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Puns don't get the respect they deserve

Puns have been around for thousands of years and occur in nearly all languages. Playwrights and philosophers such as Sophocles and Shakespeare used puns to expose the complex challenges of defining the world around us.

I pun, a lot!

My 26-year-old granddaughter recently gave me a leather-bound notebook and asked me to write down the puns I have “made up” over the years (I have yet to hear a pun I couldn’t “make up”).

Here are a few examples of puns I have written in the book:

My friend Red takes his boat out only with the male heirs of large fortunes. Yes, Red sails in the son set.

What do you say when your canine runs away? Dog gone.

A farmer friend had a horse with a mane where birds kept making nests. The vet told my friend to rub yeast in the mane to get rid of the birds. It worked because yeast is yeast and nest is nest but never the mane shall tweet.

A cattle rustler was hanged with an artificial rope. It was fake noose.

The anesthesia rabbit brings eggs and candy in the spring. He’s the ether bunny.

I keep the “play on words” I want to use again on a ledge by the window. It is a re-pun sill.

So how does the brain handle puns? John Pollack in his book “The Pun Also Rises,” says that the largest part of the brain — the cerebrum — is divided into two halves. The left and right sides each take on the job of processing different kinds of information. Language is processed mostly by the left hemisphere in the majority of people. The left hemisphere handles organization, calculation and analytical jobs, and the right hemisphere takes on recognition, patterns, emotions, music and creativity.

Pollack further says that puns tend to start with the left hemisphere, with the right hemisphere jumping in almost immediately looking for something stored in our brains that will help establish context.

Puns usually make you wait until the end of the pun for that key word or phrase that forces you to reestablish the meaning of the entire phrase.

Here are some examples. Can you find the key word or phrase? You will know when you have it by the involuntary groan that comes from deep within you:

A physician I know always put a hickory nut in his daiquiri. He is a hickory daiquiri doc.

The composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, had a spiritual leader from India. He was a Haydn Sikh.

At Safeway the people who put your groceries into a sack are not allowed to have gum because “baggers can’t be chewers.”

And, finally, I would never make a play on words about Washington D.C. That would be capitol punishment.

Remember, it takes a great deal of intelligence to create puns. Try it, if you can.

Jerry Kenefick lives in Ashland.


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