Are you trying to be punny?

I am a big fan of puns. You know how they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? The way to my heart is with puns! I cannot resist a good play on words and find myself drawn to people who are “punny”. Thus, I’ve decided to dedicate a few lines to a brief history of the pun, types of puns, and a few examples of some I love.

First of all, what is a pun? A pun is a form of wordplay that relies on the multiple meanings of a word, or of similar-sounding words, with the intention of being funny or for a rhetorical effect. Puns have been around since at least the 7th Century B.C.! Sanskrit, for example, is rich with puns, and they can be found in cuneiform and hieroglyphics as well. Puns were heavily used in ancient Egypt in the development of myths and in the interpretation of dreams. In Elizabethan England, coming up with clever wordplay was positively viewed among the lords and ladies of the court. Shakespeare himself used around 3,000 puns in his work! My favourite one is found in Romeo and Juliet. In it, Mercutio quips, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you will find me a grave man.”

I was able to find at least ten types of puns! There are homophonic puns that use words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings, for example, “I used to be a baker because I kneaded dough”. Homonymic puns use words with the same spelling and pronunciation, but with different meanings. An example of this is, “The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran”. And then there are recursive puns, which are normally a two-part pun that rely on understanding an element in the first part. I love this example, “a Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.» There are also homographic puns, metonymic puns, visual puns, and many more!

Numerous competitions exist to find the best punsters or “punslingers”, as competitors are often called. In the USA, there is the O. Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championship which takes place once a year. At the Leicester Comedy Festival, they hold the UK Pun Championships, and some of the funniest jokes you’ll hear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival are, you guessed it, puns!

Throughout history, puns have been appreciated (by some) for their ability to entertain, amuse, and express cleverness through language. They are a versatile and enduring form of wordplay that continues to captivate people across cultures and languages. As Alfred Hitchcock himself stated, “Puns are the highest form of literature.” I couldn’t agree more! Here are my top ten:

  1. You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish.

  2. If you are ever in the market for a large boat or an ark, I Noah guy.

  3. I’m thinking about becoming a doctor, but I’m worried I don’t have enough patience.

  4. I knew a woman who owned a Taser. Man, was she stunning!

  5. I did a performance about puns. Really it was just a play on words.

  6. Broken puppets for sale. No strings attached.

  7. Jill broke her finger today. On the other hand she was completely fine.

  8. After hours of waiting for the bowling alley to open, we finally got the ball rolling.

  9. I’ve been to the dentist many times, so I know the drill.

  10. «Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.» – Groucho Marx


Cristina Vargas

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