November 23, 2016

"Puns are threatening because puns reveal the arbitrariness of meaning, and the layers of nuance that can be packed onto a single word."

"So people who dislike puns tend to be people who seek a level of control that doesn’t exist. If you have an approach to the world that is rules-based, driven by hierarchy and threatened by irreverence, then you’re not going to like puns."

Writes John Pollack — author of "The Pun Also Rises" — quoted in "Why Do Puns Make People Groan?/The once-exalted form of wordplay takes a lot of heat these days."
“I think another question to ask that’s just as relevant is why is sarcasm considered cool by the same people who often decry puns as uncool?” he asks. “Both are a way of saying one thing and meaning another. In an age of cynicism it’s safer, socially, to tear something down through sarcasm or irony than it is to build something up through punning.”
ADDED: Here's a well-reviewed card game based on puns: Punderdome.

34 comments:

rhhardin said...

The pun is mightier than the word.

Fernandinande said...

Don't take the pun out of wordplay.

wild chicken said...

I never understood all the hate for puns.

Not sure this explanation helped, either.

Some people are just ill-natured.

mockturtle said...

I'm a pun-loving gal and I am definitely not a control freak.

rhhardin said...

Google tweeze denied beef worker isthmus

JaimeRoberto said...

Use a pun, go to prison.

rhhardin said...

The classic is the book Anguish Languish, which includes Ladle Rat Rotten Hut and others.

You can probably google the latter.

Unknown said...

"Jokester" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. The story first appeared in the December 1956 issue of Infinity Science Fiction, and was reprinted in the collections Earth Is Room Enough (1957) and Robot Dreams (1986). It is one of a loosely connected series of stories concerning a fictional computer called Multivac.

Plot summary

Noel Meyerhof is a 'Grand Master', one of a small cadre of Earth's recognised Geniuses, who has the insight to know what questions to ask Multivac. But a computer scientist is concerned that Meyerhof is acting erratically. As a known joke-teller, he has been discovered feeding jokes and riddles into Multivac.

By computer analysis, the characters in the story investigate the origin of humor, particularly why there seems to be no such thing as an original joke, except for puns. Every normal joke is something you heard from someone else.

The computer eventually tells them that humor is actually a psychological study tool imposed from without by extraterrestrials studying mankind. They needed to isolate the responses to their jokes from original ones, so they 'programmed' us to react differently to puns.

The characters of the story conjecture that figuring this fact out makes it useless as a tool, so the aliens would turn off humour. And suddenly nothing is ever funny again…

mockturtle said...

Has there been an increase in pun violence?

Brother J said...

I have a pun, and I'm not afraid to use it. Consider yourself warned. :-)

Mary Beth said...

I like puns. Even bad ones take more wit than sarcasm does.

Francisco D said...

I need a safe space from puns. They are so triggering!

glenn said...

To joke is human, to pun devine

Jim S. said...

He who would pun would pick a pocket.

-- Dr. Samuel Johnson

Achilles said...

The difference between a good pun and a groan is subtle. Puns are the highest and lowest form of humor.

Quaestor said...

People groan at puns mostly because the bad ones can be seen waddling their way toward your much-affronted sense of humor from a mile off like a minor studio kaiju headed for a cardboard model of Tokyo. There is a certain surprise factor crucial to the best jocularity which bad puns obviate rather distastefully. Really good puns should slip by the merely pedestrian mind unnoticed and often strike the funny bone hours later. Many a time I've slipped between the sheets after a good party and broke into laughter — "What's so funny?" "Something Jean-Paul said... Forget it, it'll take too long to explain." *click* "Ha, ha, ha!"

On the other hand a truly relentless punster takes a perverse pride in pushing his wordplay beyond the civilized boundaries of wit and into the trackless wilds of effrontery with the cheek of a headhunter's blowdart. An example would be the signature ending of most of the classic Jay Ward time-travelling episodes of Peabody's Improbable History, examples here, here, here, and here.

(reposted with corrections)

Paco Wové said...

I have heard of these people who "dislike puns", but I have never run across any in real life, or had examples shown.

Shane said...

Puns...from Monty Python's "Piranha Brothers":

2nd Interviewer: How much did they want?
Vercotti: They wanted three quarters of a million pounds.

2nd Interviewer: Why didn't you call the police?
Vercotti: Well I had noticed that the lad with the thermonuclear device was the chief constable for the area. So a week later they called again and told me the cheque had bounced and said... I had to see... Doug.

2nd Interviewer: Doug?
Vercotti: Doug (takes a drink) Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.

2nd Interviewer: What did he do?
Vercotti: He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. He was vicious.

Michael K said...

I wonder how much puns are language dependent ?

There were puns in Shakespeare.

‘Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York,’ where the speaker, Richard, is referring to himself, a son of the house of York.

exiledonmainstreet said...

A pox on the pun haters.

I'll pun, pun, pun until they take my keyboard away.

exiledonmainstreet said...

OK, so that was a pretty bad one.

Big Mike said...

You need to oh pun your minds ...

JML said...

The only thing deeper than a good pun is a bad pun delivered well....

JML said...

We were at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe today -- a kind of magic crazy house experience -- in the kitchen the refrigerator door opens and leads to another room...as my son's girlfriend was stepping through the door I told her, "I hear it is a cool room on the other side." The door closes behind her, only to open five seconds later ... "I just got it." She turned and slipped back into the cold. My sons claim they hate when I pun, but every so often we all get on a roll together...we laugh so hard it hurts. They hate when they do that -- they know they truly have my sense of humor. It is a hard thing to admit to, but the son also rises...

Quaestor said...

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York... Richard is referring to himself

The reference is to Richard's brother Edward IV, and the pun is a double pun in that Edward (as well as George and Richard) were sons of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and that Edward's personal badge was a "sun in splendour" superimposed by a white Yorkist rose. Here's an example of the badge shown in a Wiltshire church window dating to the mid-15th century.

eddie willers said...

I tried to catch fog yesterday.
Mist!

Valentine Smith said...

Is there no end to the number of safe places needed for those threatened by mere words! We are rapidly running out of space in universities and other habitats for wild oppressed peoples.

tim maguire said...

Is there hate for puns? Or is there hate for dumb corny jokes and most puns live inside dumb corny jokes?

In any case, this claim that if you don't like my jokes it's because you are a reactioary control freak (read: conservative) is self-serving, cheap, and risible.

BN said...

Sarcasm is seen as "cooler" than punning because it is a mean form of humor; it has a target. Whereas puns are cooly neutral.

BN said...

Not all fun is funny, but everything funny is fun.

Mitch H. said...

I honestly don't understand. The proper response to a pun is either another related pun, or, if you can no longer counter, ritual groaning. It is as stylized as a manzai routine. To simply laugh at a pun is a bit... hrm, nekulturny?

TwilightofLiberty.com said...

Was watching one of those Hallmark Christmas movies the other day (wife wanted to but really they aren't the worst shows on tv) and the main character owned a literary-themed cafe called The Bun Also Rises. I thought that was quite funny. And I know funny - I'm a Laslo fan.

Rusty said...

Nobody had anything to say about my sweet potato cassarole this thanksgiving. I was the silence of the yams.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

It's like the hatred of clowns we hear so much about. Probably imagined. It's a subsidiary of "I hate comedy." (Actually overheard someone say that.) People say these things, but very few believe them. It's virtue signalling, intelligence being the virtue.