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Pun

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Pun

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

A pun is a play on words, usually done for deliberate humorous effect.

Example

The pun is mightier than the word.

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.

When does Ella faint? When she blows her trunket.

Discussion

Puns often make use of ambiguity and similar sounding words. The idea is generally that the person sees two different possible meanings and suffers a moment of confusion before realizing which is the real one (if there is one to be chosen). Often one meaning is most obvious whilst the second meaning is hidden, which can lead to quite sly amusement as a pun is targeted at some people, over the heads of others who are simply confused (or may just miss it altogether).

Sometimes puns must be spoken to be understood and sometimes they have to be seen in the written form.

There are several types of pun, including:

  • Homophonic puns use homophones - words with similar sounds to the intended words, such as 'Irish stew, in the name of the lore.'
  • Homographic puns use words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, such as 'Lie down, fibber!'
  • Heteronymic puns use the same spelling but different pronunciation, such as 'Husband and wife, rowing for England.'
  • Compound puns contain more than one pun word, such as 'Your son's bright!'

Puns are the bread and butter for many comedians, especially those who avoid crass insults and seek loftier linguistic laughter. Much has been said about puns, including that it is the lowest form of wit, which rather flies in the face of the idea of the erudite user. Shakespeare literally used thousands.

Puns are also popular with advertisers, who use them to grab attention and raise a smile, such as 'Have a break. Have a Kit-Kat.' Journalists sometimes use truly groan-worthy puns in their headlines.

Classification: Humor, Hidden, Substitution

See also

Paronomasia, Using humor

 

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