Published on June 16, 2007
AMBIGUITY & PUNSsee also “Jokes” and “Language Play”: AMBIGUITY andamp; PUNS see also 'Jokes' and 'Language Play' by Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L. F. Nilsen A NO. 1: A NO. 1 Two graduates of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, started a pizza shop that they named A No. 1. This was 'Iona' spelled packwards. The college sued on the grounds of 'a misuse of the Iona identity.' The judge sided with the graduates, saying, 'At best, the similarities that do exist can be interpreted as a satirical play on familiar symbolism.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 190) THE AMBIGUITY PARADOX: THE AMBIGUITY PARADOX 'Everything is ambiguous, as long as it is taken by itself, while nothing is strictly ambiguous if we look at it top-down, placing it in its proper, cognitive environment.' (Mey 86, Sperber and Wilson 205) AMBIGUITY: AMBIGUITY Flying planes can be dangerous. The missionaries are ready to eat. Jacob Mey says, 'In real life, there is no such thing as ambiguity—excepting certain, rather special occasions, on which one tries to deceive one’s partner, or `keep the door open.’' (Mey 12) DEFINITION OF “PUN”: DEFINITION OF 'PUN' The English meaning of pun, which comes from the Italian word puntiglio meaning 'fine point,' is the humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 238) WHAT SAMUEL JOHNSON SAID ABOUT PUNS: WHAT SAMUEL JOHNSON SAID ABOUT PUNS 'People that make puns are like wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad tracks…. They amuse themselves and the other children, but their little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered witticism.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 238) Slide7: In spite of this criticism, Johnson’s poetry contains many puns, just as Shakespeare’s does. The best puns are those that fit so well into a conversation that they increase the level of understanding for those who catch on without interrupting the conversation’s flow for those who miss the point. For example in Romeo and Juliet, when Mercutio is bleeding to death he says, 'Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.' It was at this 'point' that Romeo and Juliet changed from a comedy into a tragedy, because now the mercurial and comic Mercutio was dead. MARKETING TIME MAGAZINE: MARKETING TIME MAGAZINE Time flies (1924) Time marches on! (1932) Time to get the facts (1932) Time it’s brief (1938) It’s Time (1944) Time---to get it straight (1951) A man hardly ever has Time all for himself (1954) This is the time to start reading Time (1960) Make time for Time (1989) Understanding comes with Time (1994) (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 238) JOHNNY CARSON AS KARNAK THE MAGNIFICENT: JOHNNY CARSON AS KARNAK THE MAGNIFICENT On his Tonight Show routine as Karnak the Magnificent, Johnny Carson was given the answers to which he would provide the questions, which often relied on puns. The answer is Catch-22 The question is, 'What would the Los Angeles Dodgers do if they were hit 100 pop flies?' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 238) BOAT NAMES: BOAT NAMES Nauti By Nature Ahoy-Vey Pier Pressure Berth Control Harvey Wharfbanger (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 238) PUBLIC CUTESPEAK: PUBLIC CUTESPEAK Mustard’s Last Stand (a hot dog restaurant) The Wizard of Ooze (a septic tank cleaner) Currier and Chives (a catering service) Wreck-Amended (an auto body shop) Curl Up and Dye (a beauty shop) Author Dennis Baron likens such names as these to 'overripe camembert.' He calls them 'public cutespeak' and conjectures that enjoying these names has to be 'an acquired taste.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 238) PUNS THAT WORK: PUNS THAT WORK The Ford V-8 was a car with a V-shaped block and 8 cylinders. V8 Vegitable juice reappropriated the term. Arby’s (from 'R.B.' the initials of Roast Beef) CULTURAL AMBIGUITY: CULTURAL AMBIGUITY In 1960, when Jack Paar told a mildly risque story about a WC, the network censored him, causing him to walk off his show for a week. The story was about a Swiss schoolmaster who misunderstood a British woman’s request for information about the 'W.C.' The school master thought the woman was asking about the 'Wayside Chapel,' but was instead asking about the 'Water Closet' (British for toilet). Slide14: The schoolmaster wrote, 'The W.C. is situated nine miles from the house. It is capable of holding 229 people and is open on Sunday and Thursday only. I would suggest that you come early, although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. A good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C., and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were 10 people to a seat usually occupied by one.