The Quirky Quote
Puns have long been disparaged by people who prefer loftier language, but Mr. Hugo’s comparison makes me laugh:
Puns are the droppings of soaring wits.
~ Victor Hugo
The Quirky Fact
The O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship was originally inspired by author William Sydney Porter (penname O. Henry) who lived in Austin in the late 1800s. He wasn’t known for punning, but rather for writing twisted endings to his short stories that weren’t what you were expecting, so sort of like puns. In any case, in a somewhat twisted tribute to him, the championship is held each year on the grounds of the O. Henry Museum in Austin. (One year it was forced inside because of rain. Water the odds?)
The Quirky Observation
Puns take many forms that include words that sound the same but are spelled differently, words that have double meanings, words that are similar to a well-known phrase, and so on. Here is an example of each of those:
- Atheism is a non-prophet institution. ~ George Carlin
- I was wondering why the ball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
- A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."
There are many other forms as well:
- A book never written: Tragedy on the Cliff by Eileen Dover
- "I have a split personality," said Tom, being frank.
- What does a dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac do at night? He stays up wondering if there really is a dog. (Wait. Is that really a pun? Well, it’s clever anyway.)
Personally, I am fond of the long form, that is, puns that are the punchline to a convoluted story like this:
A doctor made it his regular habit to stop off at his favorite bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home. The bartender would always have the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 p.m.
One afternoon, as the end of the work day approached, the bartender was dismayed to find that he was out of hazelnut extract. Thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar.
The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink and exclaimed, "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri."
"No, I'm sorry," replied the bartender, "it's a hickory daiquiri doc."
I have written dozens of quizzes using puns. I chose this one about art because Salvador Dali’s birthday was May 11, and he was pretty twisted, too. Case in point: Is this a portrait of Abraham Lincoln or Dali’s naked wife Gala? Both, but you have to back way off to see Lincoln in this reproduction.
The quiz is easy, but don’t brush it aside.
Can you match the ending to the set-up?
- Once I tried to paint the sky,
- Did you see the display of still-life art?
- The artist was great.
- It was not at all moving.
- He could always draw a crowd.
- but I blue it.
4. The mediocre artist
5. I asked the museum guard if we were allowed to take pictures.
6. What did the bank robber say to his partner?
- Grab the Monet and let’s Gogh
- was good only at drawing blank faces.
- He said no, they have to stay on the walls.
Answers at the end of this document.
The Shameless Request
Please share Wiser Now Wednesday with anyone you think might be interested, and if you represent an organization that would like a customized version, please send me a note at Kathy@WiserNow.com.
Do you have a favorite pun? Share it with me or others.
The Kiosk of Resources
Answers to the quiz
1.c 2.a 3.b 4.b 5.c 6.a