posted by Sara on .
here is the essay: Get Thee to a Punnery
I dream of being asked to a dinner party where the hostess falls backward into the table. "Look out"!, I shout, 'you'll burn your end at both candles." Or I meet a sculptor in the street. "Hi, you old chiseler," I say. "Still taking things for granite?" Puns have been called the lowest form of humour, yet they are surefire attention-getters. There is a kind of comic glory in quitely slipping into a conversation such remarks as "She criticized my apartment, so I knocked her flat." Those who dote on puns vigilantly monitor conversation, listening less for sense than for a hook upon which to hang a word perversion. If the people one talks to won't oblige with key words like "goat" (No kidding?) or "bread" (Who kneads it?) the punaholic may resort to fantasy. Someday I hope I'll be asked to introduce an archeologist. I'll refer to him as one whose career lies in ruins. I have actually asked photographers to step into the darkroom with me so we could see what develops. The answer is always in the negative. And no wonder: that's the oldest pun in the book; it's enough to make you shutter. I'm waiting to run into someone who'll remind me that in the Middle Ages people with the plague were required to wear bells around their necks to warn others of their disease. "Ring around the choler," I'll holler-and run for my life. The pun has an honourable history. Shakespeare used puns, and I am not Avon you on. "Ask me for tomorrow,"Mercutio says gloomily , "and you shall find me a grave man." Lady Macbeth brazenly exhorts her lord with "If her do bleed", I'l gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt." Businessmen use puns. A dairy brags, "You can whip our cream, but you can't beat our milk." And fishy businesses inspire punny names: Wholly Mackerel, The Contented Sole. They do it, one supposes, for the halibut. There are some puns so perfect, so gemlike , that the pun-maker can but smite his brow and groan with envy, "Sticks float. They wood." That's impeccable! So is "One man's Mede is another man's Persian." My favourite christmas card came years ago from one David Knight. It was fronted with a drawing of himself, with his mouth taped shut. A magnificient wordless pun. In <*i> A voice from the Attic <*/i> , Robertson Davies quotes critic Max Beerbohm: "A good pun properly used is one of the best bells in the jester's cap. Why its tinkles should be received in all places and on all occasions with groans of mock despair, I have never been able to understand." It's envy, my dear chap, simple envy. Everyone who hears a good pun knows that, given a few minutes, he could have thought of it first. Punning will continue as long as there are those who place double entendres above friendship, or who would sell their soles for archness. Is there hope for the punaholic? Not much. Some even cry out for his punishment. Give him a long sentence, they urge-a sentence totally lacking in key words.
Others would simply banish him to Noman. Noman? Noman is an island.