Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No Pun Intended


      Pet peeves are common. When I stop to think of it, I have a hyperbolic number of them—somewhere close to a zillion. One of them (or maybe it’s two) have to do with the utterance of “pun intended” and “no pun intended.” I can’t think of two phrases more unnecessarily spoken. 
      Here is the definition of a pun: "A pun, or paronomasia, is a form of word play that deliberately exploits ambiguity between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect." A pun is basically a play on words, like in the joke, "Where do cows go on a Saturday night? The moooovies." Moooovies is a pun. I have to say, even those of us who only understand about 60% of the words in the definition above get a pun when we hear one, yet some word masters are intent on telling us they made a pun…just in case we missed it, so let me start with the egotistical “pun intended.”
      This phrase is said by a person who is so brilliant and witty that they’re fairly bursting with personal pride. People who finish their puns with the phrase “pun intended” are clearly on a different intellectual level than the rest of us dimwits. I mean, we’re so intellectually challenged that we have to be reminded by the genius punster. 
      “Uh, hey, all you stupid people. I have a categorically witty linguistic locution I’m about to execute on your unintelligent ears. It goes like this. ‘I went to a seafood disco last week... and pulled a mussel.’ Hahahahahahaha! Oh, by the way, pun intended.”
      And then inane people like me will clearly feel the need to kneel, stunned, in genuflective posture in reverence to the supreme intellectual being in our presence, contemplating the hilarious pun that we just missed. “Let’s see. Is it a pun to have seafood and disco in the same sentence? No…I think not. Are his muscles weak? Could be. Did he mean ‘see’food because there’s no such thing as a seafood disco is there? Wait…after further review, I think a mussel is a kind of seafood…and I believe a disco dancer could pull a muscle, hence there’s a pun. I’m certainly indebted to the word scientist for pointing out a pun I would have never recognized on my own.” 
      Like me, I’m sure you appreciate jesters wisecracking in your presence and then reminding you that their witticisms are too clever for you and any of your other companions to get. “Did you hear about the man who stole a calendar? He got 12 months.” Chortle. “Pun intended.”
      At which point all of your daft colleagues respond incredulously.
      “Entertainer man, you’re not as funny as you think. Maybe you should take a day off.”
      “Yeah, that joke is really dated.”
      “Get with the times.” 
      “That joke was week.”
      You see, anyone who has to say “pun intended” must think that they’ve achieved an intellectual superiority that the common man is unable to attain. And since puns are way up on the IQ humor pyramid (practically at the peak, I assume), they have to inform us when they’ve dropped a quip right in our laps. 
      Maybe, however, the “pun intended” people are simply so desperate for a laugh at their lame attempt at humor, they say the irritating phrase as a clue that if we feel sorry enough for them, we’ll give a polite giggle or groan or eye roll. It’s the same as saying, “Friends who feel sorry for me, I made a joke. Will you please laugh?" They should just say, “Ha ha, you get it right? I made an ill-informed attempt to be funny, and it’s falling as flat as an Iowa landscape. If you would just laugh, I won’t feel quite so humiliated.”

      Then, there are those who say, “No pun intended.” Why in the world do they do that? Let me start with writers. A writer writes a pun…unintentionally. He or she recognizes that there’s a pun.
      “I was in the Piggly Wiggly with my darling daughter, wandering aimlessly, looking for leeks. In aisle three, a one-armed man fumbled a can of asparagus which loudly clattered to the floor. My little princess charged to the rescue. ‘Can I give you a hand?’ she asked.”
      What if once the above writer completed the scene, he/she noticed that “hand” was a pun? Is there any logical reason for the writer to insert “Oh, gosh, I didn’t intend to write a pun there”? If the writer doesn’t intend a pun, he or she could revise and say something like, “Let me help you.” Or the writer could leave it and say to him or herself, I didn’t intend to write a pun, but low and behold, I did it anyway. I think I’ll leave it. I mean, I don’t care if he didn’t intend it. I’ve never once in my entire life read a play on words and stopped myself so I could speculate. I doubt seriously that the author made that pun on purpose, but I wish he would have told me by saying something clever like “no pun intended” so I could know and read on in peace. Let me say this loud and clear. If a writer writes a pun which wasn’t intended and said writer feels the need to tell me the pun was not intended, then the writer should revise the sentence and eliminate the play on words. 
      There is also the situation, reading and speaking alike, where the person obviously made an intentional pun. So why on God’s green earth do they say “No pun intended”?
      “Hey, Jeff, I have a story to tell you, set during the Cold War. Bob, from America, was arguing with Rudolf from Soviet Russia. They argued about politics, religion, their presidents—even about the weather. One night Rudolf said it was raining outside, but Bob would not agree. He said it was sleeting. So they argued all night: Rain! Sleet! Rain! Sleet! The argument continued until Bob's wife pulled him aside and said: ‘Sweetheart, you're wrong. It is raining. And this time the Russian is right, because…Rudolf the Red knows rain, dear.’ No pun intended."
      Seriously? The whole purpose of the joke was to tell a pun.
      “Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted. No pun intended.”
      Of course. Let me ponder your inane statement a moment. Are you certain two peanuts were walking? And of the two walking peanuts, who happened to walk into a drinking establishment (because peanuts get thirsty too), you happened to notice that one was a salted peanut and one wasn’t. That “a salted” play on words thing that you said at the end of your interesting, true story was totally unintentional? Thanks for clearing that up. 
      I saw some dude on Facebook make a post. He said, and I quote, “Frankly, I don’t like hot dogs. No pun intended.” I know the “pun intended” guy from the beginning of this blog thinks he’s the only one with brains, but the “Frankly” guy is even more condescending. Am I to be so naively stupid that I should accept he said “Frankly” by mistake, noticed it, kept it in his post, and then took the time to tell me he didn’t intend to write it? “There’s a pun in my post, people (if you look closely, you’ll discover it too), but I didn’t put it there on purpose and I want you to know I’m so clever, sometimes I write in puns unintentionally. It’s crazy but true.”
      Give me a break. Pun intended and No pun intended are two of the dumbest things people can say, and yes, they are pet peeves of mine. Punners, when you make a play on words, let us groan at it of our own free will, and if you do it unintentionally, so be it.
      There was a person who sent twenty different puns to his friends with the hope that at least half of the plays on words would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

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