Tag Archives: best puns

The Little Pun Book

alex atkins bookshelf booksIt 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.

Read related posts: The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns
Top Ten Puns
Best Pi Puns

For further reading: The Little Pun Book by Robert Margolin.

The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns

atkins-bookshelf-wordsThe pun, of course, is a much maligned form of humor. Noah Webster, in his first edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) defines the pun as “an expression in which a word has at once different meanings; an expression in which two different applications of a word present an odd or ludicrous idea; a kind of quibble or equivocation; a low species of wit.” Sigmund Freud, in his seminal work Wit and Relation to the Unconscious (1917), added: “Puns are generally counted as the lowest form of wit, perhaps because they are cheaper and can be formed with the least effort.” Sounds like the father of psychoanalysis suffers from pun envy. In an article for the New York Times, Joseph Tartakovsky posits: “Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion.” Punsters will counter that if the pun is the lowest form, then it is the foundation of all wit. Known for his razor-sharp wit, comedian Oscar Levant declared: “A pun is the lowest form of humor — when you don’t think of it first.” Take that, Noah and Siggy! 

For punsters, the internet, serves as a giant sandbox, where they can all step in, gluttons for punishment, and hurl puns at one another, howling with devilish glee (and not a single groan!) that only a true paronomasiac can appreciate. Here are the best of puns or the worst of puns, depending on your perspective.

A cartoonist was found dead in his home. The details of his death are sketchy.

A dyslexic man walked into a bra.

All the toilets in New York’s police stations have been stolen. Police have nothing to go on.

A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

Be kind to your dentist — he has fillings, too.

Broken pencils are really pointless.

Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.

Earthquake in Washington obviously government’s fault.

England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it.

I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.

I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.

I should have searched for my missing watch, but I could never find the time.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

I used to have a fear of hurdles, but I got over it.

I used to think I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.

If towels could tell jokes, they would probably have a dry sense of humor.

If you asked a plastic surgeon to make you look like a pelican, would you get a massive bill?

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

The cross eyed teacher was fired because she couldn’t control her pupils.

The Energizer bunny was arrested; he was charged with battery.

The podiatry book used footnotes while the proctology book used endnotes.

They told me I had type A blood, but it was a type-O.

This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.

Velcro – what a rip off!

Venison for dinner? Oh deer!

What does a clock do when it’s hungry? It goes back four seconds.

What do you call a dinosaur with a extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

When ancient wall sculptors finished their work, it was a relief.

When chemists die, they barium.

When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

Read related posts: Top Ten Puns
Best Pi Puns

For further reading: www.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/opinion/28Tartakovsky.html?_r=0

Top Ten Puns

The pun is a much maligned form of humor. In his seminal work, Wit and Relation to the Unconscious (1917), Sigmund Freud wrote: “Puns are generally counted as the lowest form of wit, perhaps because they are cheaper and can be formed with the least effort.” Sounds like the father of psychoanalysis suffers from pun envy. Punsters will counter that if the pun is the lowest form, then it is the foundation of all wit. Known for his razor-sharp wit, comedian Oscar Levant declared: “A pun is the lowest form of humor — when you don’t think of it first.” Take that, Siggy!

The pun is celebrated (and exalted) each year in May at the O. Henry Pun-Off Championships (“Jest for a Wordy Cause”) held in Austin, Texas in a park behind the O. Henry museum. American author O. Henry (the pen name of William Sydney Porter), well-known for his short stories, lived in Austin from 1882 to 1895 and was very fond of wordplay. This competition has been described by one contestant as a cross between an AA meeting and the Olympics, “a mixture of relief at finally being surrounded by others who understood your struggle and adrenaline-fueled competition.” For more than 35 years, punsters from all over the world come to vie for the Punniest of Show and Punslingers at the punny event. The event kicks off with the entire crowd reciting the definition of a pun: “A pun is the humorous use of a word or words in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications or words that have the same or nearly the same sounds but different meanings.” In the Punniest of Show, punsters perform a pun-packed 90-second monologue (more like a punologue) that is scored by judges on a scale from 1-10. In the Punslingers competition, punsters face off in pairs and exchange puns (with a five-second limit) on a selected topic until one of the contestants runs out of punny rebuttals. The winner is determined after several rounds. In 2012 34 contestants matched wits with their pun-ultimate skills; in 2013, 32 contestants battled one another for fastest pun in the west.

Inspired by the success of the O. Henry Pun-Off, comedian Jo Firestone created Punderdome 3000, a monthly event held in Brooklyn, New York. The lively event, that draws crowds of more than 350 pun aficionados, has been described as equal parts stand-up comedy, beat poetry, and freestyle rap. Host Fred Firestone states: “We want people to walk away saying ‘I just didn’t attend, I was part of it.’ It’s a spectator sport.” New York Times comedy critic, Jason Zinoman, who has appeared as a celebrity judge, is a fan: “With these incredibly inventive puns, I don’t look down at puns at all. From Henny Youngman to James Joyce, these people have used puns to great effect. I don’t want to say it’s a high art, but it’s an art.”

Whether you scoff, groan or laugh, there is no denying the wit and cleverness of a great pun. In fact, it was another great American short story writer, Edgar Allan Poe, that recognized that “the goodness of the true pun is in the direct ratio of its intolerability.” Amen, brother. The readers of punoftheday.com have voted on their top ten punniest puns. Pun purists will quickly note that the punsters of punoftheday.com are passing off clever word play as puns (there are only three pure puns in their list):

1. I wondered why baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
2. I’m reading a book about gravity. It’s impossible to put down.
3. Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right.
4. It’s not that the man did not know to juggle, he just didn’t have the balls to do it.
5. Einstein developed a theory about space, and it was about time too.
6. I couldn’t quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but eventually it came back to me.
7. There was a sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center that said: keep off the grass.
8. I used to have a fear of hurdles, but I got over it.
9. Police were called to a daycare where a 3-year-old was resisting a rest.
10. He drove his expensive car into a tree and found our how the Mercedes bends.

For futher reading: Get Thee to a Punnery by Richard Lederer, Wyrick (2006).
The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack, Gotham Books (2011). http://www.punpunpun.com/. http://www.sarcasmsociety.com/sarcasm.html. http://www.punoftheday.com. http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/theater/welcome_to_the_punderdome_RuM0kVn2UBgDczm4dwyH4L



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