Fun with Puns

Fun with Puns


A pun is “the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound”  Merriam-Webster dictionary.


American English is full of expressions including idioms, phrasal verbs, metaphors including similes, and both heteronyms and homonyms which can be used to make puns.


If you are interacting with a native American English speaker, they will naturally use various expressions and that can cause confusion and misunderstandings.  British English speakers will use expressions also but maybe not as frequently as Americans.  Americans use a lot of idioms, similes, metaphors, phrasal verbs and sometimes to joke - puns.


So what is a pun?


If I tell someone “I am the New teacher” that is a pun because my name is Tim New.  


I recently saw a book titled “Naturally Tan” by Tan France - that is another pun using a name.


Some examples from the internet.


A pessimist's blood type is always B-negative.


You were right, so I left.

It’s hard to beat scrambled eggs for breakfast.

I’m not scared of insects… But they really bug me.


In fact, you can find a lot of puns used in William Shakespeare’s famous plays.


You have dancing shoes With nimble soles; I have a soul of lead - Romeo and Juliet

"Tomorrow, you shall find me a grave man.”   Romeo and Juliet.

“Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling; Being but heavy I will bear the light.”


“You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass.” – Douglas Adam Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


Author Pier's Anthony built all of his Xanth world novels off of puns.


The other day, someone on Chat posted “I’m free for the next few minutes”

My response “What do you charge the rest of the time?”   made a pun from the use of the word free which has more than 1 meaning in English.  


This type of banter is anything but uncommon among Americans but may leave English Learners scratching their heads (idiom).

Another type of pun is the double entendre.  The double meanings, or also called as double entendres, are mostly clear but it really does not have to. Sometimes, the subtle is the way to effectively communicate a hidden meaning. Most of the time, words that have double entendres usually mean something that is illicit, sexual, or even political.

Good examples of double entendres can be found in the Bellamy Brothers song - "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me”

The entire song is made of double entendres - sentences that have two possible meanings.


I’ll close with one more real life example.

Last week people in our community provided food for a family who had someone die.  It’s common here that the community will cook food for the family in such a situation.  One of the ladies said “I’ll be back after I run Mary and Freda home”.  Freda said “ I’d rather you drive us in your car”.  


Have fun with the language and especially the expressions which can make the language more interesting.  

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  • Pun is the lowest form of humour as I know.

  •        My friend, you are really a touch of marvelous. Actually, Arabic Language is full of such puns. God bless you.

    • I knew there was a famous story in Arabic Literature that was written with double meanings but I wasn't sure if it was due to puns or other writing tricks.  Chinese in a way uses sound alikes in their culture but not so much for humor (as I understand it).  The number 8 for example is considered lucky because the Chinese word for 8 sounds similar to the word for get wealth ba / fa 

  • I enjoy eating pickled peppers, but I do not want to be in a pickle.

    • to make it a pun, change it just a little.  I'm in a pickle whether I should eat Tim's pickled peppers" 


    • Well, pun indeed hilarious haha! Now I am thinking you probably have a jar of magical pickled peppers.

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