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Cunning Punts
January 16, 2013 4:23 AM   Subscribe

In the English-speaking world, punning is viewed as more of a tic than a trick, a pathological condition whose sufferers are classed as "compulsive", "inveterate" and "unable to help themselves". The BBC on Punning.
posted by marienbad (99 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
I pun.

I enjoy punning.

I have explained it to people as seeing language as a Lego set, and finding new ways to put language together in ways that are different and interesting and funny. (Like telling a friend of mine, who's a professor of mathematics and has a new girlfriend who he described as 'very curvy' that "Well, that's good - a lack of interest in her curves would be Bezier." He groaned appreciatively.)

Some people call it an illness. I call it play.

Also, the title is not a pun. It's a Spoonerism.
posted by mephron at 4:31 AM on January 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


And the king of them all is Tim Vine. (SLYT)
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:48 AM on January 16, 2013


I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.

That list leaves out one my favorites from undergrad chemistry:
If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate
posted by TedW at 4:49 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


The problem with punsters (and I know a couple) is that they expect a response for their puns, which are almost always parenthetical in nature and interrupting the flow of conversation. They drop their little pun, and then there's a wide-eyed Fozzie Bear pause where they seem to be expecting something, which would of course be an acknowledgement of just how clever they are.

TBH, and to me, it seems mostly like childish, attention seeking behaviour and I generally find it obnoxious except in very occasional, isolated instances.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:49 AM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Jesus may have also salted his speech with puns on Aramaic words

Reminds me of a joke.

A new monk shows up at the monastery and is set to work copying the Bible.

The Bishop gives him one page - and only one page - to copy again and again.

One day, the monk asks the Bishop how he knows the page he has been given is accurate.

"That's easy," says the Bishop, "We keep the original in the cellar and if any questions come up, I go down and check it."

"May I ask you to check my page?" inquires the Monk.

"Certainly," answers the Bishop. "It is one of my sacred tasks."

The Bishop heads off and is gone for what seems to be a very long time. The monk goes to look for him and finds him next to the original Bible, banging his head on the ground and moaning

"IT SAYS CELEBRATE. NOT CELIBATE."
posted by three blind mice at 4:49 AM on January 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


For me, my puns have often surprised me and given me just a little insight on how my brain works without me, as it were. When I was about ten, my mother and I were getting ready to clean the kitchen and I was holding a bottle of cleaner. She said, "This kitchen is as dirty as hell!" and I brandished the bottle and said, "Well, let us spray!" It popped out of my mouth with no seeming conscious thought, and surprised and delighted both of us. It was like my brain had done a trick. Quite wonderful.

Much later, as a case manager, I had a client who was bipolar, and when she was in a manic phase, she spoke mainly in puns. She seemed to have access at those times to a part of her brain that was not available to her most of the time. It was fascinating.

I think those who feel that puns are "the lowest form of wit" simply aren't very good at them.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:55 AM on January 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


The problem with punsters

Yeah, I usually don't like puns in conversation, where they tend to be pulled like little pranks we're expected to stop and har-har over, but I do like subtle puns and other wordplay in writing, where you the reader can do what you like with them.
posted by pracowity at 4:58 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Much to the chagrin of those that know me and publically admit to said knowing, I live for puns. The longer, the more convoluted, the better. I prefer the shaggy dog style of pun, with an elaborate setup that has a somewhat tenous connection to the actual pun. Of course, these often leave those that know me whining about it afterwards, but, what ho I say!
posted by Samizdata at 5:06 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


This reminds that I should go read Ada sometime.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:14 AM on January 16, 2013


Andy Zaltzman, one half of The Bugle podcast, has a tendency for going on mindscouring pun runs, to his partner John Oliver's great dismay. The gold standard is probably his dog breeds pun run, but he's also terrorized poor Oliver with puns on fish, Dickens and many more subjects.
posted by Kattullus at 5:15 AM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Classic page on review site Qype for Birmingham greengrocers Melon-Cauli.

The best punning shops in London.

R.Soles shoe shop, Chelsea.

Sew over it haberdashery shop, Clapham.

Virgin Media van names.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:15 AM on January 16, 2013


The late William Safire, the New York Times's long-time language writer, wrote in 2005 that a pun "is to wordplay what dominatrix sex is to foreplay - a stinging whip that elicits groans of guilty pleasure".

I fail to see the problem, here.
posted by odinsdream at 5:17 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


The trick to doing it well is not to expect a response. When I'm really on point, it can take several minutes for people to even realize I made a subtle joke in the first place. It's the difference between being verbally clever and just showing off for attention.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:18 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


This has long been my favorite punny headline: Skywalkers in Korea cross Han Solo.

