Following on from, Pacing, puns and punctuation; the holy trinity and, A thingy by any other name – the joy of euphemisms, my exploration of British comedy continues with an examination of that great comedy institution, the pun.
Pun for Your Life!
English is a rich and subtle language, and it is this subtlety that makes it so ripe for comedy fruit. In many languages, (possibly all) not only are there several words for the same thing (synonyms), but each word may have multiple meanings, and it is this ambiguity that gives rise to that bluntest instrument of humour, the pun.
A pun (as any schoolboy knows) is a play on words, and usually exploits the use of a word with multiple meanings, or substituting a word or phrase with something which sounds similar.
I love puns. They can make you laugh, cry or groan, they can immediately derail or lower the tone of any conversation, and they are great for breaking the ice at a fight.
Here a few examples. First up is the late, great Kenneth Williams delivering the greatest pun of all time.
Some examples from Viz comic.
Lost in Translation.
Should one run out of words in English, there are plenty of other languages to murder.
Double or Quits.
As already eluded to, many words or phrases have more than one meaning. By using such a word or phrase ambiguously, one gives rise to the double entendre (French – double meaning). The comedy value is derived from the contrast between the two (or more) possible interpretations, one of which is usually quite innocent and the other innuendous or crude.
I’ve already posted this on A Very British Haiku, but it is a great example.
Back in the day of course, the word, “pussy,” was usually assumed to mean a pussy cat, whereas now it is almost solely used in its other context.
Here are a few “doobles” from my Urban-Smith book series.
In this extract from, Laugh Out Dead, Dr Harker’s elderly housekeeper gives her opinion of his lovelife.
I glanced up and observed Mrs Denford glowering at me. “Are you alright, Mrs Denford?”
She continued to glower. “I don’t approve of online dating sites, doctor, indeed I don’t. They’re a cesspit of promiscuity, perversion and debauchery!”
I was unable to suppress a grin. “From your mouth to God’s ear, Mrs Denford.”
“Tsch!” Mrs Denford was not impressed. “Well, it’s no business of mine how you satisfy your libido, so long as you don’t go ramming it down my throat.”
“In that regard, Mrs Denford, I give you my solemn promise.”
In The Werewolf of Wottenham Wood, paranormal researcher and detective, Fairfax Urban-Smith investigates a string of violent deaths.
Ulysses reached for another biscuit. “How do you intend to proceed, Fairfax?”
“In my experience, there is no greater source of collateral information than a local ale house. Perhaps there is one near the village that you might recommend.”
“I would suggest The Cock on Percy Lane; it should be right up your alley.”
Following our tête-à-tête with Edna Clearing, we proceeded to Percy Lane to sample the delights of The Cock.
From our initial vantage point it appeared rather the worse for wear, neglected even, as if the entire edifice were finding it a challenge to remain erect. Things improved dramatically however once we had made our way inside. Although not wide, it had been considerably extended to the rear, and its length was quite impressive.
Grabbed by the Tabloids.
And finally, when it comes to dreadful puns, no-one does it better than The Sun newspaper.
OMG – PROL*
Until next time……