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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Humor: In Defense of the Pun

ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE
ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE

Ricky Gervais once said that “the Pun” is the lowest form of humor. He’s not alone in his perception — puns get a bad reputation in the world of comedy for being annoying, predictable and unimaginative. It’s inevitable that you’ll hear someone make a pun at some point and your reaction will be one of irritation, even though you might pretend to be impressed. But, in fact, puns are a good form of humor and deserve respect.

To demonstrate the versatility and playful “cheesiness” of puns, I will include references to cheese both familiar and obscure throughout this column.

First, puns are easy to make. They simply “Brie-quire” combining two related words or meanings into a laugh. This means more people can play around with them, rather than relying on professional comedians, who get so rich that they can afford to have “Swiss” bank accounts. The concept of allowing more participation from the people is not just “Gouda” for democracy, it’s downright “American.” The pun even allows us to enjoy friendlier humor that doesn’t rely on discrediting others and making them feel “Bleu.” Anyone who believes that it’s OK to humiliate others through humor is a complete “Muenster.”

An even “grater” thing about the pun is its linguistic flexibility. It can promote the creation of new words that enrich language itself. Famous writers and singers do this to play and experiment with their art. Plus, English puns are not “Prov-alone” when it comes to creating new words and meanings. Whether you’re a Norwegian living in “Jarlsberg,” an Arabian “Curd” from the Middle East or a stylish Italian living in the historic city of “Romano,” puns are a good way to entertain your friends and experiment with your country’s language.

Of course, there are downsides to using puns. If one uses them excessively, they will appear “Capricious,” and make others “Feta-up” with one’s jokes. They might angrily tell you to shut up and put a “Quark” in it. Even though we might think we have a good joke in mind, we “Ri-gotte” to be patient and remember “Le Roule” of comedic “Tyning”; otherwise, we will only annoy or confuse people. It’s moments like these that give puns their bad reputation and make us think they are not “Tunworth” the effort.

Although puns give off the impression of being premature, they are nonetheless a valuable form of humor. They allow more people to make jokes without having to offend others, allow writers to “Bandal” the rules of traditional writing and even give plenty of “Roumy” for other cultures to participate. Granted, they can be “Vera” annoying at times, but we as a species would be “Adelost” if we were to throw “Emment-all” away for the sake of sounding mature. “Wigmore” patience, understanding and willingness to accept puns into our lives, we can “Ticklemore” laughs out of people. Only then can we make the world a “Cheddar” place for everyone.

UNOFFICIAL CHALLENGE: Anyone who submits a 500-word response with puns of equal or greater quality/quantity will be invited to go out for a free drink.

 

You can contact EVAN LILLEY at etlilley@ucdavis.edu.

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