"And there may be reason to hope that the internet will restore its reputation."

I want to read this Onion article.

"Jesus himself was a prodigious punster."

I will be using this phrase the next time somebody objects to my clever wordplay. "You know, Jesus himself ...
posted by iamkimiam at 5:18 AM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think those who feel that puns are "the lowest form of wit" simply aren't very good at them.

I think it is more that puns are largely made for self-amusement of the punster. Making someone else laugh is the best kind of humor so that leaves the pun sort of sitting alone, all by itself, at the far end of the humor bench.
posted by three blind mice at 5:19 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, my dad loves terrible puns. He runs a Thai restaurant near the sea now that he's named "Thai up at the Quay".
posted by lucidium at 5:20 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder why it is that a strong pun produces such a feeling of pain? I mean, it's not quite pain, but it almost is, that sense of 'ooph, oh god'. There doesn't really seem to be a word to describe the sensation of a truly terrible pun.... a laughing wince is the best I can manage.

I love them, and used to be fairly good at them when I was young, but fell out of practice. Some of my very favorite reading is the pun contests in the various Callahan's Crosstime Saloon books. Worth the price of admission all by themselves.
posted by Malor at 5:27 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


A decade of living in the UK/working with English people has worn me down. I make the occasional pun and will acknowledge a good one when appropriate. Punny headlines still aggravate me to no end.

I do have a few coworkers with compulsive pun disorders and we been forced to implement a buzzer that gets used whenever a bad pun is uttered.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:32 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you call it The Punisher?
posted by iamkimiam at 5:40 AM on January 16, 2013 [27 favorites]


It's a good thing Obama is introducing his proposals for pun control today.
posted by notme at 5:42 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, and for you .... people, and I'm not sure you still qualify, who don't like puns..... thhhppppt! They're not for self-amusement, they're to elicit groans and laughter from a sufficiently literate and clever audience. Your brain may not work that way, but punsters love running into one another -- and the only way they can typically find one another is by dropping one into conversations occasionally.

Punsters may try repeatedly; we tend to be stubborn. We only know we've failed if, after trying many puns to see if they cause laughter, no pun in ten did.
posted by Malor at 5:42 AM on January 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


Punning is the lowest form of wit... Except for pop-culture references, and three stooges ow my balls style humor, and Polish jokes, misogyny humor and racist humor. And maybe poo jokes. OK, punning is at least in the bottom half of all humor; maybe.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:44 AM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it is more that puns are largely made for self-amusement of the punster.

God forbid.
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


... pathological condition whose sufferers are classed as ...

No, the suffering is done by those on the receiving end of puns.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:54 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe oral punsters would get more respect if they called it "punnilingus."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:02 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


"That's 2/3 of a pun," my classics professor would say. "P.U."
posted by The Nutmeg of Consolation at 6:04 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Conversational puns almost always give me the same feeling I get from practical jokes: most of them are really lame (you wrapped tin foil around everything in someone's office or you said "profit motive" with an implied "prophet motive" because har) and are enjoyed most (or only) by the person making the joke. Aren't you a hilarious little person. Now stop.
posted by pracowity at 6:09 AM on January 16, 2013


There go my plans for my golf pro shop for 90's industrial music fans, "Terrible Lie".
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:11 AM on January 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think those who feel that puns are "the lowest form of wit" simply aren't very good at them.

No, the problem is that most of those who love them and trot them out on all occasions simply aren't very good at them. The most devoted enthusiasts of them, in my experience, are the people who will derail any conversation at any time to make some stupid non sequitur because someone has spoken one word that sounds vaguely like another word, and then guffaw at their own cleverness while everyone else moves on. Someone mentions live-action role-playing? "I guess if our prime minister did that he would be Steven LARPer, pffffth." Another mentions that his teenage daughter has just started her first job, working at Indigo? "You know what they say about customers there: IN DEY GO, but dey don't come out again, pppffffthth."

Life is not a word association test.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:18 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you call it The Punisher?

This one's for you. *presses buzzer*
posted by slimepuppy at 6:19 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Also, the title is not a pun. It's a Spoonerism.
posted by mephron

Yes, I know, it is mentioned in the last tag.
posted by marienbad at 6:28 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I take enormous pleasure in puns. At their best, they can be very witty grace notes in speech or text and convey a genuine love of playing with the sounds and rhythms of this language of ours.

With that said, I think a lot of the "guilty" pleasure from the vast majority of puns comes from the same root as our reaction to Christmas Cracker jokes. They're deliberately (or, at least, knowingly) bad, so instead of bonding over laughing at the witticism, which has a high risk of failure, we're bonding over laughing at how bad the joke is.

