Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Tony Deyal | Points to punder

Published:Saturday | December 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Recently when a Trinidadian man was charged with bigamy, one of my friends remarked that it was the first time he had ever heard of two rites making a wrong. Of course, the bigamist loved not wisely but two well.

Jokes like these are based on puns. According to Wikipedia, the pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of wordplay that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous effect.

A good example is a pun by one of the great American comedians, George Carlin, "Atheism is a non-prophet organisation." Puns go way back in history and were found in Ancient Egypt, China, Mesopotamia (around 2500 BC) and in the Hebrew Bible.

Some people, like the famous English critic, Dr Samuel Johnson, consider puns the lowest form of wit. They would refuse to laugh at Carlin or any other punster. The great film-maker, Alfred Hitchcock, however, viewed puns as the highest form of literature. John Pollack, author of The Pun Also Rises, says, "For most of Western history, puns were a sign of high intellect. They were a tool, and they remain a tool, to pack more meaning into fewer words."

It is no joke that a study by the University of New Mexico found that humorous people are more intelligent than those who take life and everything else too seriously and, as a bonus, are more attractive as mating partners. Talking about mating partners, here is an example of an extended pun that shows not just dexterity with words but also how much meaning can be packed into just a few words.

Two tall trees, a birch and a beech, are growing in the woods. A small tree begins to grow between them and the beech says to the birch, "Is that a son of a beech or a son of a birch?" The birch admits the he cannot tell. Just then a woodpecker lands on the sapling. The birch says, "Woodpecker, you are a tree expert. Can you tell if that is a son of a birch or a son of a beech?" The woodpecker takes a taste of the small tree. He replies, "It is neither a son of a beech nor a son of a birch. It is, however, the best piece of ash I have ever put my pecker in."

 

IN DANGER OF SPLITTING

 

As that joke showed, we punsters are indiscriminate in our tastes and are like the vulture who boarded an aeroplane carrying two dead raccoons. The flight attendant looked at him and said, "Sorry, sir, but only one carrion per passenger."

In Venezuela, I once met a glassblower who inhaled and got a pane in the stomach. When global warming hit the Arctic Ocean, scientists were assigned to watch glaciers in danger of splitting. Naturally, all the researchers were required to have good ice sight. At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, passing the nurse as he arrived at the hospital the doctor cauterise and smiled. She, intern, smiled back. The doctor, unfortunately, was a paediatrician who had very little patients.

There is the sad case of the London Underground. Falling in love with a woman who travelled on the train every day, the ticket salesman asked her to marry him. She agreed and decided to have their wedding reception in a huge room on the upper floor of the building. So many of their friends and family showed up that their combined weight caused the platform to collapse. The moral of the story is that you should never marry above your station.

In the animal kingdom, cows are the most grateful animals. They realise that all they have, they owe to udders. In Switzerland, where digital watches and clocks have replaced the old mechanical instruments, the craftsmen have virtually disappeared. One of the last of the old clockmasters, Hans Pfall, decided to write a book about his craft. When it was published, all the critics said it was about time. There is the story of the young woman married to the 90-year-old man. Complaining about her sex life, she said, "It's the same thing weak-in, weak-out."

In education, there was the American school board that banned Sir Walter Scott's classic English novel, Ivanhoe, because it contained too much Saxon violence. Then there is the attorney who introduced himself to his client, a psychologist, as a criminal lawyer. The client commended him for being so self-aware. There was another attorney who worked day and night to break the young widow's will. Of course, lawyers are a unique breed. In no other profession would someone write a 50-page document and call it a 'brief'.

Politicians fare no better. During a whistle-stop campaign, the presidential candidate's train went completely off the track and careened through a farmer's field killing several animals. The politician had no choice but to agree to reimburse the farmer for his losses. This was the first time in history that a politician actually took responsibility for the bulls hit.

University lecturers also succumb to the pundemic. One famous Chinese scholar, on a lecture tour, was speaking at a college campus when lightning struck the auditorium and the lights went out. Discovering that all the bulbs had to be replaced, the sponsor of the lecture got some replacement bulbs, handed them to the audience, and asked for their help to replace the burnt-out ones. When the hall was once more illuminated, the lecturer said, "You have all shown the truth of the old Confucian saying, 'Many hands make light work.'"

- Tony Deyal was last seen talking about the housewife whose husband had surgery five times for the same problem. "I am tired of people opening my male," she complained.