Puns, relevance and appreciation in advertisements

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Cite this publication
Puns, relevance and appreciation in
Margot van Mulken
, Renske van Enschot-van Dijk,
Hans Hoeken
Department of Business Communication Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen,
P.O. Box 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Received 25 September 2003; received in revised form 5 December 2003; accepted 15 September 2004
Puns are popular rhetorical figures in advertisements. A distinction can be made between puns in
which both interpretations are relevant to the advertiser’s message (e.g., ‘The gift that leaves you
beaming’ in an advertisement for a small flashlight) and puns in which only one interpretation is
relevant (e.g., ‘Roses grow on you’ for Cadbury’s Roses chocolates). In recent publications,
different predictions have been made as to whether slogans containing puns in general are appreciated
more than slogans without a pun, and also whether puns containing two relevant interpretations are
appreciated more than puns containing only one relevant interpretation. This paper reports on an
experiment to test these hypotheses. Sixty-eight participants rated their appreciation of 24 slogans.
The results showed that the presence or absence of puns had a significant impact on the respondents’
appreciation of the slogans. Furthermore, whether the pun contained two relevant interpretations or
only one did not influence the extent to which they were considered funny, but the former were
considered a better choice than the latter.
# 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Relevance Theory; Puns; Advertising
Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707–721
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +31 24361 2923; fax: +31 24361 2177.
E-mail address: m.v.mulken@let.ru.nl (M. van Mulken).
0378-2166/$ see front matter # 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Puns frequently occur in advertisements. Leigh (1994), for instance, shows that in a
large sample, 10 to 40% of all ads contain wordplay (the range depending on the denition
of what constitutes a ‘‘pun’’). It seems that puns and wordplay serve an important function.
Advertisements are designed to persuade consumers to buy a certain product.
Advertisers apparently believe that puns are helpful in attaining this goal. Meyers-Levy and
Malaviya (1999) reviewed the empirical research on what makes an advertisement
persuasive. They concluded that one way in which advertisements are persuasive is by
giving their audience a pleasurable experience. The consumer may associate the pleasure
they experienced in processing the ad with the product that is being advertised, which in
turn may lead to a more positive attitude towards the product. Puns can provide this
pleasurable experience in several related ways (cf. Tanaka, 1994; McQuarrie and Mick,
1999, 2003; Tom and Eves, 1999).
First, a pun is a humorous device. A humorous message can give the audience a pleasant
experience. Second, a pun can be considered as a riddle. Solving a riddle is a pleasant
experience, because it atters the audiences intellectual capabilities by showing them that
they have the relevant knowledge to solve the problem. For instance, Phillips (2000)
showed that participants appreciated the riddle of a visual metaphor more when they
succeeded in generating a relevant interpretation themselves, compared to participants who
received the visual metaphor along with a headline in which the intended interpretation was
spelled out. Solving a riddle can establish rapport between the communicator and the
audience (Norrick, 2003). A correct solution demonstrates that the communicator and her
audience are on the same wavelength. This feeling may increase the positive attitude
toward the product the communicator is endorsing. These may be some of the reasons why
puns are used in advertisements.
Theories on the effectiveness of puns are literally centuries old. Quintilian (2001: 6.3)
distinguishes between puns in which both meanings are relevant and those for which only
one meaning is relevant. He argues that it is better to use the rst type than the second. In
advertising, both types can be found, for instance, in the following two slogans originally
devised for an English-speaking audience. In an advertisement for Cadburys Roses
chocolates ‘‘Roses grow on you’’, only one interpretation of growing is relevant (become
irresistible and not develop), whereas both readings of ‘‘cross with us’’ are relevant in
Stena Sealinks slogan ‘‘Prices that will even make our competitors cross with us’’ (namely,
be angry with us, and cross the seas in our liners). According to Quintilian, the audience
would appreciate Stenas slogan more than Cadburys. In the next section, we will review
more recent research on the effectiveness of different types of puns. We will then report on
an experiment that tests the different predictions.
2. Theoretical framework
In general, puns refer to ‘‘the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest
two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound’’
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707–721708
Following Sperber and Wilson (1995) [1986], we refer to the sender as a ‘‘she’’.
(Encyclopaedia Brittanica). Therefore, puns are a form of gurative speech, a trope in
which the message has at least two different meanings. McQuarrie and Mick (1996) qualify
puns as one of the more complex forms of rhetoric: puns generally require more processing
effort than messages where simple forms of rhetoric, for example, rhyme or alliteration, are
used (McQuarrie and Mick, 1996, 1999). In our approach, we apply the following,
restrictive, denition of puns: puns create ambiguous slogans, which allow for a less salient
interpretation, together with a more salient interpretation (cf. Lagerwerf, 2002: 248, Yus,
2003: 1320).
The notion of salience plays a crucial role in our denition of puns. Giora (1999) argues
that it is better to do without the traditional notions of ‘‘literal’’ and ‘‘gurative’’ meaning.
Instead, the salience of a meaning is a function of its conventionality (Giora, 1999). The
meaning that is more popular, or more prototypical, more frequently used, more familiar,
or recently activated by previous context, is the more salient one. In line with Relevance
Theory, she proposes the ‘‘graded salience principle’’ by which she shows that the salient
meaning is always accessed rst, and that a less salient meaning is activated only if there is
no gradual increase in informative content in the most salient meaning and if the most
salient meaning does not t the context (Giora, 1997, 1999, 2002).
Recently, efforts have been made to integrate the graded salience principle with the
General Theory of Verbal Humor (Attardo, 2003). The General Theory of Verbal Humor
(GTVH) is an incongruity theory which denes verbal humor as a text compatible with two
scripts (frames) opposed to each other in specic ways (Raskin and Attardo, 1994). Raskin
and Attardo (1994) show that (verbal) humor must be considered as a type of non-bona de
communication because of the incessant violations of the Gricean cooperative principle. In
their view, a pun is always compatible with two distinct scripts (interpretations) and these
scripts cannot both be true at the same time. Therefore, by changing to the non-bona de
mode of humor, the reader understands that a pun is intended. However, GTVH fails to
account for the type of pun so much favored by Quintilian. In cases where both scripts can
be true at the same time, there would be no reason to change into a non-bona de mode,
since there is no apparent incongruity.
Although the GTVH elegantly explains how a receiver understands that humor is
intended, Relevance Theory provides a better account of the type of pun in which there can
be two relevant meanings. This is why we refer to the interpretation of puns in terms of
Relevance Theory. This framework allows for a description of how the principle of
relevance shapes all kinds of communication (Sperber and Wilson, 1995 [1986]).
Relevance Theory presupposes ostensive-inferential communication. In other words,
communication is overt, is mutually manifest to both receiver and sender, and can be
implicit. Communicators are capable of inferring the intended meaning of a message and
they will always strive for an optimally relevant contribution: the receiver assumes that the
utterance provides a good balance of cognitive effects in exchange for the effort demanded
by the processing. The receiver is inclined to expend as little effort as possible to
understand the message and at the same time will try to gain as much effect as possible
from the message by processing it. The sender will thus try to make her communication
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 709
All puns in our sample are therefore ambiguousthe possibility of a sound similarity, as in homophonous
words, is deliberately left out.
easy to process, at the same time making sure that the change in the cognitive environment
of the receiver is maximal. In other words, there is a tension between minimum effort and
maximum effect.
This line of reasoning would suggest that the use of puns in advertising is not too well-
advised since, in general, in order to understand a pun, the receiver has to expend extra
mental effort (cf. Noveck et al., 2001; Gibbs, 1994; Toncar and Munch, 2001;
Mothersbaugh et al., 2002). While interpreting the pun, the receiver has to process more
than one meaning in the message, and this generally involves additional processing effort.
In other words, processing wordplays or gurative speech in general is less economical
than the processing of plain, explicit messages. The supplementary interpretation does not
necessarily supply extra information. The use of puns would therefore seem to contradict a
formal application of the principle of Relevance.
Tanaka (1992, 1994) and Yus (2003) have argued, however, that it is possible to
explain the working of puns within the framework of Relevance Theory. They show
convincingly that certain effort-demanding interpretive paths are favored in exchange
for an increase in humorous effects. Similarly, Sperber acknowledges: ‘‘When more
effects are derived, there is the added cost of just deriving these effects’’ (Sperber, 2001);
but the extra processing effort is then rewarded in the form of extra effect: the pleasure of
getting the pun. In Yu s words (2003: 1300): ‘‘A more relevant interpretation worth
being processed may be activated, despite the supplementary mental effort required.
Humorous effects such as the enjoyment in the resolution of incongruity are worth this
extra cognitive effort.’’