So most puns that get dropped into conversations with a resounding thud, followed by the "wide-eyed Fozzie Bear pause" (I love that phrase, thanks!) are simply annoying, but sometimes, given a bad enough pun and a sufficiently over-laden delivery, can make it all the way through to the other side, becoming a sort of meta-joke, and take on a new hilarity.

As a side note, I think that puns are a good test of fluency in a language. For puns to work, getting the dual meanings implied by the use of homophones or rhyming phrases needs to be instantaneous and completely effortless. Simple for a native speaker, but much harder for someone working in their nth language, for whom conscious memory searches and contextual cues still make up a big part of the process through which they're understanding the conversation.

So I never make puns these days, because it's not so common for me to be around a completely English-native crowd. But even though I never get to make them, I am starting to love jokes based on cross-language puns, like:

"What do you call a damp German?
zwei und eine halbe, because he's not quite drei"

...which breaks both the "puns should be subtle" rule and the "never pun across language barriers" rule, as well as not actually being particularly witty. But I like the underlying idea of using homophones from different languages enough that I still enjoy the joke.
posted by metaBugs at 6:33 AM on January 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


I love puns, and I love to hear other people use them. It's a genuine pleasure to find someone who enjoys playing with language.
posted by honest knave at 6:36 AM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.

What is it syncing about?
posted by Kabanos at 6:38 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I think those who feel that puns are "the lowest form of wit" simply aren't very good at them."

Yup.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:40 AM on January 16, 2013


it seems mostly like childish, attention seeking behaviour and I generally find it obnoxious except in very occasional, isolated instances.

I think there are three kinds of people in this situation:

01) the idiot who makes what they think is the most glorious witticism known to mankind and pronounces it self-importantly, waits for a reaction, and then repeats it in case anyone missed it, often multiple times

02) the self-aware "ironic" punning where someone makes the joke and rolls their eyes/apologizes for it immediately afterwards

03) Stephen Maturin and "cur-tailed"

We must all aspire to #3.
posted by elizardbits at 6:41 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ah yes, a pune, or play on words.

A recent favorite I heard about: there's a breakfast sandwich cart in Portland called "Fried Eggs I'm In Love".
posted by kmz at 6:55 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


ANDY ZALTZMAN PLEASE GET HELP I mean the man bought a pun bell for crying in the beer.
posted by JHarris at 6:55 AM on January 16, 2013


The shortest distance between two puns is a straight line.
posted by eriko at 6:55 AM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


99.99% of puns I am forced to ignore mostly because it's a recitation of a pun remembered, not a pun invented.
posted by surplus at 7:38 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


My dad was studying for an exam decades ago. Trying to, anyway, but his roommate kept amusing himself by coming up with a pun for anything and everything he could think of.

"Knock it off," Dad told him. He wouldn't. "Goddamn it, I'm warning you." But he was having too much fun.

So? Dad grabbed the guy, threw him out in the hall, slammed the dorm room door and locked it. Whereupon the roommate started begging to be let back in.

Dad tried ignoring him, but of course it was just as distracting as all the stupid puns. "Fuck it, all right," he said. "If I let you back in, I want your word there will be no more puns."

"All right, I promise."

"..."

"Now o-pun the door."
posted by middleclasstool at 7:48 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think in puns; occasionally one makes it's way out of my mouth.

Best (worst) part? I've spread the punning to my girlfriend. Now she even out-puns me on occasion. I feel like we've become some kind of supervillian duo or something.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:48 AM on January 16, 2013


> Andy Zaltzman, one half of The Bugle podcast, has a tendency for going on mindscouring pun runs, to his partner John Oliver's great dismay.

I love a pun as much as anyone, and Zaltzman is the DaVinci of the genre, but I secretly enjoy his pun runs less for the linguistic virtuosity they exhibit and more for the resigned groans of anguish they elicit from Oliver.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:51 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, not to say puns are objectively good or bad, but the anti-pun commenters here would do well to take a step back and re-read their comments. They don't really sound like they'd be terribly fun people to talk to at a party.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:58 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


The essence of puns is their transience. The quibble must occur to you in passing. Then, you must consider audience and venue: is this a good time to release it? The true moment soon passes.

Once released, it is over. Now: move on, invent another, or does someone else want to play?

The pleasure is in sharing the invention, the surprise, the spontaneous exploration of the labyrinth of language's lexicon; and perhaps the invitation to your interlocutors to play.

Puns in commerce -- punny business and product names --on the other hand, are an abomination.

First, it is a one-way street. You are not inviting me to play, you are attempting to manipulate me with 'humour'. It is a bullying rather than a sharing kind of humor -- a laughing at rather than a laughing with.

