In a conversation with my good lady wife the other day she used the word “versatile”. While I don’t recall the subject of our chat I feel quite sure from her use of that word that she was talking about me!
No other more pertinent reply being required of me, I simply opened my mouth and let the content of my devious internal thought processor flow out.
“Ah, versatile” I said. “That’d be what Byron and Shelley covered their bathroom walls with”!
You probably just experienced the same reaction as Faith did – a blank look, a pause to let what I’d said sink in, a groan and a barely suppressed urge to throw something sharp at me!
And that, of course, is because it wasn’t a “joke” that I had perpetrated but a PUN – if it had been a joke she (and you) would have LAUGHED!
For some reason a clever twisting of the meaning of a word or phrase for comic (in my opinion, anyway) effect is not regarded as FUNNY.
So how did puns and associated verbal slapstick come to be my chosen way of expressing my irrepressible sense of humour?
Well, I blame it on the BBC and specifically the radio comedy “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again” (as mentioned in my earlier posting https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2011/01/16 ) which contained an awful lot of THAT type of wordplay. The little group of which I was so proud to be a member within my class at Copleston School took up punning in a very big way as a result of that programme.
As with many things we did in those days we took it to extremes and managed to find a competitive side to puns which helped us through at least one of the non-academic, non-essential, boring school activities that we had to take part in. I am thinking specifically of the annual Harvest Festival service which required something like 600 boys to migrate about a mile and a half ON FOOT to St. Johns C of E church in Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich.
While writing this it has occurred to me, from a distance of more than 40 years, that it surely wasn’t beyond our wit to “bunk off” to my old friend Vincent’s house – which was right across the road from the church! Perhaps it didn’t occur to us or perhaps he had more sense than to ask us!
Whatever the reasons we endured the chronic boredom only by having a contest to see who could come up with the most puns about trees! I have no idea how the subject was chosen and if it WAS rigged by one of us who’d thought of some in advance I don’t think I’d have “twigged” – see how appallingly easy it is to do!
We came up with dozens, maybe even hundreds of them and we just fired them at each other like little wordy bullets all through the long wait outside the church and the interminable service inside. It made the whole thing bearable.
And having decided long ago that I agreed with my literary hero, the late, great Doctor Isaac Asimov that the pun is the HIGHEST form of wit (whatever others may say) I continue to utter them and always will.
Regular readers will be aware that I produced two of what I consider to be my best examples of this art form right here on this site. In case you missed them, however, I commend the following links to you with no apology whatsoever:
I am sure you will be delighted to know that I am trying very hard to surpass those two and if I manage it I promise to warn you first!
In the meantime I have FINALLY accepted that I am never going to get proper laughs from puns – just the “urrrrgh” sounds that invariably occur.
I suppose you could say that means that I’m all GROAN up now!