Karen Bayly

Author and Copywriter

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Have Pun With Wordplay

I adore the literary technique of word play. This form of wit uses words to often humorous effect. It includes puns, spoonerisms, obscure words and meanings, clever rhetorical excursions, limericks, oddly formed sentences, and double entendres.

In particular, I love puns. Particularly terrible puns. There’s nothing more satisfying than a “groaner’, that pun that causes you to groan loudly but laugh anyway.

Puns abound in the world of writing and have done for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. According to Wikipedia, puns fall into the following categories:

  • Homophonic
  • Homographic
  • Compounded
  • Recursive
  • Visual
  • Other - graphological and morphological.

As my intention for this post is something a little more light-hearted than last month’s offering, I’ll skip an in-depth explanation. If you want more detail, read here.

Newspapers are renowned for what some might call questionable headlines using all manner of wordplay. There’s a rumour that the copy editors (who usually write the headline) have an ongoing competition to see what they can slip by the editor into publication. Whether the rumour is true, the results make for humorous reading:

  • “Colleagues Finger Billionaire”, The Wall Street Journal reporting claims by traders at Galleon Group about founder Raj Rajaratnam.
  • “I’ve been Edam Fool, but I’ll be Gouda from now on”, The Sun reporting a cheese theft by a TV chef.
  • “Bezos Exposes Pecker”, Huffington Post AND New York Post reporting Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' claims of blackmailing by David Pecker, head of American Media.

I love it when they rewrite popular songs, like this version of "Bohemian Rhapsody":

Or this one playing with the well-known Mary Poppins number:

Some of my favourite comedy revolves around witty wordplay from the likes of Groucho Marx, Stephen Fry, and “The Two Ronnies”. Ronnie Barker was a master of verbal gymnastics. This sketch is chock-a-block with malapropisms.

But my favourite wit is Dorothy Parker. Some find her a little bitter, but I like her acerbic view on life.

However, she also had an introspective and poetic side. While I'm not a huge fan of her poems, I do like this:

Laughter is important for maintaining our mental and physical health. I don't think it matters what makes you laugh, as long as you laugh, preferably every day. For me, wordplay is one of the easiest ways to get my daily chuckles.

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