Second, it is not spontaneous, it is forced. lf a small business, it depends on the talents of the proprietor: If a large business, it is likely researched, focus-grouped, and approved by committee, In either case, it has probably already exceeded its shelf life before the first business card is printed* because a pun on a sign, in the yellow pages, or repeated ad nauseum on television violates the pun's essence -- transience.

Third, it violates a general law of humor, that some jokes are always funny and some are funny exactly once**. Absent a fresh context, most puns are in the latter tribe. Telling your friends that you want to name your Boston barbershop "The Yankee Clipper" might be a pleasant diversion in a conversation. Once you have actually hoist a shingle on Maine Street with that printed on it, you have instead created a tiresome eyesore for anyone who must pass by more than once. Oh, the humanity.

The very bottom of this barrel is the requirement that any children's film involving anthropomorphic animals must have either the word tale or tail in it, and use the spelling that does not go with the meaning. Thus are young minds corrupted and set on the path of unrighteousness.

Puns and other quibbles are the jazz of language humour, the bottomless well of spontaneous invention. You like that one? Here's another. I can do this all day. They are not to be treated like the relentelessly repeated 'hooks' of popular music.

Some folks don't dig jazz. That's OK. But don't tell me it's the lowest form just because some square or commercial cats can't really swing.

--------------------------------------------
* A friend once offered an academic editiing service named "[Expletives Deleted]", which I must admit I found reasonably clever even on repeated exposure. All generalizations are false.

** Recall (or attend) that in Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, several pages are taken up in explaining why it's humourous to notice that a person named Wyoming Knott can by called "Why Not", but that it is both otiose and odious to point it out to that person -- who has surely heard it any number of times in her life already, and will likely hear it many more in the future without your 'contribution'.

posted by Herodios at 8:10 AM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Reddit pun chains, usually, are hlariously offensive

e.g.

Dress up in an orange Jewish concentration camp outfit. Then you are concentrated orange jews. ----- Fuck Orange jews. Way too Hasidic.-----Israeli bad after brushing your teeth.----Of Kosher gotta drink it before brushing your teeth.-----Also he should drink it before Hebrews coffee.


Moar pun chains
and Moar puns here
posted by lalochezia at 8:12 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


the self-aware "ironic" punning where someone makes the joke and rolls their eyes/apologizes for it immediately afterwards

These are the worst MetaFilter comments, the only ones that make me wish we had downvotes. Do NOT apologize. If you're going to apologize, you don't have what it takes to make that pun in the first place, fool!
posted by adamdschneider at 8:20 AM on January 16, 2013


I've heard two schools of thought on puns.

1) "A good pun is its own reword"
And
2) "Hanging alone is too good for a man who makes puns. He should be hung, drawn and quoted"
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:21 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I mean, dropping a pun in conversation is like saying "You want to dance?" Of course people who don't dance are sick of being asked — and of course people who do dance are sick of being turned down.
posted by and so but then, we at 8:48 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hanging alone is too good for a man who makes puns. He should be hung, drawn and quoted"

He'd better be hung. Otherwise why draw him?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:50 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are funny puns and unfunny puns. A shocking belief, I know.

The basic problem is that a fair number of people who try to make puns regularly seem not to understand what makes them work, at least in my experience.

For example, for an off-the-cuff pun (as opposed to a punning joke or a shaggy dog story, which are related but different), it is pretty much essential that both meanings are immediately relevant to the subject at hand. That's why the "Steven LARPer" example someone offered above as an example of a bad pun indeed doesn't work - why is the speaker suddenly bringing Stephen Harper into it for no reason? It isn't witty. It's quite literally half-witty.

There are other issues that come up - both meanings have to be clear to your intended audience; obscurantism is the enemy of puns. Think that's obvious? Then you never met people who desperately strain for the bon mot. One I heard once was "They wanted to burn her alive because they thought she was a widow, but she refused to char!" Blank looks. "You know, because of suttee, where a widow would be expected to join her husband on the funeral pyre." "OK ..." "And char, as in, you know, housecleaning. The old meaning. Like a charwoman. The kind of housework that a widow might be expected to do in some cultures." "Um ..."

And, as happens often, the person who made that sort-of-pun was convinced, and remains convinced to this day, of its knee-slapping hilarity. That's why you end up getting the apologetic, I'm-sorry-I'm-making-a-pun versions - they are from people who have suffered through conversations with bad punsters convinced of their own wit and laughing at their own jokes, and they are trying to avoid emulating that.

In short, if it's something you feel the urge to do frequently, be aware that it's going to be very, very hard.

