What is a Pun?
Simply stated, a pun is a play on words. The definition does not go deeper than this. Any type of word play is acceptable. And what is the purpose of a pun? It can serve to amuse, annoy, anger, and/or even to be a source of disgust. A pun is a joke but not all jokes are puns.
Should you be a fan of puns? Yes, if you love playing with words. Or, even if you enjoy the pun products of others.
Let’s look at the various kinds of puns you may encounter or try to create.
1. Switching initial letters in key words of well-known phrases. Example punch line: There had been ten pots in a tea pest. You can devise the build-up to this line.
2. Using a Malapropism. A Malapropism is a completely inappropriate word or expression in a statement. (In the play The Rivals by Sheridan Richard Brinsley, produced in 1775, Mrs. Malaprop is famous for such statements as “She is as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile,” and “He is the very pineapple of politeness.”)
3. Changing a well-known statement slightly to give it a new meaning. Example punch line: Moby Dick thrived on a diet of fish and ships.
4. Using a well-known expression to deceive. Example: My wife sent me packing. I was not earning enough money at my regular job so she forced me to take a job at the food store packing grocery bags for customers. .” Another example, “In my youth, I was a boxer. I was a champ at this. No one could beat me. One day the manager of the store said, “You’ve been boxing long enough. Starting Monday, I’m going to put you on the cash register.”
5. Using a Tom Swifty: (Tom Swift was the hero in a series of books by Victor Appleton. In the stories, Tom Swift often speaks in a manner described by adding “ly” at the end of a word. Example: “Pass me the shellfish,” said Tom crabbily
6. Using a spoonerism. A spoonerism is a transposition of sounds of two or more words, especially a ludicrous one, such as Let me sew you to your sheet.
7. Giving an entirely new meaning to a well-known phrase. Example punch line: Susie, who had desperately needed extra money for living expenses, finally learned how to make candy and she made a mint.
8. Using an old, well-known phrase has a different meaning for the words. Example: The police were called to stop the on-going damage in a music store. “Take the bull by the horns,” the proprietor entreated.
9. Employing an oxymoron. These are usually not funny; however, you might be able to invent one, never heard before, similar to military intelligence that is so self-contradictory as to be funny.
10. Using a riddle. An example: What kind of ghost rings the door bell? Answer: a dead ringer.
11. Using a One-liner. The line could be a proverb; idiom, piece of advice; headline, etc. Example: Energizer Bunny arrested; charged with battery.
12. Creating a new palindrome. A palindrome is a word, phrase, or even sentence that reads the same backwards as forwards. A well-known example is: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” Another is, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.”
13. Creating a new anagram. An anagram is a word or phrase that is constructed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase to form something meaningful. An example is, “the earthquakes” gives “that queer shake”. Another example, “George Bush” gives “he bugs Gore”.
14. Ickity Ackity, Using poetic license, anyone can invent a new mode of expression or poetry and use it as a vehicle for humor. An example is the Ickity Ackity invented by the author. Words can be created as needed. A piece written in this mode is: He was hit by a train at the railroad trackity. His eyes had never been so blue and blackity. When asked if this had been indeed a factity; he answered “yes” he’d been hit by a train going clickity clackity.
15. Playing with upside-down letters. Seven letters of the alphabet are the same upside-down as well as in standard positions. These letters are H, I, N, O, S, X, Z. A large number of words can be constructed using these letters. Some examples are hiss, Nixon, onions, sons, soon, zoonosis, noon, Shosonis. Some words will read exactly the same upside down as well as up. An interesting challenge would be to see whether a palindrome can be constructed using only upside-down letters. This palindrome would read the same backwards and forwards and upside-down as well as right side up.