It was easy to miss in the used bookstore crammed with a maze of floor to ceiling bookshelves: a slim, little volume measuring 4.5 x 7 inches, 62 pages long, with a colorful red and blue dust jacket, titled The Little Pun Book. Back in 1960, it sold for $1. Naturally, I rescued it from its forlorn and dusty existence. The book, featuring puns collected by Robert Margolin, was published in 1960 by the Peter Pauper Press of Mount Vernon, New York. Peter Pauper Press, established in 1928, is a small publisher of finely bound letterpress books that feature slipcovers and illustrations by acclaimed artists. Some of the publisher’s finest books were published between 1930-1950s. The company is still around today and prints children’s books, journals, calendars, and holiday cards.
Instead of a foreword or introduction, the book begins with a quote attributed to English writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), considered the most distinguished man of letters in English history, largely for his publication of the A Dictionary of the English Language (1755):
I should be punished
For every pun I shed:
Do not leave a puny shred
Of my punish head!
Puns are supposed to be timeless; you be the judge. Here are some notable highlights:
The explorer came down from the North Pole; when he reached the last Lapp he knew he was at the Finnish line.
A nudist is one who suffers from clothestrophobia.
When the principal asked the teacher how long she planned to teach school, she replied, “From here to maternity.”
A good masseur leaves no stern untoned.
An ass can never be a horse, but he can be a mayor.
The electric chair is period furniture. It ends a sentence.
A fad is in one era and out the other.
There was a knock at the hospital-room door. “Who goes there,” said the patient, “friend or enema?”
A room full of married people is empty because there isn’t a single person in it.
When a group of cattle were put in Sputnik, it became the herd shot round the world.
A prominent Turk got an audience with the Sultan who said, “I don’t know your name, but your fez is familiar.”
An anthologist is one who likes to spend a quiet evening raiding a good book.
For further reading: The Little Pun Book by Robert Margolin.