The long-story form of a joke was designed to enhance the communal experience for the teller and the listener. But our modern listener may become restive. Since one hopes it possible that a joke may remain funny if told another way, we try cutting to the essence. Here goes:
offers(T → S, “truck escape?“)
demurs(S → T, “No thanks. God provides.“)
inundates(flood, Ground floor)
offers(B → S, “boat escape?“)
demurs(S → B, “No thanks. God provides.“)
inundates(flood, Top floor)
offers(H → S, “helicopter escape?“)
demurs(S → H, “No thanks. God provides.“)
queries(S → God, “WTF?“)
responds(God → S, “Sent truck, boat, helicopter!“)
Does it still work? If not, there’s a long version available at radar.
If somebody says “Yeah, they would” when you say “Wild horses wouldn’t drag me there”, are they challenging your horsemanship or – more subtly – your professed distaste for ‘there’?
It may also mean they don’t ‘get’ metaphor and are thinking “Of course they would. How could you stop ‘em, they’re wild horses for godssake”.
Do watch how you use metaphor. Though intended to effect more rapid communication via a shared understanding, it can sometimes get in the way and leave the other guy stewing without your even knowing the damage you’ve done.
There’s that canon of (mostly Greek-originated) literary terms such as anacoluthon, cataphora, enjambment, hysteron proteron, etc. They cover all manner of sentential structures, syntactic and semantic. They provide classy names for puns and exaggerations and rhetorical devices.
But there doesn’t seem to be a name for one which nails down that mixture of archaism and modernism (especially slang) in such expressions as “That sky that late o’er us hath lowered, beginneth now to piss down on us” – unless somebody knows? It’s got to be more than just anachronism, it’s not really about the temporality of the things in the utterance.
Never having seen any but the occasional episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – which always struck me as quite decent entertainment – I’d never thought of it as a source of linguistic novelty. Seems I was very wrong. Usually good to find that out.
Also finding out that the magazine Verbatim, to which I was subscribed, last century under the editorship of the late Laurence Urdang, is still around, having been revived both in print and online.