Now let’s see how writers use denotation and connotation when they write about world affairs.

take notes icon Read the article “What’s So Funny About Bananas?” by William Safire from the New York Times. When you’re finished, answer the questions below using your notes. Afterward, check your understanding to see some possible responses.

An image of a desk with a telephone, papers, and other office supplies. At the front of the photograph is a bright yellow banana with a huge, smiling face drawn on its side.

“Smile,” red5standingby, Flickr

  1. Why is the word “banana” funny in the first five paragraphs?

  2. In the ninth paragraph, bananas have a serious denotative meaning to which two groups of people?

  3. What is the “Smart Banana Project”? It advises what group?

  4. How does the author connect bananas to the fall of Germany’s Chancellor Kohl?

  5. Does the author think “bananas” can ever be serious? Why or why not?
Check Your Understanding

Sample Responses:

  1. “Banana” is humorous because of the repetitive pattern of “nana,” the emphasis of the second syllable “naa” or “nah,” and the shape of the fruit signified by this word.

  2. Bananas have a serious denotation to the Latin banana producers and the European consumers.

  3. The Smart Banana Project is a voluntary project headed by the director of the Rainforest Alliance to advise Latin banana growers about ways to be more environmentally conscious in their production.

  4. The author lists several reasons that Kohl falls out of favor; one of the less serious reasons is that Kohl sides with the French protectionists who refuse to allow Latin American bananas into France and Germany, forcing Germans to eat substandard bananas.

  5. No, he doesn’t because of the almost universal connotation of the word “banana” and perhaps because of the structure the word itself.