The receiver experiences pleasure by processing an at rst sight complex message. And,
hoping to nd more humorous entertainment, the receiver is willing to devote some extra
cognitive resources. Yus (2003) further stresses the fact that it is a condition on the receivers
willingness to expend extra mental effort that he is aware of the joke frame of the utterance.
Yus (2003) distinguishes four types of puns by focusing on the differences in computing
the effects of the utterance and on differences in context accessibility; two of these types
play a role in advertising and will be discussed here.
The rst type is illustrated using an
advertising slogan borrowed from Tanaka (1994):
(1) [A car parked on a lengthy drive leading to a mansion]
The perfect car for a long driveMazda car (Tanaka, 1994)
In this slogan, both readings of ‘‘long drive,’’ viz. a long ride and a long driveway, are
relevant in order to interpret the slogan completely. The two processed meanings are
appropriate and applicable to the present utterance and neither has to be discarded. In his
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721710
The amount of effort may of course differ from context to context, and from individual to individual.
The third and fourth type in Yustaxonomy are rarely found in advertising. The third type of puns produces
absurd and nonsensical interpretations, but in advertising, hearers will always search for a relevant meaning with
regard to the positive claim automatically inferred within this genre. Therefore, absurd readings will not often be
found in puns in advertising. The fourth type, where the punster invalidates a rst accessible interpretation in favor
of a more unlikely interpretation, can only be found in conversation or interaction. In other words, two of the types
of puns described by Yus (2003) coincide with the two types proposed by Tanaka (1994) and can be found in
denition, Yus stresses the fact that ‘‘the hearer, unable to choose one candidate as
consistent with the principle of relevance, moves back and forth entertaining both
humorously’’ (Yus, 2003: 1321).
Two other examples, originally devised for an English-speaking audience, are shown in
(2) and (3).
(2) Nothing comes between me and my Calvin Klein jeans (Calvin Klein jeans and I are
inseparable and I dont wear any underwear)
(3) Adidas and Mitre use the skins of slaughtered kangaroos. Whod want to be in their
shoes?Greenpeace (Whod want to take their responsibility? and Whod want to
buy their shoes?)
The second type of puns described by Tanaka (1994) and Yus (2003) is one in which one of
thetwo interpretationshasto bediscarded.Consumersknow thatan advertisementis designed
to make a favorable claim about a product. If the rst accessible interpretation does not yield
such a favorable claim, they will search for an additional interpretation. In hindsight, inferring
the rst interpretation is a ‘‘useless waste of cognitive resources’’ (Yus, 2003: 1321, note 21).
Example (4) illustrates this by playing on the two meanings of the expression ‘‘to grow,’’ to
developand to become irresistible. It is clear that the rst meaning has to be discarded,
although it immediately comes to mind in the context of roses.
(4) Roses grow on youCadburys chocolates
Other examples are:
(5) How to stop yourself dying for sexDont Aid Aids (How to stop yourself wanting
sex very badly is discarded in favor of How to stop yourself being killed by a sexually
transmitted disease).
(6) When it rains, it poursMorton Salt (When it rains, it rains heavily, to be discarded
in favor of this salt runs freely even when the atmosphere is damp).
Following Tanaka (1992, 1994) and Yus (2003), it can be predicted that receivers will
appreciate puns in which all invested effort is rewarded with extra relevance (type 1), more
than they will appreciate puns in which the salient interpretation is not relevant (type 2).
This leads to the following hypothesis:
Slogans containing puns with two relevant meanings are appreciated more than
slogans containing puns with only one relevant meaning.
Even if a pun has only one relevant meaning, the use of a pun may still have a
humorous effect or produce a positive feeling because the reader ‘‘got it’’. Whether this
(positive) humorous effect will outweigh the (negative) effect of having to spend
cognitive effort to infer an irrelevant interpretation is unclear. This leads to the following
research question:
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 711
Note that this prediction is in line with Quintilians advice to orators.
Are slogans containing puns with only one relevant meaning appreciated more or less
than are slogans without a pun?
3. Method
A total of 24 slogans were selected, all of which had been developed for a broad
audience by professional copywriters and were published in various Dutch magazines in
2001. In a pre-testing phase, a larger sample of slogans was presented to groups of
postgraduate students at Radboud University, Nijmegen. On the basis of these tests, the
slogans were then divided into three groups: those that did not contain a pun, those that
contained a pun with one relevant meaning, and nally those that contained a pun with two
relevant meanings. Only slogans that could be indisputably attributed to one of the three
groups remained in our corpus; the three groups ended up comprising eight slogans each
(The 24 slogans and their translations are presented in Appendix). Care was taken that all
slogans were interpretable without the original accompanying picture or typeface.
