aseop & son 3

To Pun Or Not To Pun

Is that a question?

Regarding The Pun

A pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words for an intended humorous effect. It has been in use in the English language since William Shakespeare’s day. The word pun is thought to be a contraction of the now archaic pundigrion which originated from punctilious which in turn was derived from the Italian puntiglio, diminutive of punto “point” from the Latin punctus past participle of pungere, “to prick”.

Although the Oxford English Dictionary first listed the usage of paronomasia in 1579, humans have been punning far earlier than that. Puns can be found in Egyptian hieroglyphic writings ( 3200 BC to 400 AD.) According to Egyptologist Geraldine Pinch, “Many Egyptian words which looked different when written in  hieroglyphics sound the same when pronounced. This was thought of as a meaningful connection rather than as mere coincidence. Much myth-making arises from puns, such as the story that men (remtj) came from tears (remtj) of the sun god.”

The art of the pun is often maligned, but it has had its share of aficionados. Many famous writers did their share of punning. William Shakespeare wrote puns and so did Lewis Carroll.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote of pun-envy, “Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are least able to utter them.” Indeed.  James Boswell, who wrote a biography of lexicographer Samuel Johnson, who by the way was not a fan of puns, suggested, “A good pun may be admitted among the small excellencies of lively conversation.”

Sci-Fi writers too have taken a turn at jotting down a puns on paper or placing them within their stories. Isaac Asimov was found of pun word play and Piers Anthony’s works are filled with humorous puns.

And so the pun lives on today. Enlivened on televisions Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Jay Ward delivered puns through his Aesop & Son characters.

Now here’s a set-up for a pun using Ward’s Aesop & Son as a vehicle.

“Gee pops, it’s almost lunchtime…”


“Ah, yes…So it is. The noonday sun is at its zenith signaling the time for a luncheon repast…”


“Well, if you say so… I could really go for some Chinese…”


“Funny you should mention that son. It brings to mind a very interesting story regarding the far east…”


“Aw pops, do you really have to…. I’m hungry.”


“It’s not a long pun by any means, son and we’ll order some carry out from the menu
whilst I put a spin on a few words…”


“Okay… If you must.”


” Ah hem.. It seems that not too long ago when the Great Kahn was making his westward move he appointed a brilliant
Chinese military tactician named Tso to take the point in his drive toward Rome.
Moving along the Silk Road Tso met little opposition and had an easy time of it. The Kahn was so pleased at
Tso’s progress that he ordered a double time march.
Tso so ordered his troops lickedy-split
into Macedonia.”


“Is our lunch ready yet?”


“Hold fast there son, this will be over in a quick few paragraphs… As I was saying Tso’s guys were hardly battle hardened
because of the easy pickings so they were take by surprise at the resistance offered
by a small garrison of fifty Roman Legionaries stationed on the outskirts of Macedonia.
No matter what manner of tactic Tso thought to use the wily Legionaries thwarted his advance.


Finally Tso decided on an all out assault on the little band of Romans.
But just as he began his move a full company of replacements arrived to back up the garrison’s fifty Legionnaires.
Terrified by the full complement of Legionnaires Tso turned tail and made a run for cover.
He fled the battlefield and never returned.”


“So our guys won the day.. huh?”


“Um, yes indeedy. When news of this action reached the Kahn, he was furious.
He sacked Tso and the humiliated General died in disgrace.”


“Bummer for Tso… huh pops?”


“Uh huh… But no matter, Tso was immortalized for his actions on that day.”


“Gee pops I’ve never heard of him”


“Sure you have son. His action is recorded on every Chinese menu around the known world.”


“You don’t mean….”


“Yup…General Tso’s Chicken!”

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