Once a pun a time, or why you shouldn’t judge me


Samuel Johnson frowning at Shakespeare's puns (courtesy of Wikipedia)


Samuel Johnson called punning the lowest sense of humor. I would take offense but the man is dead, and he wouldn’t care. When he wasn’t speaking ill of puns, Johnson collected words to put in his little dictionary of the English language, frowned through all of Shakespeare’s plays because they are full of puns and then annotated them out of spite, got grouchy and criticized literature (in a scholarly way), and tossed off poems, essays, and biographies before breakfast.


So, yes, we have a lot in common. But, we do not share the same opinion about puns. I think of them as the dark chocolate of humor; good any time of the day, at or between meals, with coffee or wine, with or without nuts, and in all forms.

Well known pharmaceutical company (photo by gabrielsaldana at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabrielsaldana/5704626269/


I know what you’re thinking. No, friend, I am not addicted to chocolate. I use it purely for medicinal purposes. First, chocolate is good for the heart. I have loved chocolate since before I remember, and that’s how long my heart has been beating. If I stop eating chocolate, my heart may stop. I can’t risk that. Second, chocolate is good for the brain. You have only to read this blog to see the effects of lots of dark chocolate on my brain. Impressive, no? (Note: some questions on this blog are for rhetorical purposes only and in no way imply that you need to answer.)


As for the compulsive punning, I have spoken of it once before, and it is a kind of brain disorder called Foerster’s Syndrome that I self-diagnosed years ago. I have been self-diagnosing for years and have experienced multiple medical miracles along with bouts of alliteration in which I have been healed of life-threatening diseases of the nervous system, the digestive system, and for a short time, the bubonic plague, all without any medical intervention whatsoever. My baffled doctors attributed my symptoms to indigestion and the common cold. As if. No doubt there’s a connection between their bafflement and lack of chocolate.


All I’m asking for is a little compassion, friend, if and when I publish a post full of puns, even if it’s tomorrow.

290 thoughts on “Once a pun a time, or why you shouldn’t judge me

  1. I wonder what he would think of Gilbert and Sullivan???? On to chocolate — I just read that it helps prevent breast cancer or maybe it was heart disease (obviously doesn’t help the memory) but in any case, we definitely should keep taking our chocolate prescription! (or is that self-prescription!) On a more serious note, I was able to accurately diagnose a condition I had (ok, it was with the help of my chiropractor who is always looked down upon by the medical profession). When I announced my malady, my doctor said, “oh, yes, it could be that!” Go figure.

    • Dark chocolate provides a myriad of health benefits; I’m surprised more doctors don’t prescribe it.

      I think it’s wonderful that you diagnosed yourself. You know your body better than anyone else, so if you have the information available you may well be able to self-diagnose certain diseases or maladies. In the past, I was misdiagnosed and scheduled for a surgery I did not need. Thankfully, it didn’t happen, but since then I’ve always asked for a second opinion.

      • However, dark chocolate is lethal to dogs for some reason no one will tell me. On the other hand, dogs can enjoy puns safely – while I do not support animal testing, our dogs have been subjected to an insane amount of puns and have suffered no ill effects.
        (that have manifested as of this writing…)

        • Jamie, I never knew that chocolate was poisonous to dogs. I looked online and found this: “Chocolate contains a natural occurring stimulant called theobromine found in the cocoa bean plant Theobroma cocoa, the bean that makes chocolate. Theobromine is the poison as it affects the central nervous system, as well as the heart of the dog, throwing their system into panic which often manifests in the form of epileptic seizures.” It’s from http://www.finedarkchocolate.com/Chocolate_Food/Dogs_Chocolate.asp

          It’s a good thing puns don’t have the same effect. The dog population would be decimated otherwise.

  2. My favorite kind of drug store. I also like Drs. Ben and Jerry. The best stimulate they ever invented was Buzz Buzz. OMG. it was to die for, and yet, they retired it. I bet there is a pun in there somewhere but my brain has been on sleep mode all day.