However, in order to assess the possible additional effect of layout, the slogans were
presented in two different ways: once in the original advertisement context, with original
typeface, graphics, and visuals, and once in the typeface of the rest of the questionnaire,
with only the brand name as additional information. Each of the participants rated each
slogan only once. Figs. 13 present examples of the advertisements used in the
In all, 68 participants (48 female, 20 male) took part in the experiment. The participants
were undergraduate students (mean age: 21 years; range = 1928 years) of the Faculty of
Arts at Radboud University.
A within-participants design was used. A questionnaire was developed to elicit data
from participants. To check the effect of context, half of the participants rst answered
questions on 12 slogans in their original setting, and then on 12 (different) slogans with
brand name alone. The other half of the participants rst answered questions on the slogans
without context, and then on slogans within their original setting. To control for order
effects, two further versions were developed in which the order of slogans was reversed.
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721712
Fig. 1. No pun: Groots genietenolive oil (enjoy spectacularly).
Appreciation was operationalized as follows: participants were invited to evaluate each
slogan in terms of being well-chosen and pleasing.Participants were instructed as follows:
‘‘ Well-chosen means that you think that the slogan is felicitous and appropriate for the
service, product, or target group; pleasingmeans that you think the slogan is amusing.’’
Participants were asked to evaluate only the slogans, not the entire advertisement. Evaluation
was expressed on a seven-point scale as shown in the following example:
Een wereld op zichDuvel bier
(A world on its ownDuvel Beer)
I think this slogan is
Very badly chosen 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very well-chosen
Not pleasing at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very pleasing
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 713
Fig. 2. One relevant interpretation: in Oost-Europa ziet iedereen ze vliegen (in Eastern Europe, everybody is
nuts; In Eastern Europe, everybody sees (AAs) ying machines).
Fig. 3. Two relevant interpretations: Deze actie laat u niet lopen This promotion does not leave you walking;
You wouldnt want to miss out on this promotion.
In the third part of the questionnaire, participants were asked whether they had had one or
more interpretations in mind while evaluating the slogans.
The data were analyzed using a two-way analysis of variance followed by planned
contrasts. Analyses by participants (F1) and by slogans (F2) were carried out. Signicant
effects in the F1-analysis suggest that the same effects would occur with different
participants; signicant effects in the F2-analysis suggest that the same effects would occur
if different slogans were used.
4. Results
First, it was assessed whether the participants recognized the puns in the slogans with
puns (and correctly identied the slogans without a pun). A strong main effect of slogan
type was obtained (F(2, 66) = 125.36, p < 0.001, h
= 0.79). Comparisons revealed that
the slogans containing puns (one relevant interpretation: M = 6.32; two relevant
interpretations: M = 6.21) were much more frequently identied as allowing for more
than one interpretation, as compared to the slogans without a pun (M = 2.24). However,
these results also indicate that in approximately 25% of the cases, participants incorrectly
identied the slogan as containing a pun (and vice versa).
Next, it was tested whether presenting the slogan in its original advertisement context
inuenced the appreciation scores of the slogan types. This proved not to be the case. There
was no effect of context on the judgment of the well-chosenness of the slogan
(1, 67) = 2.93, p = 0.09; F
(1, 21) = 1.31, p = 0.27) or of its pleasingness (F
< 1;
(1,21) = 1.09, p = 0.31). Neither was there any inuence from the context on the scores
of puns by type or on the participants judgments of well-chosenness (F
< 1, F
< 1) or
pleasingness (F
< 1, F
< 1). Therefore, the data are collapsed over this factor. Table 1
presents the mean judgments and standard deviations of the participants for the different
types of slogans.
