Homer’s “The Odyssey” written 2,800 years ago: “Odysseus tells the Cyclops that his real name is “nobody.”
“When Odysseus instructs his men to attack the Cyclops, the Cyclops shouts: “Help, nobody is attacking me!”
“No one comes to help.”
This ancient joke probably didn’t make you laugh, but it has something interesting going for it.
It’s a homographic pun!
There are many types of pun, but most of them fall under one of these four categories. Let’s have a look inside!
Homophonic; Words that sound similar but have different meanings. These will get people to hate you.
“Yesterday, I accidentally swallowed some food colouring. The doctor says I’m OK, but I feel like I’ve dyed a little inside.”
Homographic; A word that has two different meanings or two different words that have the same spelling. These are smart and fun to research.
“I used to be a banker, but I lost interest.”
Figurative language; An expression that creates humorous double meanings. These are smart and super creative!
“I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.”
Visual pun; A pun through imagery, graphics, or logos.
This article is full of them*!
So, there are words. These are the ways you can play with them. Now, why should you come up with some puns?
Well, for a start, you can just…
British writer, Gyles Brandreth, estimated that the average person speaks 860,341,500 words in a lifetime!
You don’t need to think of any puns when people will give them to you unintentionally!
Our languages and our inability to convey our thoughts clearly will do the trick. Just listen to your fellow human beings while they are talking instead of thinking a smart response.
If you keep an open mind to the words they are using, it’s a matter of time before funny double meanings and words that sounded the same will start jumping out of nowhere.
You can then leave them to pass next to you, or you can…
3. Give them life
A joke is a living organism. It feeds from context and right timing. The puns we used as examples in the beginning didn’t make you laugh that much, because they are starving in a text like this.
Creating a pun is a personal experience. This is where listening to other people is not enough, and the fun part begins!
Combine the interesting words you heard with some funny situations. Use the misunderstanding that happened earlier as a punchline in another joke. See how many more puns you can create from a pun you heard during the day. Write them down and start to blend them together.
With the right context, a single thing you mishear in the morning can become a fully-fledged joke that will travel the internet during the night. With the right exercise, this will become…
4. A new way of thinking about your world
E.B White said that “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process.”.
This is true, but maybe the frog has to go, in order to give birth to countless more jokes. When people see behind the scenes of a funny thing and experiment with it, they discover that this was just a fraction of the possibilities. They discover that our whole world can be even funnier!
Puns are the perfect example of this.
Language is something so fundamental for our society, built on rules that have barely changed for thousands of years. And yet, it’s so imperfect and funny that we have been mining jokes out of it for thousands of years, and we still haven’t experienced a shortage.
Our world may be profoundly flawed, but it’s also genuinely hilarious, and we shouldn’t be afraid to analyse why.
Let’s embrace it and think of a stupid homophonic pun, to make everybody hate us.
*Contest Alert: Did you get all the visual puns of this article? Write them down in a comment below and we will create a new custom visual pun, just for you!