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Encyclopedia > Wordplay

Word play is a literary technique in which the nature of the words used themselves become part of the subject of the work. Puns, obscure words and meanings, clever rhetorical excursions, oddly formed sentences, and telling character names are common examples of word play.

All writers engage in word play to some extent, but certain writers are particularly adept or committed to word play. Shakespeare was a noted punster. James Joyce, whose Ulysses, and even more so, his Finnegans Wake, are filled with brilliant writing and brilliant word play is another noted word-player. For example, Joyce's phrase "they were yung and easily freudened" clearly conveys the meaning "young and easily frightened", but it also makes puns on the names of two famous psychoanalysts, Jung and Freud.

Other writers closely identified with word play include:

Plays can enter common usage as neologisms.

Word play is closely related to word games, that is, games in which the point is manipulating words. See also language game for a linguist's variation.

An extreme form of playing with words is creating a fictional language.

A taxonomy of word play together with record-holding words in each category is available here: Taxonomy of Wordplay (http://www.questrel.com/records.html)

See also:

  Results from FactBites:
NationMaster - Encyclopedia: Wordplay (428 words)
The ambigrams in Wordplay are protected by the copyright of the book as an entire work.
Wordplay is a "must-have" for those interested in crosswords or other word puzzles.
Wordplay is supplied with two word lists; a short one containing nearly 37000 common English words, and a longer one containing nearly 237000 English words, abbreviations etc. If that isn't enough, you can add words to these lists, or even use your own word lists entirely.
Coleridge, Wordplay and Dream. Kennard 1997. ASD Journal Dreaming 7(2) (7962 words)
Wordplay, in the dual contexts of Freudian dream theory and poetic language, then represents more than just the play of quibbles, puns, and near-puns, while not being so broad a category as to be synonymous with all figurative language.
Garber claims that the language of dream, which relies upon wordplay, is "in Shakespeare the essential fabric of the dream state; it is the paradigm of transformation, and transformation is at the heart of dream" (8).
Two kinds of wordplay are distinguished: comic wordplay, in which the effect is almost entirely dependant on resemblance in sound, and a preferred serious type of play in which a resemblance or connection of ideas is quite deliberately and artificially doubled in language.
  More results at FactBites »



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