Pollack, John. The Pun Also Rises. New York: Gotham Books, 2011
This is the first of two parts on humor. While some deride puns as the lowest form of humor, we here in Texas celebrate them with a special contest, the O. Henry Pun Off. As you can see by the information below, I am a little late publishing this blog as this event happened earlier this month.
O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) moved to Texas in 1882 worked at a little of this and a little of that. While his writing career didn’t take off until after he left our state, we have a tidy little museum in downtown Austin dedicated to his years in Austin. The annual O. Henry Pun Off is hosted on the grounds of this museum. This year was their 40th Anniversary, so people have been making “punny” there for a long time. We didn’t have a chance to go this year, so my husband, Jim, has contributed his thoughts on this form of humor.
Well, the O. Henry Pun Off is happening on May 13, 2017. While I have never gone to one, I have read books and heard about it. It is hard to miss in season since I live close to Austin, Texas, where it is held. I have (and my entire family for that matter) be punsters. Sometimes we will engage in puns for hours, switching topics from time to time. My father once told me a story of about my grandfather, who was also a punster. Apparently, his coworkers couldn’t take any more of the puns and took him and locked him in a storage room and said that he couldn’t come out until he told another pun. To which, he said, “Oh pun the door” and was let out forthwith.
I have heard it said that puns are the lowest form of humor…unless you where the one who came up with it. There is, I must say, something pleasing about hearing the groans of your friends and acquaintances when you let go an unexpected pun. This disease is hereditary. I like to pun as does my wife, Robin. We have two wonderful daughters and they also are formidable punners. There is, however, a distinct difference between the way my daughters pun. My youngest daughter, Sarah likes to join in with the rest of us when we start to pun. My oldest daughter Alexis fains disdain at these antics, but will let one go randomly when no one is expecting it. She is the seldom, but devastating punner.
I am not sure what the attraction of puns is. Somehow, there is satisfaction is using incorrect words that sound the same or similar to the correct word. Part of the attraction, of course, is seeing if the recipient/target of the pun gets it. If so, he/she usually groans. If they don’t get it, you can humiliate the victim by explaining it. A well-executed pun is a no-lose proposition for the giver. If, however, a pun is botched, the tables turn and the attempted giver of the pun is subject to intense ridicule, as well they should.
So, pun “oily” and often. Let all your former friends know just how smart and witty you are. But, do so at your own risk.
Extra credit: Read “The Pun Also Rises” by John Pollack