"All seriousness aside"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Aug 4 23:04:20 UTC 2005

On Thu, 4 Aug 2005 13:17:51 -0400, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>

>At 11:55 PM -0400 8/3/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>"All seriousness aside" apparently started out as a comedian's line-- I
>>see it credited to Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, and Steve Allen, so it
>>probably goes back to the vaudeville era. (The Southern comedian Brother
>>Dave Gardner even recorded an album called "All Seriousness Aside" in
>>1963.) As I understand it, the expression often functioned as something
>>of an ironic metajoke, signaling to the audience that the impending
>>shift to an ostensibly more serious tone shouldn't be taken very
>There's also "Seriously, though", another comedian's stock line.

I'm sure that metadiscursive framing devices like "Seriously, though..."
or "But seriously, folks..." have deep roots in the vaudeville tradition.
The thing with "All seriousness aside..." is that it *sounds* like one of
those framing devices (sharing prosodic characteristics), even though its
literal meaning is the exact opposite. That's why I called it an ironic
metajoke, since it plays with the very conventions of comedic discourse.
But nowadays it seems to be used unironically (perhaps due to a lack of
recognition of the previous generation's irony?).

--Ben Zimmer

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