The results show main effects of the type of pun on the judgment ‘‘well-chosen’’
(2,66) = 33.79, p < 0.001, h
= 0.51; F
(2,21) = 4.55, p < 0.05, h
= 0.30) and on the
judgment ‘‘pleasing’’ (F
(2,66) = 88.82, p < 0.001, h
= 0.73; F
(2,21) = 9.47, p = 0.001,
= 0.47). Planned comparisons revealed that slogans containing a pun were appreciated
more than those without a pun. Whether or not the two interpretations of the pun were
relevant had no effect on the appreciation of the ad with one exception, viz., the
participantsjudgment on well chosenness; here, participants rated slogans containing a
pun with two relevant interpretations as better than those containing a pun with only one
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721714
Table 1
Mean judgment (and standard deviations) on well-chosenness and pleasingness of the different types of slogans
(1 = very negative, 7 = very positive) as a function of the type of pun and the presence of context
Well-chosen Pleasing
No pun 4.17 (0.71) 3.44 (0.76)
One relevant interpretation 4.58 (0.62) 4.37 (0.67)
Two relevant interpretations 4.86 (0.71) 4.45 (0.81)
relevant interpretation. This difference was not signicant in the analysis by slogans
(p = 0.23).
As noted above, in approximately one quarter of the cases participants incorrectly
identied a slogan as containing a pun (whereas in fact it did not), or as not containing a pun
(whereas in fact there was a pun). To assess the effect of these misinterpretations, a second
analysis was conducted, in which the interpretation of the participants with regard to
whether or not the slogan in question contained a pun was entered as an independent
variable. The means are presented in Table 2.
The analysis revealed main effects of Correct identication and Slogan-type for both
dependent variables. However, these main effects were qualied by a highly signicant
interaction between Identication and Slogan-type (Well-chosen: F
(2,34) = 29.82,
p < 0.001, h
= 0.64; F
(2, 19) = 54.11, p < 0.001, h
= 0.85; Pleasing: F
(2, 34) =
35.05, p < 0.001, h
= 0.67; F
(2, 19) = 60.31, p < 0.001, h
= 0.86). These interactions
are the result of the fact that slogans that are (correctly or incorrectly) identied as
containing a pun are appreciated more than those that are identied (correctly or
incorrectly) as not containing a pun. As a result, the ‘‘no pun’’ slogans that were identied
as containing a pun were considered more pleasing than the ‘‘pun’’ slogans that were
identied asnotcontaining apun.However, whenthe‘‘pun’’ sloganswerecorrectly identied,
they were considered as more pleasing than the correctly identied ‘‘no pun’’ slogans.
With respect to the well-chosen ratings, the pattern of results is somewhat more
complicated. When incorrectly identied, the one relevant interpretation slogans were
considered less well-chosen than the no pun slogans and the two relevant interpretations
slogans (the two latter types were no different in this regard). When correctly identied, the
two relevant interpretations slogans were considered better chosen than the one relevant
interpretationslogans, which in turn were considered better chosen than the no punslogans.
5. Conclusion
The experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that a slogan containing a pun with
two relevant interpretations would be appreciated more than a pun with only one relevant
interpretation. This proved to be the case only when the criterion was well-chosenness;
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 715
Table 2
Mean judgment (and standard deviations) on well-chosenness and pleasingness of the different types of slogans
(1 = very negative, 7 = very positive) as a function of the type of pun and the interpretation of the slogan
Well-chosen Pleasing
Incorrectly identied
No pun 4.59 (0.92) 4.10 (0.93)
One relevant interpretation 3.70 (0.88) 3.51 (1.07)
Two relevant interpretations 4.29 (1.20) 3.60 (1.24)
Correctly identied
No pun 4.06 (0.85) 3.19 (0.83)
One relevant interpretation 4.83 (0.66) 4.83 (0.72)
Two relevant interpretations 5.05 (0.71) 4.69 (0.80)
when pleasantness was the criterion by which the slogans were judged, no difference
between the two slogan types was found.
The question was also addressed as to whether slogans containing a pun with only one
relevant meaning were appreciated more than were slogans not containing a pun. The
results clearly show that even if participants had to infer a second meaning that on second
thoughts proved to be irrelevant, they still evaluated the slogan more favorably compared to
a slogan without a pun.
6. Discussion
The assumptions of Tanaka (1992, 1994) and Yus (2003) are conrmed in our
experiment: it is true that slogans with puns are considered more amusing and are
appreciated more than slogans without puns. In addition, slogans that contain a pun with
two relevant meanings are not considered more amusing, but they are considered more
felicitous than slogans for which one meaning has to be rejected. These effects associated
with puns are (statistically speaking) very large. That is, much of the variation in the ratings
of the slogans can be attributed to the presence of a pun.
