There’s never a bad time to inflict pun on people. All language is a kind of play on words, the meanings taken from the stage they are set on. Tying it all to some greater sense of the worldly is a gag about what happens when we’re not gagged, or how we express rather than exasperate. The problem is that most people take their lives so serially that they don’t get it. A good punster has to risk looking more and more the moron. If the joke’s on the language, the language is all a joke, it seems, and that can cause a lot of being cross to bear.
Bear with me on this, will you?
Playing with language starts with being in love with language to the point where you have your own inside jokes with it. Getting out of the box on language means understanding that it didn’t come from a box, shiny and new, but evolved from strange bits and pieces that no one really understands anymore. What does it mean to be “head over heels” in love – wouldn’t the opposite be more of a problem, unless you’re really into it? Why is “oversee” the near opposite of “overlook”? If you “wait” around too much, don’t you gain “weight”?
I have many of my own favorites that make it nearly impossible to be around me for long periods of time. I find that the best gags from situations where it’s impossible to take something wrong but, like a visitor from a distant land I do. Street signs are the best, because outside of a Toaist admonition who can mistake the meaning of “One Way”? Others are more subtle, such as wondering if “End Construction” is a warning sign or a political call. When I come to a “Stop – 4 Way” I can’t help but note that I only know of one way to stop. Of course, I only get to use these jokes on daze that I am carful.
The jokes that I’m trying to teach my kids are the ones that include the word’s origin. For example, every Thanksgiving inevitably brings up disdain for “Roundheads”, followed by the admonishment, “That’s a rather cavalier attitude”. Or is that an admonition? I ever can tell the difference.
There are some strange things in the English language that I can’t help but make fun of. If you have two budgies, do you have a pair o’ parakeets? What if they are young and not fully trained as parakeets yet, are they are pair o’ para-parakeets? When a sign says, “Today’s Special”, does that mean tomorrow’s gonna suck?
The context of language is the context of life. It’s often hard to understand what someone really means without knowing just where they are coming from. However, if you place them in a greater linguistic context, perhaps that’s the greater context that they are coming from. Often, reading into someone’s language is reading into them, even if the words aren’t printed. A richer context is pro-text, so there’s plenty to read if you know how to read it. Is it really fair to twist words around so that they mean something different? It’s more than fair, I’d say – if you do it right, it’s excellent.
This may all seem like nonsense, but it’s what I do for fun all the time. The sense in nonsense is that English is a language you can take as badly as you want. Good, clear writing starts with knowing all these jokes – and then avoiding them. So there is a good time to avoid inflicting pun on people – but it’s not exactly a good time.
While it takes a clear head to be perfectly clear, I still like to muddy things up wrestling with the language from the muck – English. It’s the best way to know what kind of moves it’s got, after all.
I see no reason why you can’t leave your fave puns in the comments – in fact, reason and are are so far apart I hardly ever see it.