Bahaa-Eddin Mazid: "Deconstructing a Contemporary Egyptian Newspaper Caricature"


Visual and Verbal Modalities

Much of the resolution of incongruity discussed above comes from identifying syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations in the caricature. Syntagmatic relations therein include:

1) The relation between the two adjacency pair-parts: the utterances of the woman and the man,

2) the relation between the two characters, as already elaborated above : a relation between two human types, not necessarily between two individuals, and

3) the syntactic relations within each utterance.

Paradigmatic relations in the text include:

1) the relations between the woman's utterance, her inviting smile, her thrust breasts, tightly-fitting dress, her rolling hips and her thrust thigh. These relations are relations of congruity and compatibility.

2) the relations between the man's educated utterance, his formal hair-cut, close eyes, necktie, formal clothing, and his bag. Again, these are relations of congruity and compatibility.

3) the relation between the man's pointing forefinger and his refusal of the woman's invitation. Pointing with the forefinger seems to indicate that the man is in a position of power. This is also manifest in the syntagmatic relation between the two adjacency pair-parts — the invitation and the refusal.

The source of incongruity is, thus, the mismatch between two paradigms: the woman's and the man's. Most of the differences between the two have already been discussed. But there are still other differences that relate to the connotations of each of these two major signifiers and of the minor signifiers attached to each.

The two main signifiers denote what they apparently are: a female body (thrust breasts, rolling hips, a smile, etc.) and a male body (a pointing forefinger, a watch, a necktie,) etc. The visual and the verbal signifiers in the woman's paradigm, however, connote availability, liberation (some would say looseness), some middle class manners, violation of norms, and sexuality. The signifiers in the man's paradigm have an opposing set of connotations: sophistication, formality, business orientation, reserve and rationality. The two sets of connotations are not unfamiliar in most media and print texts in Egypt as well as elsewhere.

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AS/SA Nº 9, Article 3 : Page 6 / 9

© 2000, Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée

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