Further evidence for the importance of the pun for the appreciation of a slogan is
provided by the fact that exactly the same slogan was appreciated much more when
participants noticed the pun than when they missed it. Furthermore, slogans that did not
contain a pun were evaluated much more positively when participants thought that they did
contain a pun.
The fact that participants recognized puns in slogans where there actually were none,
according to our denition of pun, might be the result of that somewhat restricted
denition. For instance, the slogan ‘‘Een Tweede HuidHema pantys’’ (A Second
SkinHema pantyhose) does not strictly speaking contain wordplay, but the metaphor
can be considered as a new meaning for the product pantyhose, and therefore it is quite
conceivable that some of our participants recognized more than one meaning. The same is
true for ‘‘De BNG wordt weer bedanktBNG bank’’ (Thanks again, BNG, [for making
this possible] and Thanks, BNG, but no thanks [ironic sense]), for which the two
meanings of to thank were hardly noticed by our participants, probably because the ironic
sense of this expression was not really made clear in the slogan or in the rest of the
advertisement. Gibbs also reports that it is the context that decides on how easily readers
process irony (Gibbs, 1994: 385). In addition, it is possible that the appreciation of a slogan
was inuenced by the appreciation of the product or brand. Popular beers for instance are
known to be very much appreciated by students, regardless of the way the advertisement is
laid out. Testing is needed to see if the appreciation of a brand or product inuences the
appreciation of the slogan.
The participants mainly consisted of students, a majority of whom acknowledged being
fond of word games. It is very well possible that this predilection for cognitive challenges
and we have to consider our puns in slogans as such is a prerogative of the intellectual
elite and that a population which better reects the average magazine reader will have
another preference. On the other hand, on the basis of this argument, one would expect our
participants, since they are likely to appreciate the elegance of the double t, to nd a
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721716
slogan with two relevant meanings more pleasing than one with only one relevant meaning;
but, as reported above, this is not the case in our data.
We made sure that all our slogans were understandable without the accompanying
picture. However, this type of slogan is relatively rare in magazine advertisements: usually,
one of the meanings to which the ad alludes is only apparent in the accompanying visual.
The picture often manipulates the salience of a meaning. Since we specically excluded
this type of slogan from our corpus, we do not know whether participants would have
preferred a type of slogan where the pun resides in the interaction of word and image (cf.
Forceville, 1996). It is conceivable that this kind of slogan is more appreciated than the
purely cognitive kind, where the efforts are rewarded, on a solely cognitive and textual
In view of the considerable size effects of our ndings, it seems that the type of pun
plays a considerable role in the appreciation of slogans. It should therefore be investigated
how the appreciation of puns relates to other gures of speech in advertising. In addition, it
would be useful to investigate whether the predilection for puns in advertising is a typically
Dutch preference, or whether it exists in other cultures as well. All in all, gurative speech
in advertising promises to become a fruitful eld for future research.
We are grateful to Catherine Nickerson, Berna Hendriks and two anonymous reviewers
for their very valuable comments on a previous version of this paper.
Appendix A
The 24 slogans used in the experiment. Product category in brackets.
No pun
1. Groots genietenBertolli olijfolie [olive oil]
Enjoy spectacularly
2. Je haarkleur herleeft met Schwarzkopf Color RefresherSchwarzkopf
haarkleuringsproduct [hair product]
The color of your hair comes to life again with Schwarzkopf Toner
3. Nu kunnen je handen er altijd net zo jong uitzien als je je voeltNivea
me [hand cream]
Now your hands can feel as young as you do
4. Tweede huidHema ondergoed [underwear]
Second skinHema underwear
5 Een wereld op zichDuvel bier [beer]
A world on its ownDuvel beer
6. Jij slaat je er wel doorheen. [Ook in stressvolle tijden]Valdispert
Rust medicijn [paracetamol]
Youll manage. [Also in times of stress]Valdispert
tranquilizing prescription
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 717
7. Wie zijn ziel volgt, wacht grote ontmoetingenGrimbergen bier [beer]
Great encounters await him who follows his soul
8. De fruitigste sportsiroopKC Sport siroop [syrup]
The fruitiest sports syrup
One relevant interpretation
First translation = irrelevant interpretation;
Second translation = intended interpretation
1. Lak aan allesDouglas Nagellak [nail polish]
To hell with it all
Nail polish everywhere
[lak: nail polish; lak aan: dont give a damn]
2. In Oost-Europa ziet iedereen ze vliegenAustrian Airlines
luchtvaartmaatschappij [airline company]
In Eastern Europe, everybody is nuts
In Eastern Europe, everybody looks at [Austrian Airlines] ying machines
[ze zien ze vliegen = they see them y and they are crazy]
3. Hij wil geen energie aan u verspillen. Daarom komt de Energie Adviseur
graag bij u langsEssent energiemaatschappij [energy distributor]
He does not want to waste his time on your behalf. Thats why the Energy
Advisor likes to drop by.