(That's what she said.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:11 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shorter Kyrademon: Salience is golden.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:26 AM on January 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's a pun in east London which has haunted me for years. A chip shop called Codfellas. A terrible pun but made all the more confusing given the more obvious and much better fish n'chip shop/gangster film pun is The Codfather.
posted by Damienmce at 9:50 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I Googled for most elaborate pun and came across this. I was amused.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:51 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


That comic has filled me with rage. I am now a rage eclair. Rage pinata. idk
posted by elizardbits at 9:53 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


True stuff:

Name of a restaurant in Fresno, California, soul food and Mexican food. (no longer in business): Nacho Mama.

What they call Bartles & James in Mexico(a type of wine, sold by two "hicks" in a series of TV commercials) Dos Okies. (you hadda be from the 80's to remember these guys, and it helps to have been exposed to hispanic colloquialisms)

Shaggy dog stories: painful to endure, because, usually, it's the tone-deaf who tell them. Spontaneous and clever puns are the best. I like the delay in expressions I see when one works: the conversation goes on, and one by one, a widening of the eyes or tic along the hairline or suppressed smile reveals that the effort struck live meat. The barely and unsuccessful attempt to ignore the remark is the best response. Groaning is for the thick-witted who want only to show that they got it.
posted by mule98J at 9:55 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Punny headlines still aggravate me to no end."

Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious
posted by Damienmce at 9:56 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, my above entry was not the most elaborate pun ever. This is.

A boy of Italian descent named Carbaggio is born in Germany. With his swarthy looks and dark curly hair, he grows up feeling a bit of a misfit among the blond Teutons. He tries to compensate by being more German than the Germans, but he’s only boring, and is not accepted. When he’s a young man, he escapes to Paris. Shortly after he arrives there, he visits a gift shop and is caught stealing a brass miniature of the Eiffel Tower. The police arrest him and give him the choice of going to jail or immediately leaving the country. He chooses freedom and buys passage on the first ship outbound from Marseilles. It takes him to New York. Thinking he’d like a career as a broadcaster, he goes the RCA Building and walks into the office of General David Sarnoff. Sarnoff says there are no air positions open, but he offers the boy a job as a strikebreaker. Carbaggio takes it. When the strike is over, he finds himself on a union blacklist. He moves out to Long Island and gets a job at the sonar equipment company owned by a man named Harris. He studies English, and after several years has improved to the point where he gets a job as a disc jockey on a radio station, doing a program called Rock Time.

He has realized his dream. He’s a routine Teuton Eiffel-lootin’ Sarnoff goon from Harris Sonar, Rock-Time Carbaggio.


(for those who need a source/translation: He's a rootin' tootin' high-falutin' son of a gun from Arizona, ragtime cowboy Joe.) From the song, Ragtime Cowboy Joe.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the more tolerable punners I knew had a rule that he would never make a play on words (especially about someone's name) unless he had a fair assurance that whatever pun he would make would be in the top 10% of puns on that matter that the audience had ever heard. So he was relatively restrained and took enough care to step up his game when it came to coming up with a pun.

And yes, punsters, I do realize that if I became a college dean that I would be Dean Dean. Thank you for pointing that out for the 100th time.
posted by deanc at 10:03 AM on January 16, 2013


I went to the ice cream parlour and got my favourite flavour ice cream, but it tasted like cardboard. Turned out I got manilla icecream.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:06 AM on January 16, 2013


Name of a restaurant in Fresno, California, soul food and Mexican food. (no longer in business): Nacho Mama.

Heh; a guy I went to high school with used that name for his restaurant here in Augusta.
posted by TedW at 10:14 AM on January 16, 2013


And if you look at the menu you will note they have a Seizure Salad
posted by TedW at 10:16 AM on January 16, 2013


And yes, punsters, I do realize that if I became a college dean that I would be Dean Dean. Thank you for pointing that out for the 100th time.

The Dean Dean say, don't tell that pun
The Dean Dean see, you know the one
He's outrageous, he screams and he bawls
Oh, Dean DeanC let yourself go . . .

/bowiefilter
 
posted by Herodios at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2013


So these French legionaires got cut off from their unit, a few years before WWII, lost in the Sahara desert. For days and days they travelled back to their fort, with only one water bottle between them. On the fifth day, their water long gone, thirsty beyond belief, they finally stumble upon an oasis. And, as luck would have it, they come right on market day.

So they go to the first stall to ask the stall holder: "Please kind sir, could you spare some water for two thirsty soldiers"?

Whereup he replies that he is very sorry, but all he has are these delightful concoctions of jelly, topped with custard and cream, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and he can't help them.

On they drag themselves to the second stall: "Please sir, we've been in the desert for days, our mouths are dry, our lips are cracked, our throats raw, could we have some water"

Unfortunately, the second merchant also replies that he is very sorry, but all he has are these delightful concoctions of jelly, topped with custard and cream, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

The third stall then, and once again the plaintive cry: "please sir, some water to save our lives" and once again the answer:

"I'm sorry, I cannot help, all I have are delightful concoctions of jelly, topped with custard and cream, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands".

