‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself’: War-related humour in the European linguistic landscape



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The presentation deals with the humorous use of originally non-humorous utterances in the context of public anti-war protests. Adopting a sociolinguistics perspective grounded in the social semiotic theory of linguistic landscape, it shows how a statement originally made by a Ukrainian soldier in February 2022 became globally known as an anti-war slogan, turning into a viral memetic phrase that became subject to extensive recontextualization and resemioticization. The presentation documents a broad range of cultural artefacts, including street art, public signs, postage stamps and even T-shirts, that became the physical carriers of this slogan in the public space, circulating it in multiple language versions (e.g., Russian, English and Czech). While such anti-war protest slogans and acts of military defiance are known from many other historical situations, what appears new in this case is the widespread re-use of this slogan for humorous purposes. Significantly, this involves not only the slogan’s creative appropriation by members of the public (e.g. meme creators, street artists, social media users), its marketization (e.g. its appearance on various products and the filing of an EU trademark application) but also its intentional recycling in institutional contexts (e.g. by the Ukrainian post). The presentation suggests that we might, among other, be witnessing the emergence of a new phenomenon, whereby various war-related content (e.g. utterances or video-footage) is re-used in an entertaining manner during wartime as part of one of the warring sides’ official public communication campaign.
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