In Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, words that are used to create humor include those that have double meanings and malapropisms, as well as phrases which characters reinterpret in nontraditional ways.
Double meanings of words create humor effects when those meanings are very different. An example is offered by Lipsha's reflection on the word “suits” as used in “malpractice suits.” He explains that he had formerly confused these lawsuits with men’s clothes, thinking that it was “clothing that quack doctors wore.”
A malapropism is the use of a word that sounds similar to another one but has a different meaning. In the novel, Lipsha often uses malapropisms. One example is his substitution of “condensation” for “concentration” in regard to mental effort.
Nector is among the characters who reinterpret common phrases or clichés, especially those that non-Native people apply to Native Americans. In reminiscing about his days modeling for a painter, Nector brings up a defamatory cliché that he attributes to General Custer: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Nector updates this horrifying comment by saying that, based on his interactions with white people,
The only interesting Indian is dead, or dying by falling backwards off a horse.