Thank God It's Pun Day!

BlogHer Original Post

If you're American when you go into the bathroom and you're American when you get out of the bathroom, what are you in between?

EUROPEAN. AH hahahahahaha! Wee wee, madame!

Do puns really need a day to themselves? I think so. Puns get a bad rap. (In fact, it's fart jokes that are the lowest form of wit.)

Yes, they can be as obnoxious as the uncle who calls the Thanksgiving turkey "poultry in motion" each year. Or as icky as most porn titles (like this fairly tame but not totally SFW list).

But sometimes a pun can be a writer's toy, a quick, smiling word wink -- less than a sonnet, but more than a "groaner." Without the pun, the world would be a much less delightful place to punder:

  • We wouldn't have the genius title of the book by Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (today's National Grammar Day, too): Things That Make Us [Sic]
  • We wouldn't get to play Tom Swifties, the game that adorable NPR language show A Way With Words describes as "those sentences that include a self-referentially funny adverb, such as "Ow! You guys really know how to hurt a vampire," Tom said painstakingly.
  • We quite literally wouldn't have a key phrase in the Bible: "You are Peter, and on this rock I build my church." Peter = petro/petra = rock. Yes, the pun holds in Aramaic (in fact, it's better). Yes, Jesus was a quipster.
  • Twitter hashtags would be a duller place without the pun. Twitter hashtags are the pun's best friend -- just check out last month's fun with #WebBands (David Bo-Wii, Perl Jam, UB404).
  • Witness the near-perfect and arch-bitchy pun-as-putdown quoted by Joseph Tartovsky in the New York Times:

    Jean Harlow, the platinum-blond star of the 1930s, on being introduced to Lady Margot Asquith, mispronounced her given name to rhyme with "rot." "My dear, the 't' is silent," said Asquith, "as in Harlow."

My pun peeves are the lazy puns -- where one word is inserted in place of another, but the resulting phrase, while eye-grabbing, has nothing to do with ... well, anything. Particularly egregious repeat offenders: headlines (Green Me Up Scotty, The Rice Stuff), and any sort of business -- especially in the beauty (United Hairlines, Curl Up and Dye) and coffee (Pony Espresso, Sufficient Grounds, A Brewed Awakening) industries -- and, apparently, the city of Toronto).

But there's an antidote to bad business puns -- the one place in the world where they're all deliciously intentional: the Simpsons. Springfield's restaurants alone will sate the glutton for punishment: Much Ado About Muffins, Taj Mah-All-You-Can-Eat, Pudding on the Ritz, Luftwaffles. Bodacious Frittatas. And my personal favorite, Buffet the Hunger Slayer.

And then of course there are the Looney Tunes, proof positive that certain puns -- like "What's Opera, Doc?" -- will live forever:

What's Opera, Doc? - The best bloopers are a click away

So proudly march forth (yes, the date itself's a pun) with your pun-loving self! Do you have a favorite pun? Or do you detest them all?


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