Any linguistic subversion presupposes a norm which it constantly destabilizes, while at the same time reaffirming its status. But plays on language are also akin to parody since the grammatical, semantic and textual norms are always underlined by the very notion of play. The hugely diverse plays on language endlessly exploit the system's potentiality, thus putting a greater emphasis on it. This principle is crucial to the work of the Oulipo. But parody also implies provocation. To what extent, beyond strictly formal subversion, do those who devote themselves to these practices target the established order, intellectual rigidity, and even tradition? These are some of the issues this article wishes to address, by sketching a genealogy from Rabelais to the Oulipo, and by proposing as a subtext, with the reader's complicity, the constantly renewed apotheosis of linguistic formalism.