So they stumble throughout the market, with the same answer each time. When they leave in desperation, one soldier turns to the other and remarks, how strange this market was.

Said he: yes, it was just a trifle bazaar.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:19 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I Googled for most elaborate pun and came across this. I was amused.

Perhaps not the most elaborate pun ever made, but certainly the most elaborate one I've ever made.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:35 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Punny headlines still aggravate me to no end.

I used to collect presumably unintentionally punning headlines. After a while I was finding so many of them that I had to give it up because it was making me paranoid.

I do remember one I liked from the business section of the The New York Times in 1992:
Charlotte Beers to Head Ogilvy & Mather



The famous one about Tommy Thompson and his pen is not really a pun; more like a pud.
posted by Herodios at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2013


So there's this seafood restaurant that specialises in squid. It even has its own squid tank where the customers can pick out live squid for their supper. Now amongst all the squid that live in that tank, there's only small, green one, with has a little moustache on its lip: it's a shjy, dear little creature that has become a sort of pet to the wait staff, especially the head waiter, a Frenchman called Gervais.

Only one person in the restaurant doesn't like the little green squid, Hans, the mean German dishwasher, who likes to joke about how one day, he will kill and cook the little squid himself.

The customers on the other hand all feel something for the poor little thing and it is never chosen to be cooked.

Until one night, when a famous restaurant critic enters and insists on eating the poor sod. Gervais tries to persuade him otherwise, but no dice. Trembling, he attempts to catch it and kills it, but it looks up at him with this meek, trusting look and he let's it go, insisting he can't do it.

But the critic is adamant: he must eat the green squid. When Hans hears this, he gleefully comes into the restaurant with a net and a big cook's knife, catches the poor green squid, dumps he on the table and prepares to chop it to dead, when it looks up to him, its lip trembling.

He drops the knife, starts sobbing and says he cannot do this, he cannot kill the squid.

Which goes to show that even Hans that does dishes, can be soft as Gervais with mild green, hairy lip squid!
posted by MartinWisse at 11:08 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


So yesterday morning my facebook feed blew up with horse and/or hamburger puns based on the story of horse DNA being found in hamburgers sold in supermarkets.

One or two of those may require some familiarity with Irish dialects.
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:15 AM on January 16, 2013


One of the reasons I moved to San Luis Obispo (and wanted to for years) was the local tolerance for/support of punning. Almost mandatory when the city's name is abbreviated as "SLO" and it takes pride in being less fast-paced than the big cities to the North and South. We are SLOtown.

And not only do we have a local free paper called SLO Life, there's the popular brew pub SLO Brew and the SLO Down Pub, a coffee house named SLO Grind, a dance school named SLO Dance, a folk music club named SLOFolks, SLO Walking Tours, a homebrewing club with the shortened name SLOB, the local Turtle & Tortoise Club is TOOSLO, and of course there's a chapter of the Slow Food movement here (Slow Food SLO).

And the official name of the local bus service is SLOTransit.

In addition, there's a spa called the San Luis ObiSpa.

Non-SLO puns on streetsigns include Gulliver's Travel, Couch Potato Furniture, coffee shop Higher Groundz, beauty salons (commonly punned businesses everywhere) Jamaica You and The Bladerunner, and a Chinese restaurant that dates back to the 1920s named Mee Heng Low. It's a long, proud tradition.

(not a pun, but another popular pub is named for Peter Cook & Dudley Moore's 'The Frog and Peach')

And this area is the home of the much-publicized Goatee the Surfing Goat.

Yep, I love this place. Your smileage may vary.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:58 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


A pun limited to 140 characters is the lowest form of twit.
posted by chavenet at 12:06 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also this:

Gravity’s Rainbow contains so many jokes and puns that a typology might make a helpful doctoral dissertation. Here, only two of the best–known examples will serve as models: "The Disgusting English Candy Drill" (114-20) and "For De Mille, young fur–henchmen can’t be rowing" (557-63). Each is lovingly set up. Steven Weisenburger calls "De Mille" the "most elaborately staged pun in all of GR. … Note that Pynchon has fashioned an entire narrative digression about illicit trading in furs, oarsmen in boats, fur–henchmen, and De Mille—all of it in order to launch this pun" (240).

From: Jokes and Puns in Gravity’s Rainbow
posted by chavenet at 12:08 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


oneswellfoop: "And the official name of the local bus service is SLOTransit."

