed.)
The Verse of Hilaire Belloc.
London: Nonesuch Press.
(1961) ‘Annus Mirabilis or The Year of Wonders’. In:
Poems and Fables. London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University
Fry, Christopher (1949) The Lady’s not for Burning: a Comedy. London:
Oxford University Press.
Lodge, David (1988) Nice Work. London: Secker
Marlowe, Christopher (1949) The Tragical History of Dr.
Edited by Frederick S.
Boas. Second edition. London:
Milne, A. A. (1924) When We Were Very Young. London:
Shakespeare, William (1970). The Complete Works. A new edition,
with an introduction and
glossary by Peter Alexander. London and
Thackeray, William Makepeace (1968) Vanity Fair. New
Villon, Francois (1991) Le Grand Testament:
‘Ballades des dames jadis
’. In: Oevres: Texte et
par André Lanly. Paris: Champion.
J. (1980) ‘English Verbal Humour and Second Language
Paper No. 60. University of Trier, Germany.
Armstrong, David T.
(1945) ‘Literary Allusions’. English Journal 34 (4),
Mikhail M. (1981) ‘Discourse in the Novel’. In: Holquist,
Michael (ed.) The
Imagination: Four Essays, Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael
Holquist. Austin, Texas:
University of Texas Press,
Bartlett, Frederick C. (1932) Remembering: A Study in Experimental
Social Psychology. Cambridge:
Ben-Porat, Ziva (1976) ‘The Poetics of Literary Allusion’. A Journal
Descriptive Poetics and
Theory of Literature 1, 105–128.
Bloom, Harold (1975) A Map of Misreading. New York: Oxford University
Conte, Gian B. (1986) The Rhetoric of Imitation: Genre and Poetic
in Virgil and Other
Latin Poets. Translated from the Italian,
edited by Charles Segal. Ithaca,
Coombs, James H. (1984) ‘Allusion Defined and
Explained’. Poetics 13, 475–
Crystal, David (1998) Language Play.
London: Penguin Books.
Freud, Sigmund (1960) ‘Jokes and their Relation to
the Unconscious’. In:
Strachey, James (translator
and ed.) The Standard
Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud,
Volume 8. New
W. Norton and Co. First published 1905.
Glucksberg, Sam (1993) ‘Idiom
Meanings and Allusional Content’. In:
Cacciari, Cristina and
Tabossi (eds.) Idioms: Processing, Structure and Interpretation.
Grice, H. P. "Conversation", Oxford tutorials.
Conversation’. In: Cole, P. and J. L. Morgan (eds.) Syntax
Semantics, Volume 3: Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press,
Studies in the way of words
Aspects of reason
The conception of value
Hermerén, Göran (1992) ‘Allusions and Intentions’. In Iseminger, Gary
(ed.) Intention and Interpretation.
Philadelphia: Temple University
Hockett, Charles F. (1977) ‘Jokes’. In: The View from
Essays 1948–1974. Athens,
Georgia: The University of
Georgia Press, 257–289.
Hollander, John (1981) The Figure of Echo: A Mode of
Allusion in Milton
and After. Berkeley:
University of California
Jackendoff, R. (1995) ‘The Boundaries of the Lexicon’. In: Everaert,
Martin, Erik-Jan van der Linden,
André Schenk and Robin Schreuder (eds.)
Idioms: Structural and
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 133–166.
Kellett, E. E. (1969) Literary
Quotation and Allusion. Port Washington,
NY: Kennikat Press.
Lachmann, Renate (1983) ‘Intertextualität als
Leech, Geoffrey N. (1969) A
Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. London:
Lemke, J. L. (1985)
‘Ideology, Intertextuality and the Notion of Register’
. In: Benson, James
Willliam S. Greaves (eds.) Systematic Perspectives on Discourse,
Papers from the Ninth International
Systemic Workshop. Norwood, NJ: Ablex
Ritva (1994) ‘Translating Allusions: When Minimal Change is
International Journal of Translation Studies 6 (2),
Marino, Matthew (1988) ‘Puns: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful’.
Journal of Humour Research 1 (1), 39–48.
Herman (1961) Das Zitat in der Erzählkunst: Zur Geschichte und
Romans. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzlersche
Mitchell, T. F. (1978) ‘Meaning is what you do – and
how I interpret it.
A Firthian View of Pragmatics’.
Die Neueren Sprachen
Morawski, Stefan (1970) ‘The Basic Functions of Quotation’.
A.J. and Roman Jakobson
(eds.) Sign, Language, Culture. The
Hague: Mouton, 690–705.
Nattinger, James R. and Jeanette S. DeCarrico (1992)
Lexical Phrases and
Oxford: Oxford University
Nerlich, Brigitte and David D. Clarke (2001) ‘Ambiguities We Live By:
Towards a Pragmatics of
Polysemy’. Journal of Pragmatics 33,
Nord, Christiane (1990) ‘Zitate und Anspielungen als pragmatisches
Pawley, Andrew and Frances
Hodgetts Syder (1983) ‘Two Puzzles for
Selection and Nativelike Fluency’. In: Richards, Jack and Richard
and Communication. London: Longman,
Perri, Carmela (1978) ‘On Alluding’. Poetics 7,
Riffaterre, Michael (1978) Semiotics of Poetry. London:
Ludic Language: The Case of the Punning Echoic Allusion
Sampson, Rodney and Colin Smith (1997) And Now for Something Completely
of Allusions in British English. Ismaning: Max
Sinclair, John McH. (1987) ‘Collocation: A Progress Report’.
Ross and Terry Threadgold
(eds.) Language Topics. Essays in
Honour of Michael Halliday, Volume 2.
Benjamins Publishing Company, 319–331.
Speranza, Join the Grice Club!
Threadgold, Terry (1987)
‘Changing the Subject’. In: Steele, Ross and
Terry Threadgold (eds.)
Topics: Essays in Honour of Michael Halliday, Volume 2. Amsterdam:
Publishing Company, 549–597.
Wilss, Wolfram (1989)
Anspielungen: Zur Manifestation von Kreativität und
Routine in der
Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.
Twentieth Century Dictionary (1977) Revised edition with new
A. M. MacDonald. Edinburgh: W. and R. Chambers Ltd.
Concise Dictionary of Quotations (1993) Third edition. Edited by
Oxford University Press.
Oxford English Dictionary
(1989) Second edition, Volume 1. Edited by J.
Simpson and E.
Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations
(1997) Edited by Connie Robertson.