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Tuesday April 2, 2013

Verbal clowning around

May the weapons of war rust in peace. Seven days without laughter make one weak. Welcome to the wonderful world of puns.

A PUN is a joke exploiting the different meanings of a word or the fact that there are words of the same sound and different meanings. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary)

A famous pun in fiction is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865 by Lewis Carroll:

“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle: “nine the next, and so on.”

“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.

“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”

My favourite punny quotations include the following:

The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man is when he’s a baby. (Natalie Wood)

Seven days without laughter make one weak. (Joel Goodman)

Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted. (Fred Allen)

May the weapons of war rust in peace. (Robert Orben)

I’m a great housekeeper. I get divorced. I keep the house. (Zsa Zsa Gabor)

A bad joke is like a bad egg, all the worse for being cracked. (Josh Billings)

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours. (Milton Berle)

Nostalgia is living life in the past lane. (Author Unknown)

The heart patient refused the transplant, saying he’d already had a change of heart. (George Carlin)

Homographic puns make use of multiple meanings from a single word. Examples:

A blind man picked up a hammer and saw.

The motorist says to the cop, “Why can’t I park my car here? The sign says ‘Fine for Parking’!”

Homophonic puns make use of words that have the same pronunciations but different meanings and spellings. Examples:

Having worked in the hotel for twelve years, she is quite inn experienced.

The angry teacher says to the lazy student, “If you can’t answer this simple question, get out of my class. I want to see you know more.”

Other examples of homophones are buy and bye, hole and whole, bare and bear, fair and fare, pain and pane, weak and week, waist and waste, sail and sale, mail and male, and knead and need.

Related to homophonic puns are those that sound only slightly alike. Examples:

Venice the next gondola?”

“I bought these bottled fruit drinks juice for the two of us.”

“Fused” puns are rather ingenious. We take parts of two words and combine them to form a manufactured word that usually reflects the meanings of the two original words. Examples:

The early start of the cold season has winterrupted our plans for the new project.

I drink a glass of my flavourite fruit juice every day.

Tom Swifties are adverbial puns. Examples:

“I buried the dead dog in the garden,” he said gravely.

“You shouldn’t have made six cups of tea from just one sachet,” he said weakly.

> The writer is an inveterate punster. Whenever he wants to write wordplay, he jest puts pun to paper.


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