Monday, July 14, 2008

No Pun Intended

If you look at some of the blogs that I have links to, you might think that I like words. My sister does too. She reminded me about our family’s oft repeated line, “What’s that up the road, a head?” which never failed to amuse us. In our family you could do that – for one, you could use phrases like “oft repeated” – and you could reuse a word related joke or, dare I say it, a pun over and over. If I told my mother I was going to get a haircut, she would say, “Why don’t you get them all cut?” She would say it every time. It was her “Freebird”, her “Who’s On First”; she had to say it - and I waited to hear it.
Now that I’m the parent, with a routine full of witty wordplay, my daughter, who is otherwise very intelligent and well-educated, does not like puns and would surely never tolerate serial punning. (“Yes I would, and don’t call me Shirley” – sorry, had to say it.) If my wife asks me to “put strawberry jam on the grocery list,” I want to say “But that will make the list sticky.” I want to say that every time. When I was a kid I would have; now I bite my tongue. I don’t even say it the first time because that is just asking for abuse.
Puns are like mathematics: people claim to hate them and then use them without realizing it. I had a friend in college who hated puns, but told this joke: “There are three guys. One is running into a room, one is in the room, in bed with a woman, and one guy is running out of the room. What nationality are the men? --- The guy running in, him Russian. The guy in bed, Himalayan, the guy running out, him Finnish.” So, forget whether “Himalayan” is a nationality, that joke is funny (to me) and it is all puns. If you are making genital-related jokes about George “Bush” and “Dick” Cheney, those are puns. I know, “and Barack Obama is half Caucasian but no one is going to call him whitey”. And no one is going to say my puns are funny if they are not grounded in sex or crude humor.
Which gives me an idea: A new service that is like phone sex - but with puns. For example, you might call up and a woman answers:
“Hello, this is Anita.”
“Anita who?”
“Anita Betterjob.”
“Anita, did you hear about the woman who is suing Victoria’s Secret because she was injured by a thong?”
“No. Is she okay?”
“Well, she got rid of the underwear, of course, but the scar hasn’t healed. So, the thong is ended, but the malady lingers on.”
And Anita would laugh. Every time.

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Bill Brohaugh said...

I like to quote Thomas Pynchon, who, according to my memory, once said "There is high magic in low puns."

I googled that phrase to try to verify my memory, and Google responded with its own word humor: "Did you mean to search for: 'high magic in law puns'?"

Well, maybe I did.

JohnnyB said...

YOu know what they used to say around the publishing house when Tom was dropping off a manuscript and some young woman could be heard squeeling: "Who is Thomas Pynchon?"

Bill Brohaugh said...

Cheers, for JohnnyB's punnery! And tables, too! (psst--it may not look like it, but the previous is a link)