Bad Puns et Moi

kinnon —  March 28, 2009 — 1 Comment

I live for bad puns. The groans that follow are pure delight. ‘Tis the fault of my red-haired, Irish grandfather, who inflicted this diss-ease on his son, and that son on this, your humble writer.

My sons and daughter shudder when puns trip effortlessly from their tongues – the gift that keeps on groaning.

That groans are preferred to laughter is part of the illness. In my twenties, I ended a relationship with a young woman who laughed at all my puns. She missed their point. I did not miss her. (Please note I resisted an obvious pun at the end of the previous sentence.)

Imbi won my heart partially by the look of pure malevolence my puns would engender from her beautiful face. Ahh, at last someone with whom I could share my life – pun-filled as it might be.

Joseph Tratakovsky comments in Today’ NYT [via],

It is said that Caligula ordered an actor to be roasted alive for a bad pun. (Some believe he was inclined to extremes.)

Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies.

But in the end of his comment, he notes that one of my heroes, Edmund Burke, loved to pun,

…low as puns may be, they have been known to appeal to the loftiest minds. Samuel Johnson hated puns, but his friend Edmund Burke, whose intellectual powers daunted even Johnson, was notorious for pun-making (e.g., “What is [m]ajest[y], when stripped of its externals, but a jest?”)

But perhaps my favourite story from Tratakovsky’s comment, was Lady Margot Asquith delicious, pun-ripened response to Jean Harlow’s mispronunciation of the dear Lady’s first name,

“My dear, the ‘t’ is silent,” said Asquith, “as in Harlow.”

Take a moment, if you must.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

One response to Bad Puns et Moi

  1. Love the Asquith quote.


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