Once A Pun A Time
This post is thanks to
“The Marketing Minute”
by Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Expert and Mentor
Earlier this month, the Chinese government banned puns in its country’s ads and news. Apparently puns had been making
the rounds that were either subtly insulting to Chinese high
officials or politically inflammatory.
In English, puns are more likely to come across with a
playful wink. Often they signal to an in-group that gets the double meaning that a product or establishment is meant for them.
For instance, The Merchant of Tennis, the name of a tennis
shop in Toronto, falls flat if one doesn’t know the similar-sounding title of one of Shakespeare’s comedies. The same
goes for a used bookstore in Seattle called Twice Sold
Tales, a pun on a title of stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
While puns are often derided as “the lowest form of wit,” they actually make complex demands on our brains, which
have to simultaneously grasp two meanings of an ambiguous
word or phrase and convey the unexpected juxtaposition so
we either smile or groan.
The New York Times advises its own writers: “The successful
pun pivots on a word that fits effortlessly into two
contexts. [But] when no song bursts forth, start