Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them.
It has also been said that puns are the lowest form of humour, but I disagree. Playing with words and discovering new, albeit perhaps not funny, ways to use them is a great way to experience the joys of language. Like taking a side road or unplanned detour, puns can direct you to a wonderful place you never knew existed. When you make a pun you’re pretty much guaranteed some sort of reaction from the audience, positive or negative, which shows that people are paying attention to your words. Whether you get a groan or a grin, someone has decoded your message. In the best case scenario, people start trading puns back and forth, which can lead to all sorts of punny situations.
Using puns in the titles of mystery novels is a natural fit. Puns are a form of verbal misdirection, and in many mystery novels the detective figure follows many false leads until they discover the truth.
Puns aren’t just for adults, though. Children who have 20,000 – 30,000 words in their vocabulary by the age of five have an easier time learning to read, and reading is simply interpreting words and their meanings. By exposing children to puns, jokes and wordplay you’re demonstrating the enjoyment that words can bring, and setting them up for a lifelong love of learning. Puns are also a key component to edu-tainment; teaching while entertaining. The other great thing about using puns with children is that they are a completely fresh audience. Even the oldest, stalest pun in your arsenal will be new to them, which guarantees a great response.
The old saying “slow as molasses in January” can be applied to our brain functions. I know for myself that I move a lot more sluggishly in the cold. January is Brain Teaser Month, so to celebrate that why not try some punning yourself, or read something new with some plays on words? It’s a great way to jump start your thinking process, and keep your brain in shape.
As adults, our neural network isn’t developing at the same rate that it does in children, but it’s still vital to keep exercising our brains. The mind is a muscle that can move the world, but only if it’s kept strong and healthy. Paronomasia, aka puns, are agility exercises for your brain, and you don’t have to be at the gym or work up a sweat with this type of workout.
Puns are an amusing way to pass the time on a long car trip or bus ride, they can be a great icebreaker at a party, or a way to start a speech with a joke. There are many ways and reasons to incorporate puns in your life, and I’ve only mentioned a few here. So what are you waiting for? Get on out there and join in the pun and games!