Popular Texts

We explain what popular texts are and what the characteristics of jokes, riddles, parodies, proverbs and wordplay are.

Three friends laugh at a joke.Three friends laugh at a joke.
Popular texts express a people’s way of seeing the world.

The popular texts They are a type of recreational textthat is, a text that is read for mere enjoyment, without utilitarian purposes. They differ from literary texts, in that the latter pursue an aesthetic or artistic goal. and they usually have a specific author. Popular texts, on the other hand, They are usually anonymousbelong to the traditions of the town and only aspire to be entertainment.

These are texts of mostly oral transmission, which They pass from one generation to another and are updated along the way. But they constitute, at the same time, an important expression of local idiosyncrasy, folklore and a people’s way of seeing the world, which is why they usually arouse the academic interest of anthropologists, sociologists and other cultural scholars.

It is possible to distinguish between various types of popular texts, although the borders between them are not always very evident. In general, these texts are differentiated by their form and the type of social and linguistic situation in which they are used. In very broad terms, the main popular texts are the joke, the riddle, the parody, the proverb and the pun.

See also: Popular culture

The joke

The joke It consists of a very brief narrative, with an unexpected ending that invites the interlocutor to laugh.. Jokes are told to amuse others or to generate complicity and establish some type of camaraderie. Each culture has its own arsenal of jokes, many of them shared with others, in which not only a funny situation is expressed, but also different cultural, ideological and moral aspects are brought into play.

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The story expressed in jokes generally presents a fictitious scenario in which later some absurd, unexpected or ridiculous situation occurs. This little story can have few or many characters, or even lack them completely, being reduced to rhetorical questions and funny answers.

Depending on the topic they address or the type of fictional situations that are recreated in them, a wide variety of categories of jokes can be identified. The main ones of them are:

  • White or innocent jokesthose that present simple, naive or childish situations.
  • Black or cruel jokesthose who sarcastically or ironically raise situations of misfortune, illness or death.
  • Dirty jokesthose that address sexual or erotic themes, both explicitly and suggested.
  • political jokesthose that have to do with the actors in the political life of a country.

Some examples of jokes are:

  • Why was the math book sad?
    Because I had too many unsolved problems.
  • A vampire appears with his entire mouth covered in blood, and a colleague of his sees him and asks him: “Where did you get so much blood?” “Well,” the other responds, “Did you see that concrete wall next to the window?” “Of course” “Well, I didn’t see it!”
  • The government has decreed that stealing is illegal. They don’t like having so much competition!

More in: Joke

The riddle

The riddle It consists of a simple riddle or enigma that is proposed to the interlocutor through a series of hidden clues. Normally, it is presented as a rhymed statement, more or less hermetic, which can be humorous, witty or challenging. However, the usual dynamic of riddles is not competitive, but playful: a riddle is posed so that the other can entertain themselves deciphering it.

During childhood, riddles are an important part of educational and entertainment dynamics. However, there is a wide tradition of different riddles in different cultures, and on many occasions these operate in a way similar to jokes or jokes.

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Some examples of riddles are:

  • It seems silver, it is not gold. Anyone who doesn’t guess it is a fool. (The banana)
  • It is hard and round and goes deep. (The ring)
  • What animal is it, the one that walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs at night? (The human being)

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The parody

The parody It is a caricature or burlesque imitation, that is, it pursues satirical intentions.. There are many and varied forms of parody, not only in popular tradition, but also in arts and literature. In general terms, its procedure is relatively the same: it uses exaggeration and irony to represent a person, an institution or an idea in a humorous or scathing way.

In popular tradition, parody has always played an important role, since masks criticism and rebellion towards authority figures through humor or the social hierarchy. In political humor, for example, this type of mechanism is very evident, and political cartoons continue to be one of the most popular and demanded protest resources in the world today.

Some examples of parody are:

  • Imitations of showbiz stars on social networks.
  • Political satires at carnival and other popular celebrations.

More in: Parody

The saying

The saying is a type of paremia, that is, of phrase or sentence that contains some type of moral or social teaching, usually expressed indirectly or metaphorically. It is usually expressed in rhymed verse, and operates as a fixed piece that It is transmitted practically unchanged from one generation to another.

Proverbs are an important part of the culture of people, and They reflect the values ​​and philosophical conceptions each. They are distinguished from other types of paremia, such as the proverb and the maxim, in that They do not usually have a defined authorbut rather they belong to the collective tradition, and for that same reason they are not usually written down or belong to any literary work.

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Some examples of proverbs are:

  • Loose lips sink ships.
  • Better a bird in the hand than a hundred in the air.
  • Water that you should not drink, let it run.

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The word game

Word games are playful constructions in which the speaker uses verbal language in an unusual way, to express some idea in a joking or mischievous way or refer to something. Word games are common in popular language and can consist of unexpected turns, challenging constructions, internal rhymes and other ways of hiding often humorous content in an expression.

Typically, word games They consist of phonetic or syntactic changes that allow a certain ambiguity of meaning or that express two contents at the same time. They can also consist of changes in the ordinary way of saying words, in order to make them more expressive or funny.

Some examples of word games are:

  • Tongue twisterlike “three sad tigers swallow wheat in a wheat field” or “the bishop of Constantinople wants to deconstantinopolize, whoever deconstantinopolizes it well, will be a good deconstantinopolizer.”
  • Palindromeslike “anita washes the tub” or “arepera”.
  • Calambures, like “if I saw, if it rained” or “why does the ball roll? “Why did you wash the wheel?”
  • Metathesislike “feca” (coffee) or “tombo” (button).

More in: Word game


  • Jorge Ramírez Caro (2016). How to analyze everything: popular, media, artistic and educational texts. Heredia: National University.
  • Juan Diego Quesada (1999). “Some word games in Spanish: sample and structural analysis.” Magazine lexis (XXIII, 1). Toronto: University of Toronto.
  • “Oral tradition” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.