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 25) LEXICAL AMBIGUITY: LEXICAL AMBIGUITY On a Garbage Truck: 'Our business is picking up.' Ad for Cheese: 'Cheese can make you a hero this weekend.' On a Drapery Shop: 'After 35 years, we’ve finally got the hang of it.' Optometrist’s Sign: 'There’s more to a vision examination than meets the eye.' Ad for Asperin: 'We go to a lot of pains.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 25) SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY: SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY A man goes into a restaurant draggng a 10-foot alligator. He manages to get the alligator stuffed under a table. When the waitress approaches, he asks her if they serve senior citizens here. 'Of course,' she says. 'Good,' he answers. 'Give my alligator a senior citizen, and I’ll have a cheeseburger.' MORE SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY: MORE SYNTACTIC AMBIGUITY Stan Kenton wrote a song entitled, 'Celery Stalks at midnight.' Charles Ulrich wrote a riddle: 'Q: Do you know what good clean fun is? A: No. What good is it?' In the Frank and Ernest comic strip, Frank says to a real estate agent, 'Sure, we’d like to see a model home. What time does she get off work?' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 26) Slide18: In Bud Blake’s Tiger comic strip, a little boy reports, 'I’m gonna be in the school play.' When his mother asks, 'What part?' he responds, 'All of me.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 26) !FROM LINGUISTICS TEXTBOOKS: !FROM LINGUISTICS TEXTBOOKS The governor is a dirty street fighter. Did you ever see a horse fly? I cannot recommend him too highly. Could this be the invisible man’s hair tonic? He gave her dog biscuits. It’s the world’s largest war surplus store. Cynthia left directions for her Dad to follow. !!NORMAN STAGEBERG’S EXAMPLES: !!NORMAN STAGEBERG’S EXAMPLES Dance Hall Sign: 'Clean and decent dancing every night except Monday.' Law School Questionnaire: 'How many faculty members do you have, broken down by sex?' Conference Speech: 'I have discussed the high cost of living with several women. Diner Sign: 'Wanted: Man to scrub floor and two waitresses.' !!!JOHN CROSBIE: THE PUNDIT: !!!JOHN CROSBIE: THE PUNDIT In 1979, John Crosbie, a Canadian writer and publisher, founded the International Save the Pun Foundation, which publishes a monthly newsletter, The Pundit, and produces a list of the 'Ten Best Stressed Puns of the Year.' After Crosbie’s death in 1994, Norman Gilbert, a financial planner in Toronto became 'Chairman of the Bored.' More than 1,500 members from around the world belong to the organization, which also gives a POTY award to the Punster of the Year. The year that author and collector Richard Lederer won, he said as part of his acceptance speech at the annual April First dinner in Chicago, 'A good pun is like a good Steak---a rare medium well done.' Slide22: References # 1: Baron, Dennis. Declining Grammar and Other Essays on the English Vocabulary Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1989. Chiaro, Delia. The Language of Jokes: Analyzing Verbal Play. New York, NY: Routledge, 1992. Culler, Jonathan, ed. On Puns: The Foundation of Letters New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1988. Hauptman, Don. Cruel and Unusual Puns. New York, NY: Dell/Laurel, 1991. Lederer, Richard. Anguished English. Charlston, SC: Wyrick and Co., 1987. Slide23: References # 2: Lederer, Richard. The Bride of Anguished English. New York, NY: St Martin's Press, 2000. Lederer, Richard. Crazy English. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1990. Lederer, Richard. The Cunning Linguist. New York, NY: St. Martin's/Griffin, 2003. Lederer, Richard. Fractured English. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1997. Lederer, Richard. Get Thee to a Punnery. New York, NY: Laurel, 1988. Slide24: References # 3: Lederer, Richard. More Anguished English. New York, NY: Delacorte, 1993. Lederer, Richard. Nothing Risque, Nothing Gained. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 1996. Lederer, Richard. Pun and Games. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 1996. Lodge, David. Paradise News. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1992. Slide25: References # 4: Mey, Jacob L. Pragmatics: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. Oxford, England, 201. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. 'Tendentious Puns: Names with a Purpose.' Et Cetera 48.2 (1991): 146-152. Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. Relevance: Communication and Cognition, 2nd Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. Stageberg, Norman C. 'Structural Ambiguity: Some Sources.' English Journal 55 (1966): 558-563.