That being said, I am about to finish up my bachelor's degree. It's been an exhausting 4 years, but I have emerged with a lexicon of medical knowhow (I can tell you why penicillin doesn't kill E. Coli!) and conversational German to boot.
But to the point - I pretty much hated college. The whole experience. Everyone thought they knew everything about the world, and was pretty much a jerk. So, I am to give a final motivational speech in my last honors class. Something to lift up the other grads and help us save the whales and such. The point is that each speech has an action step - something we would like the others to do, like become an organ donor, or donate to greenpeace, or go to the dentist, whatever.
The following is my speech, almost verbatum. I will make a few structural, grammatical and minor changes before I deliver it.
C'mon, it's a dead givaway.
As speakers of the English language, we all have something in common - the ability to play on words. Some call it the most intellegent form of humor, while others just call it horrible. Fred Allen says ""Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted." Noah Webster described it as a low species of wit. Dave Barry said if punsters "ever end up in a lifeboat, the other passengers will hurl him overboard by the end of the first day even if they have plenty of food and water."
But we all can agree that many people take the world too seriously today. The news is mostly concerned with reporting what lies politicians are feeding us, the death toll in Iraq, and the lack of education funding. These things have no bearing on the common man's life - not to mention they are completely out of our sphere's of influence. I happen to believe they should be reporting things like tennis players nationwide not getting married because Love means Nothing to them, or that dead batteries are being given away free of charge, or that a survey showed prisoners' favorite punctuation marks are periods because they mark the ends of their sentences.
So today I charge each of you to use a pun in conversation today - without saying "no pun intended" or "excuse the pun", and next time you hear someone talking about something serious and intellectual (sorry to whoever the next speaker is), to simply remember this speech and laugh a bit.
To help give you the ammunition you'll need in your war with words, I'll go into a bit about the science of puns, variations on the infamous joke, and finally I'll share why seven days without a pun makes one week.
You can trust me - I'm a pundit when it comes to this stuff.
The Science of the Pun
Paronomasia is the act of punning. Webster defines it as ""the humorous use of a word, or of words which are formed or sounded alike but have different meanings, in such a way as to play on two or more of the possible applications; a play on words." Puns have existed for centuries in English - and are not just funny. F.A. Bather once computed that William Shakesphere has committed 1062 puns in his plays. Remember when Mercutio gives his dying speech and referres to himself as a grave man?
While celebrated throughout England, puns have a uniquely and almost universally bad reputation in America. For instance it's not only common, but downright expected for people to groan at the sound of a good pun. There are many theories - and the pun FAQtory has perhaps the best. “A pun is often considered obvious humor, since the person relating it is merely balancing the humor in it on a twist of a word's meaning or sound. Children love this type of obvious humor and can laugh at it without reproachments.
Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to have a twinge of something called "punis envy", and "why didn't I think of that?". It is this envy in adults that subconciously causes them to groan upon hearing a pun. As time goes on, it can only be hoped that we adults will learn to react more like a child and less like a groan-up!”
Lastly in our scientific survey of puns, I'd like to briefly touch on what makes a good pun. First, it's good to avoid proper names, because they might not be recognized by the listener, or they might bring unwanted additions to the pun. Second, make sure the reference is familiar to the audience. Third, make sure the pun is clever enough that the listener will have a pointed revelation - you should be able to see the lightbulb flick on. Fourth, brevity. Fifth, always remember the golden rule - puns don't kill people, people kill puns.
Variations on the Pun
There are three basic types of puns - the first is antanaclasis, or using same-spelling words for multiple meanings like "time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a tangerine." That pun is great in that the last line contains two instances of antanaclasis - it could mean either a piece of thrown fruit moves through the air like a banana, or it could be a statement that the insect species fruit flies enjoy bananas.
Second is the most common type - the substitution of homonym as synonym. B-y and b-u-y, k-n-o-t and n-o-t, etc.
