Pundamonium: A Pandemic of Paronomasia


Pun \Pun\, noun [Cf. {Pun} to pound, {Pound} to beat.] A play on words which have the same sound but different meanings; an expression in which two different applications of a word present an odd or ludicrous idea; a kind of quibble or equivocation. –Addison.1

The renowned Dr. Samuel Johnson, 18th century English essayist, novelist, author, poet, literary critic, editor, biographer and lexicographer, is credited with first describing puns as “the lowest form of humour.” Well I love puns in all their forms, verbal and physical, and other types of word play as well. My clown is a purveyor of puns, and thrives on them. I recite them, save them and even subscribe to a newsletter2 devoted to them.

Many clowns use knock – knock jokes, but are unaware that they are generally based on puntification, puny attempts to be punny. (example: Knock, knock,
Who’s there?
Ivan
Ivan who?
Ivan to drink your blood!)

The Bandana – Banana skit is an example of a physical pun, in which almost everyone finds hilarity in the mistaking of one for the other. Whole routines are based on malapropisms

(Oh! Never mind.). Add to those, tongue twisters, Tom Swifties, limericks, daffynitions, Spoonerisms, misguided signs, job jargon, double entendre, double talk – flimflam, cross the roaders, and more, and you have a new underpinning to make your clown more comical.

My favorite puns are the shaggy dog story puns, which are extended narratives, sometimes connecting shorter puns into a pun sequence, and finishing with a pun twist. Here’s one I put together (in which I’m certain you’ll recognize bits and pieces).

1. The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

2. Pun American Newsletter
Box 103 Highland Park, IL 60035
6 Quarterly issues: $11.95-USD, $13.95 Canada