He does not want to waste energy on your behalf. Thats why the Energy
Advisor likes to drop by.
[energie verspillen = waste time and waste energy]
4. De BNG wordt weer bedanktBNG bank [bank]
Thanks again, BNG
Thanks, BNG, but no thanks
[Weer bedankt = thank you for making this possible and no thanks]
5. Als je een vechtpartij ziet deel dan gelijk drie tikken uit: bel 1-1-2 alarmlijn
[emergency number]
If you see a ght, throw three punches right away: call 1-1-2
If you see a ght, call 1-1-2 right away
[tikken uitdelen = to deliver blows and to hit the keypad]
6. Bekijk het!Manzine internetsite [internet site]
Suit yourself!!
Have a look!
[Bekijk het = suit yourself and look at it]
7. Verse uitjes!NS-Er-op-uit ideee
nboek [Dutch Railways’‘Up and away
Idea Book]
Fresh onions
New excursions
[uitje: diminutive of ui = onion; uitje: short form of
uitstapje = excursion]
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721718
8. Dankzij Niria krijg ik mijn verdiende loonNiria ingenieursvereniging
[union of engineers]
Thanks to Niria I get my deserts
Thanks to Niria, I receive my fair wages
[verdiende loon = what you deserve and salary earned]
Two relevant interpretations
1. Dus jij denkt dat je vandalen weer op het goede spoor kunt zettenNS
spoorwegpolitie [Dutch Railways railway police]
So you think you can put hooligans back on the right track
So you think you can put hooligans back on the right platform
[goede spoor = right track and right platform]
2. De foodbreak die je klaar stoomtIglo foodbreak [soup]
The lunch break that gets you running [to cope with the rest of the day]
The lunch break you prepare in a whiffy
[klaar stomen = to prepare rapidly (e.g., someone for an exam)
and to pressure cook]
3. Zie je die jaloerse blikken?Heineken Cooltas [cooler bag]
See these envious looks?
See these envious cans?
[blikken = looks and cans]
4. Uw gedachten vloeiend op papier!Lamy schrijfgerei [writing equipment]
Your thoughts on paper uently
Your thoughts on paper owingly
[vloeiend = ‘fluently and ‘flowingly]
5. Kofe royaal [niet verkeerd]Hertog ijs [ice cream]
Royal coffee. [Not bad.]
Royal coffee. [Not cafe
au lait]
[kofe verkeerd = a kind of cafe
au lait, as it is prepared, e.g., in
Holland or Israel: a little coffee and the rest milk; niet verkeerd = not bad
and not cafe
au lait]
6. Een mooi jaar om te schenken2001 Premium bier [beer]
A nice year to give away
A nice year to pour
[schenken = to give away and to pour]
7. Nieuwe Guhl Mango verzorgt je haar tot in de puntjesGuhl shampoo
New Guhl Mango takes care of your hair down to the details
New Guhl Mango takes care of your hair down to its (split) ends
[tot in de puntjes = down to the details and down to the ends
(of your hair)]
8. Deze actie laat u niet lopenTreintaxi [railway cab, i.e., one ordered
through the railway to meet you at your station of destination]
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 719
This promotion does not leave you walking
You dont want to miss out on this promotion
[laten lopen = to leave walking and to miss out on]
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M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721720
Margot van Mulken is an associate professor in the Department of Business Communication Studies at Radboud
University Nijmegen. Her principal interests lie within the elds of intercultural communication, rhetoric, and
Renske van Enschot-van Dijk is a PhD student at the Department of Business Communication Studies at
Radboud University Nijmegen. At the moment she is preparing a dissertation on the persuasive effects of rhetoric
in advertising.
Hans Hoeken is professor in the Department of Business Communication Studies at Radboud University
Nijmegen. His research specializations include persuasion, rhetoric, and advertising. His recent publications
include work on international advertising.
M. van Mulken et al. / Journal of Pragmatics 37 (2005) 707721 721
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