In Berkeley, CA the free van that would take you around the UC Campus and to the Bay Area Rapid Transit stops nearby was call the "Humphrey Go-Bart"
posted by chavenet at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2013


oneswellfoop, do you have any local artisanal SLO gin makers?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I Googled for most elaborate pun and came across this. I was amused.

Stephen Pastis, author of Pearls Before Swine, has done many of these pun strips before.
posted by dobi at 12:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Also, not to say puns are objectively good or bad, but the anti-pun commenters here would do well to take a step back and re-read their comments. They don't really sound like they'd be terribly fun people to talk to at a party.
posted by Afroblanco

Utter rubbish. Just because someone isn't good at punning doesn't mean they are dull, uninteresting and unfunny. Clearly you feel you are superior to us mere mortals who do not pun.
posted by marienbad at 12:23 PM on January 16, 2013


the "never pun across language barriers" rule

It's not that I don't like puns, it's that Finnegans Wake set the bar too high.

Still love jokes and puns in more than one language.
posted by ersatz at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2013


I find that I go for three rules with puns:

1) never go for the low-hanging fruit
2) tailor it for the audience (99% of people wouldn't understand my 'Bezier' pun in my first post; saying it to a mathematician gives it more bite)
3) don't repeat it (unless asked)

And then the unwritten rule which most punners work out early on: if someone gets ridiculously bent out of shape by puns, don't pun at them. You may just need to try something a bit more their speed. Like a knock-knock joke, perhaps. (Hey, don't knock-knock it if you haven't tried-tried it.)
posted by mephron at 1:01 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


99% of people wouldn't understand my 'Bezier' pun in my first post

I mean, I know about Bezier curves, but I cannot figure out what other word that's supposed to be a pun on. All the favorites suggest this is a problem with me, so...help me out?
posted by adamdschneider at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2013


Bezier/bizarre
posted by CrystalDave at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't it pronounced "bay-zyay" making the pun tenuous at best? I guess if you pronounced it "bez-eer" that would get you there.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2013


Hey, the '60s pop group Harper's Bizarre was based on a similar pun...

(and no, nobody's making SLO Gin here... I see a business opportunity...)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2013


Except that bizarre and bazaar are pronounced virtually identically, at least in the US.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2013


Everyone time we drive through the town of Taihape, I make the exactly the same comment: "If I lived here I would open a restaurant called the Happy Thai." I guess we'd have to make Thai food.
posted by piyushnz at 2:04 PM on January 16, 2013


Also, Wok N Roll is my favourite restaurant in Wellington (NZ) that I have never actually been to.
posted by piyushnz at 2:13 PM on January 16, 2013


Columbus, OH has a Chef Ho's Wok In, Carry Out, or used to a few years ago.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:23 PM on January 16, 2013


My friend has always pronounced it "Beh-zeer", and that's how I do it in my head. Also most of the Photoshop tutorials I watch pronounce it that way. So it may be also part of linguistic drift, similar to Hubertus Bigend being "Bigend" instead of "Bayzhan" in the most recent Gibson trilogy.
posted by mephron at 2:40 PM on January 16, 2013


"CUNNING STUNTS"

New Circus, 1980 something. Helen Crocker, a very nice woman.
posted by glasseyes at 3:28 PM on January 16, 2013


Also, not to say puns are objectively good or bad, but the anti-pun commenters here would do well to take a step back and re-read their comments. They don't really sound like they'd be terribly fun people to talk to at a party.

I dunno if you include me in your list of killjoys because I tire easily of people convulsing in mirth at their own predictable and often unsuccessful attempts at humour. I have nothing against puns in the abstract (I am on record as perpetrating a dire one), but it is the random stabs at humour by people who have suddenly brought up a joke they have memorized years earlier. In my finding, people who traffic heavily in puns do so because they would like to be thought of as witty but can only make it halfway there. The most incorrigible* punster I know has only about four actual jokes at his disposal, and has cracked them all dozens of times, and chuckled every time. For everything else, he relies on puns and references. He has proven himself unable to hear a reference to the years 1999 or 2001 without his next utterance being some out-of-the blue jarring reference to a couple of decades-old science fiction properties. He cannot hear anything about Wikipedia or Wikileaks without saying "wiki see, wiki do," can hear no mention of the name of a friend's son (Jude) without singing the first line of "Hey, Jude." It is like a jukebox. I honestly do not think he could pass a Turing test.



