html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I'm already dreading your comments.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm already dreading your comments.

I was hanging out with a friend on Saturday who is an inveterate punner. I have a couple friends like that, who pun all the time. They clearly love it; on Saturday, he told me that wordplay is one of his true oral pleasures. Since they are otherwise good people, I’m reluctant to say this so plainly. But? I hate puns. Hate them. Puns, I decided on the train ride home, impose work on the listener.

You and your buddy are chatting along, exchanging information, when the punner disrupts the flow of conversation by throwing out a pun. The listener must then figure out the pun, make a response, and if she was interested before, direct the conversation back to the topic. I don’t want to do any of those things. I just wanted to be chatting, especially if I was thinking about what we were saying. Since I don’t want my friends to pun around me, I try not to reward that behavior. No grimace, no reaction, just a return to the conversation. Then they prompt me!! As if I didn’t get it! I got your pun; I’m trying to graciously overlook it, which is also work.

People are clearly of different minds about puns. One of my punning friends insists that the ladies flock and giggle when he puns. Fie on my sisters for encouraging him! I suppose punners think they are being playful, inviting the listener to joke along with the pun. I sincerely hope for them that they find others who enjoy that, and pun right back at them. When they get to that part of the conversation, I’ll suddenly have to leave the table to check on dessert. Perhaps with their mouths full of cookies, the punning will stop.

37 Comments:

Anonymous rob M said...

"he who would pun would pick a pocket" - Dr. Stephen Maturin (aka Paul Bettany)

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, which one? It wasn't me was it? I might do that sometimes, I'm not sure. What I do like to do is act stupid and see how much I can get away with.

Justin

3:45 PM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

Hahahaha! Yes. Puns are so painful.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Wasn't you, Justin. Hey, y'all! Justin is way handsome, just like you thought.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pun is the lowest form of humor, as some have said.

I didn't know that other people have insistent punny friends. -K.

4:24 PM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

I used to be acquainted with an aspiring stand-up comic. I refused to laugh at his jokes on principle, even if they were funny. I started feeling like everyone else was just hanging out with friends but he was testing out material. It made me crazy. Like if I laughed he was going to be all "oh, shoot. okay, that was funny. writing it down on an index card ... Now where were we? Talking about beer?"

Lots of things that make the ladies flock and giggle secretly also make you totally irritating to be around. If you are always putting on the show, how deeply are you going to engage with the people around you?

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but you say that about all your readers.

And, aspiring stand up comedians need to test out material. That seems like a really hard job. Trying to get a reaction out of an audience all over the place. It's hard to be funny.

Justin

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

No fun intended.

;-P

5:01 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

Reminds me of the Billy Joel song:
"Don't want clever conversa-a-a-tion,
Never want to work that hard"

I feel the same way, and know somebody (Doug) who is an extreme example. He irritates me exactly as you described.

Even MORE irritating is when I do it myself, and somebody says "That was a complete Doug comment!"

Yes, I am occasionally guilty of it myself - but I try not to do it in public, and I always wash my hands afterwards.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Yeah,i think puns, like innuendo, are something only girls like. And useful in similar situations.

I think everyone who is socializing is always putting on a show, even if they don't realize it.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Joke explanation or checking to see if people 'got it' has no excuse though.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A month ago, I had a photo in the local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, and so I went to the magazine store to get extra copies for posterity.

I put a couple of editions on the counter, and the clerk asked if I was sure I wanted two copies.

I pondered: "Two Bees, or not two Bees? That is the question."


He appreciated the pun, but it made my week.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Maybe girls like puns (if that's even true, seems dubious to me) because puns remind them of their Dads.

Additionally, I had this realization that the only puns that are really funny are the rare ones that are unrehearsed and come out by accident. If you accidentally make a pun, and it happens to be funny, then everybody laughs and only then do you realize you made a pun! Wish I could think of an example, I heard this happen recently and it was funny.

Otherwise, committing puns should be left to the Dads of the world...

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

A while ago some people at work were talking about Mr. Methane, who apparently can push air through his anal sphincter and control the pitch of the resulting noises. I think the William Tell Overture was mentioned as one of the works that he had recorded.

Anyway, one person suggested that he should patent his technique, but another replied that there was someone else who was (in)famous for having done the same thing a long time ago, so Mr. Methane couldn't get a patent.

"Prior fart," I replied.

Nobody laughed. I did get one sympathy chuckle, though.

Am I alone in thinking that there's such a thing as a good pun? Aggressive punners probably don't think of puns as something that can be done well, or else they'd be more embarrassed. Occasionally, though, the situation really does merit a pun. When you get handed an improbable setup like the one above, it seems like a shame to waste it.

I had a teacher in high school who was always making the most atrocious puns. One day when I was close to graduating I asked him why he did it, and he said that it was to make him less intimidating to the students. We all thought he was a total dork, so I suppose in a sense his strategy was successful.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a second, this is one of those "No means yes" things right? You can't seriously be telling me girls don't like puns??! Doomed!