  3. riatarded

    I think puns are rather witty! Perhaps good old Johnson wasn’t able to use them and could have been jealous?

    That is my theory at least! I look forward to your punny post [That was supposed to be a play on the word funny… but… see now this is the lowest form of humor;)]

  4. Johnson was a twit, a twat. We remember Shakespeare’s puns. Johnson, not so much.

    And for chocolate, give me milky, milky, not dark. Sweet and light. I do not for an instant think that the weight I gained eating Swiss chocolate on a daily basis was a waste. I loved ever single ounce.

    • Johnson was a brilliant man, so I’m puzzled at his disdain toward puns. Maybe he changed his mind eventually.

      I will eat milk chocolate if there is nothing else, but I prefer it almost bitter. I also do not regret eating it; any weight I gained probably came from all those vegetables.

  5. Ha! I have a very similar photo of that Pharmaceutical Shrine myself–it *may* be an indication of my sharing your views on chocolate (particularly, dark) that I felt compelled to take photos of Ghirardelli Square when in a city loaded with things like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and any number of other visual wonders.

    I think it’s safe to say that the respectable scientific study on the subject [your experience + my experience = inarguable Truth] does prove that despite all of its miraculous health attributes chocolate is not viable as a cure for punning. But where would be the pun in that?

    Johnson probably suffered from hemorrhoids or dental caries or an infestation of weasels (sounds like the title of a Ruth Rendell novel), else he couldn’t possibly have taken such a cantankerous stance on puns.

    • I must say I love your mathematical formula for inarguable truth, and it definitely proves something. But I’m wondering if punning needs to be cured. Shouldn’t it encouraged and be part of the curriculum?

      It’s interesting that you brought up weasels. I once self-diagnosed a case of infestation of weasels (or squirrels) in my hips. The doctor called it cellulite, but I’m still not convinced.

      • Clearly cellulite is caused by squirrels digging for all those nuts buried in the chocolate… which nature stores on your hips for a lean time… Weasels on the other leg leave those ugly purple tracks as they tunnel after the squirrels, so no doubt you had both! You get the point, Shirley.

  6. I too suffer from a terminal case of punning, further aggravated by an uncontrollable desire for alliteration. My post today was a shameful exhibition of this weakness and for that, I apologize to no one. Having pun is what it’s all about.

  7. I am also a fan of the vile pun. I look forward to the annual Bulwer-Lytton writing contest each year and the puns are right there at the top of my list. One of my favorites?

    Eyeing the towering stacks of food colouring that formed the secret to his billion-dollar batik textile empire, grumpy Old Man Griffington was forced to admit that dye mounds are a churl’s best friend.~Janine Beacham

  8. I love the pun in the post’s title. Sadly I have never been good at punning but I enjoy reading other’s puns. What did Samuel Johnson know? Okay, a lot. From a fellow user of chocolate-for-medicinal-purposes. 😉

  9. I clicked on your blog in eager anticipation of reading some puns. I am somewhat punny myself and would have loved to see what you have. So now I anxiously await your pun blog. Oh, I hate dark chocolate but if it makes me a pun guy, then I’m in.

  10. Oh, congrats on being Freshly Pressed – I am pretty sure you are correct, Mr. Johnson must have had a chocolate deficiency. In addition to chocolate I also ensure that I have an adequate supply of vitamin C, supplied via margaritas. To our health….

  11. Mad Queen Linda

    Low brow humor is the new high brow humor. You’d think a fat guy in a curly wig would understand the true value of a well-placed pun. Chocolate, straight up and unadulterated.

  12. A pun is nice – once in a while. However, chronic punners are annoying because they are not related to the other person, they are simply scanning either the environment or other people’s words for puns. They are not listening to anyone, actually, they are simply engaged in using the other person as an object to provide a resource for their narcissistic need to continually prove themselves clever. Bore. Kind of like people who have to constantly comment on other people’s comments, always needing to have the last word.

