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Pointe (from French: pointe tip, from late Latin: puncta stitch) is a name for a surprising final effect as a stylistic figure in a rhetorical sequence, e.g. B. a joke . The comic, also witty effect of the punch line is based on the sudden recognition of meaningful connections between concepts that do not fit together. Gero von Wilpert describes the punch line as an actual, unexpected sense . As a rule, the occurrence of the punchline is formally precisely programmed through the rhetorical construction, sometimes predictable.

A surprising twist in a dramatic plot is also called a punchline.


The effect has been given different names in the history of rhetoric and poetics . The term “Pointe” was only adopted from French poetics in the German language at the end of the 18th century, where it replaced terms such as “Spitzfindigkeit” and “acumen” (poetic acumen ), wit (in the old sense of witty remark) (Müller 2003).

Although fully formulated rhetorical and poetological point theories only emerged from the end of the 16th century, these can very well be based on ancient sources. The most important authorities are Aristotle and Marcus Tullius Cicero . On the one hand, one can refer to Aristotle's reflections on esprit (“asteía”) and metaphor ( rhetoric III, 10f). On the other hand, Cicero's book De Oratore, in addition to a catalog of possible forms of joke, also offers fundamental considerations on the talent to make jokes ( De Oratore I, 216–290).

In the course of the 16th century, interest in the punch line increased, as it was part of the ideal of courtly conversation to be able to speak wittily. This ideal applies equally to literature, so that the originally rhetorical considerations on the punch line are also introduced into poetics.

Various treatises are devoted to this transfer. The term “punch line” does not appear in these tracts. The most important terms in Latin treatises are “argutia” and “acumen”, for example in Mathias Casimir Sarbiewski ( De acuto et arguto liber unicus , 1619/26) and Jacob Masen ( Ars Nova Argutiarum , 1660). As a derivative of it, there is in Italian "argutezza" in Emanuele Tesauro ( Cannocchiale aristotelico , 1654) and "acutezza" in Matteo Peregrini ( Delle Acutezze , 1639). The Spaniard Baltasar Gracián uses among other things the word "agudeza" ( Arte de Ingenion, tratado de la Agudeza , 1642). The theoretical and practical interest in the punch line in the 17th century is sometimes referred to by the term "Argutia movement". For the Italian and Spanish point theories, however, the terms “concepto” and “ concetto ” are equally important.

All theoreticians of the punch line attribute an exaggerated importance to their subject. Nowadays, this meaning can only be understood by the fact that it was understood as a product of the perception of similarities between different objects - especially following Aristotle (Hecken 2005). This gave the punch line a quasi epistemological status. It is thus an essential basis for the (literary and rhetorical) invention (inventio). In particular, it was seen in connection with the intellectual abilities of acumen and wit (ingenium), but also with esprit and not least with metaphor . However, this theory is unsubstantiated.

In the German language, these theories are mainly taken up in connection with the poetics of the epigram . So still used Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , the 1771 Scattered notes on the epigram has used one of the first the word "Pointe" in the German language in writing, "Pointe" and "acumen" on equal footing.


  • Most short stories end with a punchline.
  • Anecdotes always end with a punchline.
  • In a limerick , the punch line is always on the last line.
  • Many epigrams are traditionally written with a punchline.
  • The aphorism tends to be pointed.

See also


  • Hauke ​​Stroszeck: punch line and poetic dominant. German short prose in the 16th century . Thesen Verlag Vowinckel + Co. [Germanistik 1], Frankfurt am Main 1970, ISBN 3-7677-0001-8
  • Peter Wenzel: From the structure of the joke to the joke of the structure. Studies on pointing in jokes and short stories , Winter, Heidelberg 1989, ISBN 3-8253-4050-3
  • Ralph Müller: Theory of the Pointe , Mentis, Paderborn 2003, ISBN 3-89785-112-1
  • Thomas Hecken: joke as a metaphor. The term joke in poetics and literary criticism of the 18th century , Francke, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-7720-8116-9
  • Markus M. Ronner : Lexicon of Citations of the 20th Century: Contemporary aphorisms, punch lines and flashes of inspiration, sorted alphabetically by keywords and authors. Orell Füssli, Zurich 2003, ISBN 978-3-280-05050-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Pointe  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations