Fun with Puns

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

John Pollack, former World Pun Champion and presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton, explores puns, the people who make them, why puns are so derided, and how they’ve changed influenced history. The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics explains why such wordplay is significant, how it influences language, and looks at history, brain science, pop culture, literature, anthropology, and humor.


John Pollack

Comments [12]

Anthony Drago from Jackson Heights, NYC

I detect a pun embedded in the last words of the subtitle of Mr. Pollack's book: "More Than Some Antics" (Some Antics/ Semantics). I thoroughly enjoyed this segment, and I am sure Lenny did too, as he is an incorrigible and witty punster, a quality in him that I have appreciated over the years, perhaps since I myself am so fond of punning. Shakespeare's fondness for punning drew me to his plays at an early age. However, it wasn't until I read Partridge's Shakespeare's Bawdy and even more so Frankie Rubinstein's A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance that my eyes were fully opened to the frequency and sexual, erotic, and scatalogical nature of the punning in Shakespeare's plays. In fact, I soon learned that puns are integral to an understanding of his plays. Such punning was popular because the Elizabethans (both writers and audiences) had an easy relationship with sex and bodily functions that soon disappeared from British culture and literature.

Apr. 20 2011 05:48 PM
Marcia from White Plains

I am semi-retired from punning after producing the following in my Manhattan days: I'd come home from work and was chatting with my roommate while giving myself a pedicure. As I rubbed a pumice stone over the wet skin of my feet, my roommate remarked on the loud squeaking sound it made. "Well," I said, "The squeaky heel gets decreased."

I figured I probably couldn't top that one--not just for wordplay, but for fitting the moment perfectly--so I pretty much stopped there.

Apr. 20 2011 02:14 PM
Susy from manhattan

when i used to take long drives to visit my long distance boyfriend, i used to keep myself awake by trying to invent puns in french. i don't speak much french, but always wondered if people do pun in other languages. I never did come up with a french pun. I think I need to get this book just to read more about it!

I really enjoyed this segment. : )

Apr. 20 2011 01:00 PM
a g from n j

moderation is key when punning. and, know your audience. on a first date,almost never !

Apr. 20 2011 01:00 PM
Charlie Roberts from Highlands, NJ

Revised: "Lost my train of thought" . . . John Pollack missed that one, Leonard.

Apr. 20 2011 12:58 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The "dogma" pun I'd seen was "I'm sorry my karma ran over your dogma"!

Apr. 20 2011 12:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Leonard, if you don't want to lose your train of thought, you need to have a one-track mind!

Apr. 20 2011 12:56 PM
a g from n j

who is more self censoring around sexual double entender today ? i would say men often are. go back 30 or 40 years,and then it would probably be the reverse. of course, this is complex, and, changes with situation, context, and familiarity.

Apr. 20 2011 12:55 PM

Apr. 20 2011 12:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm sure portmanteau words existed before Lewis Carroll, but was he the first to call them that?

Apr. 20 2011 12:53 PM
John from Fanwood

Two weeks from tomorrow I plan to put a jar of Hellman’s in the tub full of water. It will celebrate Sink-o the Mayo!

Apr. 20 2011 12:50 PM

Mr. Lopate - this section is purrfect for you! I am one of your listeners who really appreciates your puns - including your introduction to this section today!

Apr. 20 2011 12:43 PM

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