Proverbs are not fully fossilized chunks of text; rather, they tend to get adjusted to the language use or mentality of the given period as well as to the context in which they occur. In that light, antiproverbs can be seen as versions of proverbs that constitute a group of texts clearly separated from traditional proverbs. Their common feature is exactly the fact that they modify or distort some traditional text. Individual distorted versions only rarely become commonly known, in most cases, they remain at the level of individual creativity. However, the text type itself occurs in large numbers these days, hence research on proverbs cannot afford to ignore it. Consequently, experts do not only have to collect and publish traditional proverbs but also their distorted derivatives. The present authoresses take it to be their task to provide a formal, functional and stylistic analysis of the latter type, too. In this paper, a taxonomy of formal possibilities is set up to present the favourite ways of distortion of Hungarian anti-proverbs, each illustrated by a couple of examples. It is also discussed which devices of linguistic humour are often used in distorting traditional proverbs. In many cases, these processes of distortion are combined in a variety of ways, sometimes just a few words are retained from the original proverb. On the other hand, it is to be emphasised that parody is only effective if the original can be recognised behind it. Therefore, the distortion of proverbs presupposes familiarity with those proverbs in the first place, and keeps them alive by constantly referring back to them.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.