I was lucky enough to be able to fly home for Christmas this year. Although Halloween might be my favorite holiday, Christmas is the one I personally find hardest to spend without family. Especially considering that my sister will soon be heading to Italy for a semester, I wanted a chance to see her before her globetrotting adventure in fabulousness began. Even better, despite living in the age of Facebook and many of my friends and extended family members knowing I was heading home, I still managed to surprise my sister! And best of all, I got a chance to catch up with a friend from my own semester abroad in Istanbul.
Although I’ve read many lovely books lately, such as Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, I’m not feeling compelled to review any of them. Maybe I’ve read too many books lately to dedicate a full post to a single one. Instead, my visit home got me thinking on a smaller kind of story: the pun. After all, aside from a fondness for crossword puzzles and the need for multiple road tests, I’ve also inherited my dad’s weakness for puns. If we were Superman, puns would be our kryptonite; we can’t help but fall for any set-up, no matter how good, bad, or ugly.
So what? You might be asking yourself.* Who cares if you enjoy a second-rate form of humor? But I think the pun is a seriously underrated art form (or should I say punderrated?). To quote one of my favorite books of the year, Gayle Forman’s Just One Year, “I’ve since come to understand that the universe operates on the same general equilibrium theory as markets.It never gives you something without making you pay for it somehow.” Though I don’t necessarily agree with the quote on the whole, I think it can be applied to humor. There is no such thing as a buttless joke.
And of course, puns are no exception. People make puns using people’s names or incorporate slurs. But my favorite kind of puns make language itself the true butt of the joke. They function solely on homophones and assonance (and probably some other literary devices). And after all, what’s a butt without a little assonance?** I’m sure Cyndi Lauper would agree with me. Girls just wanna have puns, oh-oh girls just wanna have puns. Okay, I’ll stop now. Maybe.
And since you can take the girl out of the English program but you can’t take the English program out of the girl, I have to put this out there. I think puns are especially admirable for their dichotomous nature, the way it’s hard to tell whether a pun should be called good or bad, and which is a bigger compliment. When we give my dad a hard time for his puns, we don’t tell him they’re bad, we say they’re mediocre.*** Puns have a lot in common with being sore after a workout or getting up from the table following Thanksgiving dinner; they’re groan-inducing, inevitable, but still somehow immensely satisfying experiences.
Do you have a favorite pun? Leave it in the comments!
*Okay, so you might not actually be asking yourself this, but my hypothetical straw man is.
**I’m sorry. That was bad. I’ve had that pun in my system for days.
***But don’t worry, my family’s teasing is all in good pun.