CAN'T MAKE HEAD OR TAIL OF COMEDY?

June 6, 2017

Comedy uses plenty of  figurative language, slang and made up words.  It displays the creative use of language and semantics in a very playful way. For stylistic reasons, comedy tends to use a high number of  semantically ambiguous words and constructions. Hence, don´t be surprised if you find that you can't make head or tail of a comedy sketch. Understanding comedy requires a degree of mastery of the language and extensive vocabulary knowledge.  But if you are willing to accept the challenge and give comedy a go, the reward will be very gratifying !

 

CAN´T MAKE HEAD OR TAIL is an idiomatic expression which means =>  to be unable to understand something or someone at all

 

 

 

Certainly one of the finest comedians in America is Stephen Colbert. I have selected a video where he discusses the first encounter of President Trump with Pope Francis. I find that this text is a great example of the linguistic complexity that sometimes deters some English students from enjoying sublime and intelligent humour in their target language. While the humour on this clip is based on a very universal concept, (the Pope calling Trump fat), the linguistic resources used pose a real challenge to language learners.

 

Before we watch the clip, take a look at these expressions :

 

1) Butt Heads With Someone Over Something --> to have a conflict 
2) Throw Shade At Somebody --> to subtly issue insults or expressions of disapproval
3) Play The Dozens --> A game of spoken words between 2 contestants
4) Make A Crack --> to make a sarcastic or ironic remark
5) To Get Burned --> To be verbally insulted by someone

 

To help you sink your teeth into this text, I have prepared a WORKSHEET with a listening exercise about this comedy sketch . Download the worksheet in pdf. 

 

 

Use the worksheet together with the video above. Play it as many times as necessary. You should be able to enjoy the jokes the more you watch it.

 

Did you notice in the script how they PLAY WITH WORDS?  ("Putin" instead of  "putting" / "Russian" instead of "rushing" ) Did you also notice how they transformed "Vatican" into "Fatican" and "Catacombs" into "Fatacombs"?  Did you understand that part ?

 

Comedy sketches are not just a great source of linguistic input. The more you understand American or British humour, the more you will understand their cultural values, their ways of living and their vision of the world.

 

Isn't it great to learn English through humour? Here are some other great comedians I recommend you check out.

 

GREAT COMEDIANS (US AND UK)

 

Did you enjoy this post? Was it useful? If so leave a comment below. Thanks!

 

Oh, and if you didn't like Stephen Colbert....

 

 

 

Just kidding :-)  All feedback welcome!  

 

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