I was in a philosophy class one time, and we were talking about Natural Religion, when I giggled as the prof mentioned the book was published post-humously. Post-Hume'ous. The professor broke character, and spat out a string of puns, and then thundered "YOU HAVE NO IDEA! NO IDEA!" like I hadn't lived through the horror that is a philosophy conference.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

The girls who don't like puns, really do not like puns. I can't speak for the rest of them. I wouldn't have believed there were any women who liked puns, except that my friend swore it got him in panties. It is a big world and anything is possible, I suppose.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous eb said...

Good wordplay has to have something to build towards, a sense of group exhilaration and abandon. I want everyone giddy enough that they will do something outrageous just for the pun. People should be cheering, chanting or howling at the moon. It takes a lot of work to get people to that state.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

That was very funny, and I laughed for while. I'm also slightly glaring at you (or at least, towards the east because I assume you are east of me) for making fun of me so well.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

I can get into panties even without puns. I look pretty silly that way, though.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Oh, come on. You didn't laugh when that Torts case about the plant that sold bull sperm was introduced as "a seminal case?" Or when the syllabus for Sexual Discrimination Law promised to provide "a broad sweep" of the topic?

10:38 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Spungen:
Oh honey, we've done so well so far. No. I didn't laugh. Law school puns might be even worse than the rest of them.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous YK said...

I had a friend in college who would pun incessantly. I think he did it mainly to show off his mental agility, and not because he thought girls or anyone else actually liked it. He was very successful (excellent grades, winning awards right and left), and punning was just his way of reminding you, "Hey, I'm smart and going places. Stick with me or get left behind!" Most people, including me, tried to stick with him.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't find that type of humor punny? I mean funny?

12:25 AM  
Blogger Lo said...

IF a guy makes a pun and it feels like he's only doing it to be (or seem) clever, or it feels like he's trying too hard to get me to laugh, I'll act like he never said anything at all (even if deep down, I did think it was kind of funny-- like you said, Megan, no rewarding bad behavior).

That being said... I appreciate cleverness and wordplay (it may be the Dad thing! my father looooves wordplay), but for me, the optimal pun situation is: we're having a conversation, something witty strikes him, he says it out loud because HE thinks it's funny, I have the option of picking up on it/responding or ignoring it, in which case we seamlessly return to the original topic.

Puns should be more like parenthetical asides.

But then, I'm majorly big on language and all its nuances, so maybe I am the minority here.

2:08 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

Puns don't bother me when they are purely cute and optional...but much of the time they are a dominance game, and I don't care to play dominance games with guys.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous The punster in question said...

It was not a dominance game, trust me. I know Megan can kick my ass . I'm also pretty sure I didn't say "Get it" or any such thing, but perhaps I did.

[See, I responded straight up, without any wordplay]

11:38 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Very proud of you. No, you didn't say "get it?". And you are far more distinguished than Justin.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love puns except when they're forced.
And I LOVE punny jokes, there's nothing better! I have a large collection of them. :)
-Mel

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Far more distinguished than me? I don't know about that. But, I am almost positive I could take Megan in a fight. Maybe next time.

Justin

12:47 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Mel:
I love your jokes and how you tell them. AND, I have two new muscle lines for you!!! I can't wait to see you.

Justin:
Bring it. And a friend to carry you home.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous B said...

Punning is part of the training for new diplomats. They need to be able to say one thing but mean another.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think everyone who is socializing is always putting on a show, even if they don't realize it."

I don't know your definition opf socializing, but I hope you aren't always putting on a show. True friendships and relationships with people should not require a show. But many puns are not part of putting on a show either -- they are just funny, maybe meant to entertain or maybe just what occurred to somebody, but not a show. Its horrifically annoying when someone is putting on a show though, especially when they pepper it with puns.

6:52 PM  
Blogger susan said...

I for one can appreciate a well-placed pun, which is probably a good thing, since I happen to have married someone whose punning tendencies can occasionally be somewhat on the high side. I can certainly agree, however, that a poorly executed pun can be just as off-putting as a well made one can be amusing and even endearing. It's all in the delivery and the context, methinks.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I only like puns if they are subtle and intellectual. People who speak such puns do not seek recognition: they put the puns into play and leave them as they are. No explanation or recognition required. If you get it, you are in the "upper class" of wordplay, but you also realize the unspoken rules of the game: silence, perhaps a faint smile and an appropriate rejoinder, nothing more than that.

I've a friend who makes puns that are neither subtle nor intellectual, and it hurts, I tell you. Hurts.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous mcmc said...

I've known one or two people whose compulsion to pun was practically a mental illness. It didn't matter how serious the conversation was, they'd interrupt it with some stupid pun and then look at you like you were supposed to give them a cookie, when what you really wanted to do was jump across the table and choke them. I hate puns.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

I cannot help the pun if it comes to my head, it's a sickness with it's nasty claw gripping my brain.

Immediately after any pun comes out though, I immediately feel bashful and will groan at myself for being such a jackass.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Puns are ok most of the time. On the other hand, I've never heard a simile I didn't like.

/seriously, I don't understand the point of being snooty when someone puns. Would you rather we interrupt the conversation with knock-knock jokes all the time?

7:37 PM  

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