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What’s a Pun? (Meaning, with Examples)

What's a pun?

Last updated on February 14th, 2024 at 05:40 am



What’s a pun, exactly?


If you’re with someone that doesn’t appreciation your food jokes, you need to let that mango.

What do you call a broken pencil? Pointless.

German sausage jokes are just the Wurst.



Notice anything in common with the jokes above? Most likely, you can infer from the article’s title that these are all examples of puns, which are a figure of speech that uses a play on words with multiple meanings; i.e., homophones.

Meaning of pun plus examples.



Puns are “jokes that exploit the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings”. If the above explanation leaves you confused, what’s below should clarify all things on this punny part of speech, the inimitable pun.



Meaning of pun

A Conceit arising from the use of two Words that agree in the Sound, but differ in the Sense“. – Addison

An expression in which the use of a word in two different applications, or the use of two different words pronounced alike or nearly alike, presents an odd or ludicrous idea“. – Century Dictionary



Though the writing is somewhat antiquated, the first quote above nicely explains what puns are, “A conceit”, (just means confusion), that arises from words that agree in sound (or sound the same). You’ll often hear terms like “wordplay”, “double entendre”, and “pun” associated. Broadly speaking, they all depict a confusion that comes from the misinterpretation of words that have multiple definitions or uses. Clarifying the term ‘homophone‘ is especially useful here. Merriam-Webster defines homophones as:

“One of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (such as the words to, too, and two)”.



Put more simply, homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings, and can be spelled differently. These words are some of the most frequently confused in English, and greatly contribute to the language’s reputation for being overly complicated.

The term homophone comes from the Greek words, “homo“, meaning “same“, and “phone”, which directly translates to “sound“. You don’t need to be a mathematician to put two and two together to get, “same sound“.



How puns work

Puns are usually a kind of joke, but not all of the time. To understand the mechanics of a pun, the best way is to see one in use. Take a look at the following pun (which is a personal fave)

There isn’t much left to make a salad; only the lettuce Romaine’s.



The pun here is that the words “lettuce Romaine‘s'” sounds like “lettuce remains“, but Romaine is also a kind of lettuce, which makes it a double entendre (play on words). The pun works for two reasons:

  1. The context agrees with the meaning of both senses of the word.
  2. The writer intends for the confusion of the a word’s various meanings/associations.Remember, puns aim to confuse listeners or readers, and they force them to stop for a moment and think twice.



Examples of puns

  1. How does Moses make coffee? Hebrews it.
  2. I bought a boat because it was for sail.
  3. How did the picture end up in jail? It was framed!
  4. What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo? One is really heavy and the other is a little lighter!
  5. I just found out that I’m color blind. The news came completely out of the green!
  6. Why didn’t the cat go to the vet? He was feline fine!
  7. What should a lawyer always wear to a court? A good lawsuit!
  8. The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense!
  9. What do you call a girl with one leg that’s shorter than the other? Ilene.
  10. What did the buffalo say to his son? Bison.



Words similar to pun (synonyms)

  • wordplay
  • play on words
  • double entendre
  • quip
  • joke
  • double meaning
  • calembour



Sources

  1. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of homophone.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/homophone. Accessed 4 December, 2023.
  2. “Homophone.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homophone. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

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