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An in-joke, also known as an inside joke or a private joke, is a joke whose humour is understandable only to members of an ingroup, that is, people who are in a particular social group, occupation, or other community of shared interest. It is an esoteric joke that is humorous only to those who are aware of the circumstances behind it.
In-jokes may exist within a small social clique, such as a group of mates, or extend to an entire profession such as the film or professional wrestling industries, or a particular sporting field or chess team. Ethnic or religious groups usually have their own in-jokes.
In-jokes are cryptic allusions to shared common ground that act as triggers; only those who have shared the common ground provide an appropriate response. An in-joke works to build community, sometimes at the expense of outsiders. Part of the power of an in-joke is that its audience knows that there are those who do not understand the joke.
An in-joke can also be used as a subtext, where people in the know may find humour with something not explicitly spoken. They may even apologise for doing so to a rookie, directly or indirectly stating that what they were laughing themselves hoarse at at was an in-joke.
In the computer industry some computer programmers hide in-jokes within the code of software in the form of Easter eggs, i.e., hidden content that can be revealed only by following a specific sequence of inputs.
The Wilhelm Scream is a notable in-joke that has appeared in over 200 different movies, TV shows, and video games.
- Dog-whistle politics
- Internet meme
- Mathematical joke
- Military humor
- Order of the Occult Hand
- The Game
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- Wales Online: "Are the Welsh Really Funny?", 14 October 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- Randy Y. Hirokawa and Marshall Scott Poole (1996). Communication and Group Decision Making. Sage Publications Inc. p. 96. ISBN 076190462X.
- Paul Brooks Duff (2001). Who Rides the Beast?: Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse. Oxford University Press. p. 81. ISBN 019513835X.
- Ben Tousey (2003). Acting Your Dreams: Use Acting Techniques to Interpret Your Dreams. Ben Tousey. pp. 118–119. ISBN 1-4140-0542-3.