Just Sayin’: To Pun or Not to Pun

So just what is it about puns that some folks reject out of hand and others just adore?

Some great minds have posited that puns are the lowest form of humor. And we all know that the using of a pun will garner you moans and groans … or worse!

Why?

Hmmm, good question, for which I don’t have the answer  Just a lot of opinion, which, along with a couple or three bucks, will buy you a cup of coffee.

I used to like to tell my students that I had the answer to any question they could ask. Usually the answer is, “I don’t know,”  but, hey, that’s an answer.

The same goes here. It is my belief however,  that rather than the lowest form of humor, puns represent one of the more elevated realms of humor. Look at what it takes to make a pun: First of all, it takes a love for words and a pretty gramaphobic (a Wm. Buckley word) vocabulary, but added to that, one must have an ear for the language.

Ear, you say. Is it related to a musical ear? Mmmm … maybe. Because we all recognize that music is, most certainly and above all else, a language. It has vocabulary, it has syntax (you know, what you pay when you’ve sinned … cue groans) it has grammatical rules, but, most of all, it communicates. And then we have musical punsters, like Peter Schickley… oh, go ahead. Look him up. I’ll give you a hint: better known as P.D.Q. Bach.

But, I digress…

Puns have been used by about as many authors  as have disparaged them. And then, there have been some authors for whom puns were a stock-in-trade. Bennett Cerf comes to mind, Ogden Nash, perhaps. And I’ll bet if you want to do the research on it, you would find puns scattered through the material of many authors.

Since puns are part and parcel of the genetic make up of my family, I will admit that we all seem to hear the language about three degrees left of center. What sounds like one word to some, elicits in our ear three or four synonyms or homonyms or antonyms or whatever kind of -nyms are out there, for the same word. Yes, the in-laws tsk-tsk, shake their heads and fail to see the humor… mostly.

But we of the Pun-tribe know, that deep down, all you non-punnsters and keepers of the groans are secretly envious of our lofty vocabulary and fine tuned ear.

Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes . . . she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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21 Responses

  1. I love all kinds of word play and puns are a lot of fun. Don't forget that most famous of playwrights William Shakespeare…he was the ultimate punster!

  2. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    Did you hear about the guy who entered a pun contest?

    He even entered ten times in his quest to win.

    But no pun in ten did….

  3. My Granddad was a comedy writer during radio's Golden Age and he wrote long, convoluted tales for Fibber McGee. The moral of the story was always a ridiculous pun. They still make me smile.

    • Avatar AJ says:

      OMG!!! I am so impressed. As a kid, Fibber McGee and Molly was a staple in our house. I LOVED that show!! Maybe it was the word play that intrigued me even then!!

      • Avatar Charlotte Brothwell says:

        Yep! Me too. Wasn't his wife, Molly, the one with the famous closet? I have several closets like hers…. hint: don't open the door!!!!

  4. Avatar James Herington says:

    Puns are definitely not for the meek or faint hearted 🙂

  5. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Us old punsters never die, we just listen to the groans. Ha! Ah yes, I remember Fibber McGee and Molly and The Jack Benny Show and Amos and Andy from the golden days of radio. Those old shows were full of puns and groaners, and we loved 'em, huh?

    Thanx for the memories AJ!

    Budd

  6. Avatar Claudia says:

    As you indicated…Puns are only for groan-ups!

  7. don williams don williams says:

    I have always thought that puns were a very high form of humor. They can be twisted, but than I do have (sometimes) a rather warped twisted sense of humor.

  8. Avatar Al Knowing says:

    One day, a pastor and a math professor were walking past a school. Suddenly,

    out of a second story window fell a trigonometry textbook. When it hit the

    ground just in front of the pair, it was open to the section about the ratio

    of the opposite side from a given angle of a right triangle and the

    hypotenuse.

    The math teacher immediately dropped to his knees and the pastor looked down

    at him, bewildered, and asked, "What are you doing?"

    "Praying," responded the teacher. "Can't you see it's a sine from above?"

  9. Avatar Sally says:

    I have always admired punsters – finding them much more clever than myelf – certainly not the bottom of the barrel!

  10. Avatar sheri says:

    I enjoy your articles so much. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. I know you'll have a good come-back to that. lol

  11. Avatar Bill C. says:

    Interesting article! AJ I too recall listening to Fibber McGee & Molly as a boy, perhaps that's where I developed my pun-ability. When ever my in-laws get together my brother-in-law may start a pun-war-of-the-words. (the "L" left out on purpose, Al-et al)

    thanks for the memories… oh, no that was Bob Hope.

    Where there's a pun, there's no Hope.

    see ya

  12. Avatar Bill C. says:

    Erin, my due respects to your grand-dad's great (corny) writing! I have a corny sense of humor, and now I know where it came from. (Must be that I stole it from your granddad's writing!)

    FYI: Loved the sound effects of the closet.

    • Avatar AJ says:

      Ahhhhh . . . here's to the long forgotten "FOLEY MEN." (women didn't do that sort of thing, in those days). In the business a good foley man was considered almost the most important member of the cast. and they all had their closely held secrets about how they made various sounds.