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You don't say the joke right away, you build into it, and then you say it.

Is the above sentence grammatically correct?

What does build into it mean here?

  • Build into means: construct something as part of a whole; create something to be an integral part of something else. I think the speaker has meant the you person makes a story and then make the joke as part of that. – Abbasi Dec 18 '16 at 22:05
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    Normally in story telling we would say "build up to it" (where it=the punchline), not "build into it". – John Feltz Dec 18 '16 at 22:24
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First, the "it" refers to the joke so it's not as important as the first part: build into. As a native speaker who has lived in Ontario, Canada for his whole life, build up to sounds better to me. Build into works, but it sounds stiff.

As for the meaning:

When someone builds into or builds up to a joke, it means that they are adding more content to the joke before telling the punchline. Normally, building into something is used in the form "build something into something else". In that context, it means to make the first thing inside of the second thing so that it's part of the second thing. In the context of an event like telling a joke, "build into" has a different meaning. When you build into a joke, it means that you are building a joke so that when you lead into the punchline, it'll be funny. It probably sounds stiff to me because build into has two meanings and the first meaning is much more common.
When you build up to a joke, you are building up the joke (or more pedantically, building the joke up), making it bigger (and funnier) until you tell the punchline. It works nicely this way - when something builds up, it gets bigger over time. For me, build into misses the idea that it could have been a weaker joke, but you were improving it by adding more.

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