* Yes, I shouldn't incorrige him, I know.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:43 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


the "never pun across language barriers" rule

I beg your pardon?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:46 PM on January 16, 2013


Charlotte Beers to Head Ogilvy & Mather

I don't get it.

posted by and so but then, we at 4:49 PM on January 16, 2013


My friend is studying the effects of marijuana on arctic nesting birds. He's very thorough. He's vowed to leave no tern unstoned.
posted by Trochanter at 6:52 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I was having a discussion with my parents the other day about the pedagogy of remedial math classes; in particular, students' understanding of variables. Many folks have trouble with algebra in part because they don't have a good foundation for understanding the variable nature of variables: if you say "let x=5", they're good, but let the value of x be indeterminate and they get a mental block, even though they were performing the same steps required to answer whatever the question is a moment before when x was given the specific, fixed value of 5. We conjectured that comfort with mathematical objects being variable or mathematical definitions being in some sense arbitrary and thus mutable was similar to comfort with language being mutable.

(Think, for example, about logic puzzles of the sort where you are given a set of statements about Alice, Bob, Carrie, and Dan, four foods that these various characters enjoy, and four colors including the favorite color of each person, and your task is to match up person with favorite food and favorite color. The process of solving a logic puzzle presented in a regular, natural language is the same as the process of solving a sudoku puzzle, where the objects you have to logically reason about are numbers rather than nouns in different categories, and the relations given between them are arithmetic/algebraic rather than stated in sentences.)

What does it mean to be comfortable with language being mutable or variable in the same sense as mathematical variables or definitions are? Well, it can mean being comfortable making up new words, or playing around with either the definitions or sounds of old words, including punning, as an example. I am definitely not saying that those of you who find puns distasteful, tacky, obnoxious, etc. are in any way necessarily lacking in some facility with language; but rather, I ask you to consider the proposition that puns, as one example of wordplay, serve a useful role in language development, both on a personal level and for the evolution of languages across usage communities.

At the least, the proportion of mathematicians who are fond of puns seems to be higher than in the general population.
posted by eviemath at 8:35 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I appreciate puns, except when they are used excessively in headlines. In fact, I would go so far as to say that CBC News, for example, has largely been ruined for me by its tireless insistence of introducing every single news story with some contrived pun. Illustrating perfectly some of the observations made upthread, it used to be enjoyable when they would limit it to only a few choice puns that were truly inspired, like using spice sparingly, but now it just seems condescending, distracting, and utterly belying of any serious efforts at reportage.
posted by blue shadows at 8:37 PM on January 16, 2013


Also, in looking up my favorite elaborate/story pun, I have learned an exciting new word: feghoot!
posted by eviemath at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2013


> Reddit pun chains, usually, are hlariously offensive

I particularly enjoy it when a Reddit thread derails into puns - those people are good

I am a bit taken aback at some of the vehement dislike of puns and punsters I've read here, but I suppose just about any form of humor can be annoying if not done well or taken too far.

As much as I love puns, I am very careful about people's names. I am fairly certain that if someone's name is even remotely punnable, they've probably heard it too many times.

Also, most of my current artwork is made up of (sometimes) really execrable puns.

So if you're one of these people who don't like 'em, well...

posted by mmrtnt at 9:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stephen Pastis, author of Pearls Before Swine, has done many of these pun strips before.

But he's not as bad as Isaac Asimov, who produced tonloads of short science fiction stories built around punning last lines, like the one about the bankrobber who fled in a time machine beyond the statue of limits and the judge who allowed it because "a hitch in time saved Stein" or the worst one, "Shah Guido G.":

Set in a future in which the whole earth is united under the dictatorship of the UN, with the secretary general now a hereditary position (the title refering to the current ruler) and the UN aristocracy living on a flying city (called Atlantis, what else) living a live of luxury while the surface dwellers are the ones keeping everything working. The protagonist is one of the few aristocrats still getting his hands dirty, head of the department that keeps Atlantis flying. He's conflicted as he sees the injustices in the system and seeks for ways to overthrow it, while in his day job he's equally worried about the increasing amount of buildings in the city overstraining the antigravity generators.

He knows that any premature rebellion would be crushed by the ruthless female storm troopers of the UN, descended from the old WACS, now called Waves. If the rebellion is to be successfull, the whole aristocracy needs to be crushed in one fell swoop.

Finally he sees a way out of this dillema, using what he knows about the strain the antigrav generators are under. When he's being sounded out about potential unrest amongst the serfs, as one of the UN's prime holidays is coming up, he recommend increasing security by importing a couple of batallions of extra troops to the city.

As he tells the story of how this was enough to tip the balance and crash the entire city, killing everybody in it, he reflects wryly that this was the second time Atlantis went under the Waves...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:34 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dave Gorman on Pun Street.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:14 AM on January 17, 2013


Stephen Fry has an episode on puns on his radio series Fry's English Delight.
posted by poxandplague at 3:39 AM on January 17, 2013


Wow, nobody's mentioned Nate the Snake yet? I'll just leave this here, then.
posted by chaosys at 2:18 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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