Weekly feature by: Caitlin Hennessey
Despite their fowl reputation, when it comes down to it, we’re all birds of a feather when it comes to puns. Oh, toucan groan and grumble when you run across them, but owl bet it’s with a laugh even despite yourself. Personally, I fully embrace the pun as an eggscellent form of humor: it’s hard not to appreciate a bit of clever wordplay, even if the actual joke is stupid. It’s not ostrich to say that puns serve a higher purpose in bringing people together.
I’m generally a pretty shy person, for instance. Unless I’m very comfortable with the location or situation, I can’t really talk to strangers, and sometimes even interacting with acquaintances can be very hawkward for me – I don’t want to beak a bother, and I worry about being seen as ridiculous or as a pest. But when I noticed people were trading fruit puns on tumblr a few years back, joining the game wasn’t so nerve-wracking for me as it might have been otherwise, because puns are inherently ridiculous. Now it’s not so troubling to send those people messages or links to posts they’d like.
Puns also helped me out wren I joined a new club. While everyone was friendly enough, I had a hard time really talking to anyone, and I was starting to seriously egret my decision. They were all such close friends! How could I possibly become a part of that? Then Diana mentioned in passing that “no, this or that should have been a pun,” and James and I took her at her word. We cawed it quits after about fifteen to twenty minutes of nothing but, and now I have a bunch of very good friends I can talk to very easily. Diana’s never brought up something needing to be a pun again (at least in my hearing) oddly enough, but I still have wordplay to thank for really breaking the ice. For me, puns add geese to the social interaction wheels, making a generally difficult thing much easier for me to achieve.
Of course, not everyone is willing to admit to enjoying puns. My friend Dave, for instance, swears up and down that he hates them.
“There are a ton of things I won’t admit,” he said to me once. “Not laughing at puns isn’t one of them.”
“Because you admit now that you do laugh at them?” I asked.
“Then you’re in denial. You should wade out; there are crocodiles in there.”
“In de Nile.”
I’ll sparrow you his reply to that, because it wasn’t polite. Some of our funniest and most entertaining conversations have involved the heavy application of puns, though, and he’s not only somewhat participated in their use, but laughed at jokes that included puns in a more roundabout manner.
Also, he’s friends with me. Obviously he doesn’t really mind them that much.
Since I did bring up tumblr earlier, social media is actually a terrific example of how puns bring people together as well. Whether it’s people complaining about them or pigeon in to extend them, tumblr and Facebook are littered with thousands of posts featuring wordplay. Even better, social media allows for the addition of visual puns as a communication medium, something that it is much harder to achieve in everyday conversation. Posts involving puns are very often some of the most popular on the site as people share them with one another, passing them on to make others smile about them as well. It’s the highlight of my day when posts like that show up on my dash, because not only do I get to laugh, but I get to make everyone who follows me laugh, too. It doesn’t matter that I don’t get to be there with them when it happens – just knowing that it will make someone smile is enough.
Puns, in short, are a bonding experience. It doesn’t matter if you have a talont for them or not, or even if you’re willing to admit that they quack you up: humor is incredibly effective in winging people over. And for those of you who still want to call puns the lowest form of humor? Shakespeare is very highly regarded, both in literary circles and out, and he flocking loved puns.