  13. Puns are as intrinsic to the english language as gin is to tonic. Great post and completely agree, minus the dark chocolate analogy, which I’ve since replaced with the gin. Still, at least we’re on the same page.

  14. The current (Jan 9 & 16 combined issue) Newsweek cover story about intelligence lists 31 ways to become smarter, one of which is: eat dark chocolate, which I prefer.

    As for Samuel Johnson, I chose one of his quotes to appear with my high school senior year yearbook photo: “Every man is, or hopes to be, an idler.”

  15. Of course chocolate is good for healthful reasons, in my house if I didn’t have my little chocolate stash (expensive and gourmet) I would hurt someone, those closest to me would be at the greatest risk. So there you are, my family is healthy because of my chocolate consumption and my mental state remains stable.

  16. closspimentinha

    “If I stop eating chocolate, my heart may stop. I can’t risk that”. Really good, fun text!
    And, by the way, I do self-diagnostic too!

  17. I must say, I enjoy a good pun as well. To be quite honest, sometimes it takes being clever to have a true good pun. There are quite a few that are worn out, but good none-the less. ^.^

  18. There’s a reason J.K. Rowling made chocolate a powerful antidote to Dementors — it really is a powerful thing. This was a delightful post! I’m so glad I stumbled across you, and I’m looking forward to keeping up with you.

    — And on the subject of puns: my best friends and I have always bonded over wordplay. I remember a lot of math classes leavened by one pal’s refrain, “Well, there’s antiderivatives, and there’s uncle derivatives…”

  19. I come from a “punny” family and have lots of bright, “punny” friends. Scripture tells us a merry heart does good, like a medicine so I make sure to get my daily dose.

    The same goes for dark chocolate. I can’t let a day go by without a bite or two of dark chocolate. I find it so much more satisfying than milk chocolate, and white chocolate isn’t chocolate at all….

    I look forward to reading more!

  20. heisworthlove

    I totally agree with you that puns are good at any time of the day. My wife thinks otherwise however. She told me that a pun in the morning is like a slap in the face. It’s not my fault that she considers my sense of humor to be pun-ishment. 🙂

  21. You know, when I was growing up, people used to not like my puns very much either. It used to bother me, but then I realized that the ability to make puns is a sign of intelligence, and that the only people that hate on punny people are those who just are not quick or smart enough to make their own. I hope you write that post of puns, because I will read it and love every second of it. Thanks for the great post!

  22. There is a book about puns called “The Pun Also Rises” that may interest you (if youve not already read it). I pointed it out to the guy who runs my writing group, who is the biggest pun fanatic that I know, and he immediately bought and, as far as I know, has been torturing his finance with it ever since. Come to think of it, he may have Foerster’s Syndrom.

    Its nice to know Im not the only modern day victim of bubonic plague. I come down with it at least once a year, spontaneously recovering due to my iron clad immune system.

  23. Puns, like chocolate, are a staple of life. Mrs Dim has resigned herself to the fact that, since she shares her house with a panto-writer, she’s gotta put up with the puns. I once tried ten puns in a row to see if any would make her laugh, but no pun in ten did….

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  24. I think an appreciation of puns is what separates good people and bad people. Case in point: Groucho Marx…tons of puns…great individual. Kim Jong Il? Never once heard him use a pun…he was evil. I think that illustrates my point well.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Yay puns!

  25. Now that I think about it, I must have married the King of Pun! He makes my head spin with every word out of his mouth, its as though I can never tell what he really means. Ick.

    ….and on chocolate, I now wonder WHY I have never been one to like it.
    I do not crave it, NEVER reach for it, and gobble wasted calories of anything else instead. Toffee jumped up and crushed it like a little bug.

    HMMMmmmm. I consider this a blessing, yes, I do!

    Don’t like chocolate, don’t like the way Hubby converses, what is wrong with me?!?!??!?!?

