«Gegengabe» in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature – Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday
Edited By Christian Grandl and Kevin J. McKenna
On Meanings of the Rebus: Its Preliminary Semiotic Treatment
Modus omnibus in rebus. ('Everything occurs in rebus studies.')
Rebus is a well-known genre in human culture; more precisely it is a sub-genre of riddles, puzzles, etc. It is akin to several forms and genres of texts: Puzzles, anagrams, pictographs, cryptograms, ciphers, crosswords, droodles, visual trickery, visual jokes, magic formulas, inscriptions, devises, etc. In my paper I will concentrate only on rebus in the proper sense of the word and I shall use 'rebus' as the general term. Rebus combines written and visual expressions suggesting witty, unexpected meaning. Usually it contains at least two or more (simple) drawings of recognizable topics, referring to at least two or more words or expressions, which would be deciphered together. The more different is the semantics of the combined elements, the more successful the rebus is. The more than 5000 years old Egyptian Narmer Palette – as a very early rebus picture – uses two drawings for the owner's name nar 'fish' and mer 'cisel,' which have very different semantic references.
Unfortunately there are very few theoretical papers on the rebus, and general publications on riddles usually do not contain specific chapters concerning it. Paremiologists pay even less attention to the topic. My paper aims to fill at least a part of the gap: Giving some hints on various forms of the meaning of the rebus.1
In everyday use the pictures of the rebus are the more attractive – but in fact the language...
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