Monday, May 23, 2011

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian

This came in an email from faraway friend whose first language is not English. He sent it to me because of the Alaskan reference. As a practicing punster (I try to suppress it here,) I'm impressed by the elegance of the puns on this list. They aren't groaners where one has to twist one's ears to make the sounds match, and one's face contracts around the nose at the flatness of the humor.  Well, you may not agree.  And some (maybe all) are not new.  These match words with unexpectedly similar sounds or double meanings with some cleverness. Here are some of the ones he sent:
  1. A will is a dead giveaway.
  2. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a mango.
  3. A backward poet writes inverse.
  4. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
  5. You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
  6. A calendar's days are numbered.
  7. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison: a small medium at large.
  8. When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
  9. If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.
  10. When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
  11. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.
  12. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
  13. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
  14. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  15. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
  16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, 'No change yet.'
I tried to whittle the list to ten, but figured different ones would tickle different people, so I'm hoping some of you will tell me know your favorites (or least favorites) in the comments. 

You could even use the judging scale used at the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship  held this past weekend in Austin, Texas.
You will be given a set of cards numbered one through ten.  A "ONE" should be used only for a complete flop (or an obvious non-pun) and a "TEN" should be reserved for a performance better than you ever expected.  (The audience response is helpful here too!)  The most important thing here is that your judging style remains consistant throughout the event. By expanding our panel to 6 judges we are attempting to level the field some. The highest and lowest score from each vote is discounted which leaves each contestant with a possible high score of only 40.  
There were different contests including punniest of show. Some of the rules for that included:
2. PUNNIEST OF SHOW: Each entered contestant will be allowed to present a pun on stage. Puns may be presented in any format (e.g., visual, musical, stand-up routine, etc.), and will be scored on a scale of one (1) to ten (10) by a panel of judges. A contestant's score will be determined by adding the judges' scores together. If a judge displays a score higher than 10 or lower than 1, that score will be lowered or raised to the nearest allowable score (i.e., an 11 becomes a 10, a 0 becomes a 1, etc.). Contestants will be judged on content, originality, and general effect of the presentation, including judges' interpretation of audience response. Contestants may use notes or scripts, but should keep in mind that the judges may take this into consideration when determining their score.  (if you want to know the rest of the rules and the other puntests click here.)

The 1995 winner, John Pollack, on NPR last week talking about his new book, Just for Pun said:
"The power of a pun comes from two things," he says. "One is its ambiguity, and second is: that it enables you to pack more meaning, or more layers of meaning, into fewer words. And so if you're trying to convey complex ideas, puns can be really powerful tools to do that."
I agree.  I don't think they are the lowest form of humor as some say.  It's just that there are some really bad punsters who bring puns down so low.  I also think that good punsters are just wired to hear literally - thus hearing the two or meanings of a single (or very similar) sound(s). 

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