Third is the double-sound or "almost homonyms" - the stuff of knock knocks. Knock-knock - Orange - Orange you glad you played along? Personally I find this type to be the least a-peel-ing.
But there are other types of puns - Spoonerisms are popular in old cartoons like Dooby Sco, where the first syllable of swo words are twitched. They are named for the Anglican reverend W.A. Spooner, who often committed them unintentionally.
The Tom Swifty is a particularly involved pun where verbs or adverbs relate to the situation at hand. For example: "Take the prisoner downstairs" said the warden condescendingly - playing on the fact that taking a prisoner downstairs is a con - descending. Tom Swift was a fictional title character in a series of childrens books written by Edward L. Stratemeyer, who often used adverbs in a way that spawned the creation of this type of pun. "I'm dying!" the frog croaked.
Daffynitions are defitions of words that sound like other words. For instance "pasturize: If you can't see that way over there, it must be pasturize". Jeff Foxworthy has made this type of pun famous with his redneck dictionary. For instance "fascinate: My shirt has 9 buttons, but I can only fascinate"
The employment pun is particularly entertaining. I used to be a carpenter, but then I got bored. I used to work for H&R Block, but it was just too taxing. I used to be a banker, but lost interest in the work.
Please remember this list is by no means exhausting.
Some of my Favorite Puns
Finally I'd like to share with you a very punny story I heard the other day:
There was this guy who had gone to the dentist so many times, he knew the drill by heart. Except this time they accidentally cut off the whole left side of his body - but he's all right now. Meanwhile his daughter was taken to the hospital for eating a roll of quarters. When her grandma calledto find out how she was doing, the nurse replied "no change, yet." When her mom went to sign the check, she tried to write with a broken pencil, but soon realized it was pointless. On the way to the car, she wondered why that baseball was growing larger... then it hit her. Her husband stepped on a grape on his way home from the dentist - it didn't say anything but it did let out a little whine.
(You all should consider yourselves lucky, I was torn between puns and dirty limericks)
Back home, they noticed a cop standing over a dog and some puppies on the sidewalk. She was being ticketed for littering. Inside they heard on the news that a short psychic had escaped from prison - there was a small medium at large. They ran out to find that cop, but discovered that someone had drilled a hole into the nudist camp wall. The police were busy looking into it. Disheveled they decided to get ready for their friend's wedding that night. He was a cable guy, so they knew the reception would be great. Sadly, they had forgotten to pay their exorcist this month, and they all got repossessed. The End.
So today I am calling each of you to share a pun with a friend or family member - it can be one of these I've used, or one of the millions of puns all over the internet. Even wikipedia has a list of 20 or so sample puns. And above all, remember to laugh. 99.9% of happunings in the world are beyond our control - don't get caught up in the worry and doomsaying. Puns are a great way to let go of the seriousness - they are simple, quick and often so stupid they're hilarious.
So I've shared a bit about the science of puns, some pun varieties, and some of my favorite puns. Hopefully it has brightened your day and allowed you all to escape the world and experience some lighthearted fun. It is my wish that you will continue this movement, and share a pun or two with someone today. If anyone has a pun they'd like to share with the class, I'd like to ask them to do so now.
Don't worry if people think your pun is dumb - a good pun is it's own re-word. If you enjoyed my speech, I invite you to check out the International save the pun foundation, or P.U.N.Y. - punsters united nearly yearly. I'm going to leave you with two quotes. Edgar Allen Poe stated "The goodness of the true pun is in the direct ratio of its intolerability." Which brings me to my final quote by the late Douglas Adams "You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish - unless of course you play bass." Thank you.
*after applaus* I would also like to add on a side note that this speech contains exactly 42 puns. Thanks for all the fish, Mr. Adams.
Wikipedia entry for "pun"
Almost all of the above material came from one of those three sites - they all deserve pretty much all the credit for this speech, I simply compiled the material into a speech.
Posted on 2008-04-12 at 02:09:36.
Edited on 2008-04-12 at 02:16:10 by Admiral