According to the book “Comedy Writing Secrets,” a pun is “the intentional confusion of similar-sounding words or phrases” that is used as the basis of a joke.
In other words, a pun is humorous word play that allows for two possible interpretations at the same time.
Pro Tip: Because puns generally make word plays phonetically, they tend to be better when spoken or heard vs. being written or read.
Here’s are some examples of puns: I recently read an article about a family that got lost in a corn maze for hours and couldn’t find their way out — they actually had to call the police to be rescued.
- Being lost in corn maze at night must have been earie.
- I wonder if one of the search dogs was a husk-y.
- How earesponsible of the parents!
- What did they expect entering a maize?
- The poor kids were probably shrieking to Dad, “Pop, corn!” over and over.
- They had the feeling they were being stalked.
- Hominy idiots does it take to get out?
Puns can also take the forms of double entendres, riddles, and homonyms and near homonyms:
- A double entendre (literally “double meaning” in French) is the use of an ambiguous word or phrase that allows for a second interpretation (warning: frequently risqué!). The idea is that the listener assumes one meaning, and the speaker slips in another meaning. Consider these headlines, taken from YourDictionary.com:
- Panda mating fails: Veterinarian takes over
- Miners refuse to work after death
- New obesity study looks for larger test group
- Children make nutritious snacks
- Criminals get nine months in violin case
- A riddle according to Merriam-Webster.com, is a puzzling question to be guessed or solved that usually has a double or veiled answer.
- What kind of bird writes letters? A pen-guin.
- What do all inches follow? Their ruler.
- Why couldn’t the strings ever win? They could only tie.
- What position does a cat play in baseball? A cat-cher.
- A homonym is two or more words that are spelled and pronounced alike but differ in meaning. A near homonymis two or more words that sound alike due to an intentional mispronunciation.
- Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven eight (ate) nine.
- What do you call a smelly chicken? A foul fowl.
- Do you want this pasteurized? No, just up to my mouth’d be fine!
What’s your favorite pun?
Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.