    • Look at it this way: by not eating chocolate, you leave more for the those who love it. And by marrying the King of Pun, you saved some other woman from having to endure that. 🙂 You are a kind, kind woman.

  26. I have a very, very technical question.
    Is it a) good, b) necessary or c) evil to write “(pun intended)” in brackets after a pun. As in this:
    “The darned clothes (pun intended) are strangling me.”

    I think I know what SJ would say.. but no, I want your opinion.
    thanks for your help and the good laugh and all. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed 😉

  27. Not glad he (Samuel) is dead but glad you are not, great entertaining mind! On that note, I say thank you for the fun read.
    Sign me,
    Just another nut who fell too far from the tree in some uninformed opinion or other lol

  28. pun – noun
    the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.

    lol – Almost every sentence out of mouth is as per the above.
    How To Be A DJ

  29. Dr. Griffin Gaddie, Ph. D.

    Check out my PhD dissertation, on puns: “Homophony and Paronomasia in America: On the Validity of Puns. Dissertation Abstacts 1989.

    Puns use words that sound or look similar, but that seem superficially to be unrelated in meaning. However? My dissertation holds that in fact, most “different” words that look or sound similar, are actually … related in unexpected ways. In their deeper, root meaning.

    It’s time to take puns seriously!

  30. fireandair

    I remember a woman I knew who was merciless with puns. I nailed her once with a rapid-fire slinging of four bread-related ones in a row, but she was deaf, so she could always fire off a few then turn off her hearing aids so you couldn’t retaliate. Not fair!

  31. BRING ON THE PUNS!!!! I love them, the worse they are the better if I might say so. Best card I ever gave my husband was a Star Wars one that said “Yoda one for me” – terrible, I know but that’s what I love! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.:)

  32. My daddy loves puns too. My mommy probably thinks of it as punishment. Maybe that’s why she punches him. No, she doesn’t do that. But I do agree that puns are great and full of fun if you can bear it.

    ~Flurry the Bear

  33. Puns and chocolate – who could ask for more? I read an excellent article a number of years ago that said eating chocolate while pregnant makes for happier babies. Although I am past the pregnancy part, I think it still stands that eating chocolate makes for happier people. Thanks for your post!

  34. Personally, I go for chocolate pretzel M&Ms. But I must confess….occasionally I go over to the dark side and enjoy the delights of Toblerone, Lindt and Hershey. As for puns, you rank up there with my hero, Ogden Nash! 😉

  35. Loved your post. I too am a bit of a punster. Year ago, I wrote a musical for children. It was called: Doctor Euphonious and the Dulcet Tones Present: You Can Tune a Piano But you Can’t Tuna Fish: An Opera for Big and Small Fry.

  36. I think if I had the money I would pay my state’s main newspaper’s editor to do one edition, just one whole edition, without a single pun in article titles. Just once!

  37. Lovely, lovely Yearstricken! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! You are worth this honor and so much more.

    And in honor of this expected and momentous occasion, I give you this quote, from “30 Rock,” as rendered by character Tracy Jordan:

    “I’m not going to say ‘I told you so,” so… Welcome to Miami!”


  38. “Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them.” Edgar Allan Poe
    Our bovine friends are master punsters, of course, as they are able to udder them most of all.

  39. My favourite type of pun is always attached to a shop of some kind. I think the best are hairdressers and fast food establishments.

    Best hair dressers: Hairway to heaven
    Best fast food: Abra kebabra

    A day without puns and sarcasm? Blog off!

  40. Though mad Almanzor rhymed in Dryden’s days,
    No sing-song Hero rants in modern plays;
    Whilst modest Comedy her verse foregoes
    For jest and pun in very middling prose.


  41. Yearstruck, you have somehow managed to incorporate three very different topics–dark chocolate, self-diagnosis and puns–into one post. And…the post even made sense.

    Wow. I bow to you. Brilliant!

    BTW, dark chocolate and puns are two of my favorite things, too. Pun on!

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