Rating: 3 stars
Former presidential speech writer and pun-off champion John Pollack explores the origins and history of puns. Love them or hate them, puns are a big part of our everyday lives, appearing in a multitude of places, from the stores we shop to the food we eat.
By no means am I such a fan of puns that I seek to use them, however, those who have read my op-ed pieces—such as “God Wants Your Sex to be Good”—knows that I won’t hesitate to use one.
While reading Pollack’s book, I realized my first exposure to puns was back in fifth grade when our teacher asked us to find examples of them in the newspaper and draw a picture illustrating the alternative meaning. All these years later I remember her illustrated example: Pilot found in Turkey.
It came as a surprise that knock-knock jokes are also included in the world of puns. Knock-knock jokes were a childhood addiction for me, and with which I tortured my poor mother for hours—usually in the car where she was a captive audience. Now 30 years later, there is still one that won’t get out of my head:
Chesterfield my leg, so I slapped him.
Even silly school yard jokes are revealed to be rightful members: why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants? Because he got a hole in one. Or: what has four wheels and flies? A garbage truck.
Yes, they're groan-eliciting, pre-pubescent silliness, but look a bit deeper into both riddles and knock-knock jokes and you’ll see that there is a certain linguistic complexity that requires a sharp mind, not only to understand them, but to spot their potential in the first place.
According to Pollack, puns have been used in competition, literature, hip-hop music, and even to settle disputes and avenge a death. However, not all of John Pollock’s findings are interesting. Some of the historical content, and the more technical aspects of language--although informative--are a bit dry.
More of a history than a how-to, The Pun Also Rises will, at the very least, open readers' eyes to the puns around them.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Gotham (April 3, 2012)