Brother, Can You Paradigm?: A Punderful Discussion


I like puns. Okay, that’s a massive understatement. I adore puns. I happily share them on Facebook every Wednesday in our Wordplay Wednesday posts. I love Tom Swifties.

I love pretty much all wordplay, no matter how shameless. You may have noticed that PuzzleNation Blog posts discussing puns and wordplay often include the searchable tag “Get thee to a punnery” in the list of tags below.

Yup, that’s how much I like puns.

A lot of great crossword clues are built on punning, utilizing the multiple meanings of words to mislead you, to create soundalike phrases (like “Baa nana?” for EWE), or simply to keep the cluing interesting.

And puns get a bad reputation. Fozzie Bear’s elicit groans from his fellow Muppets. John Oliver, a comedian I absolutely adore, is often quoted online as having said, “I think puns are not just the lowest form of wit, but the lowest form of human behavior.”

That’s pretty rough. I haven’t been able to verify that quote to my satisfaction, but I can verify that he said this: “The moment I accept that there’s an artistic, redeeming quality in puns, I have a horrible feeling I’ll get hooked.”

bad puns

That’s the catch, isn’t it? A lot of crossword clues rely on wordplay, but a lot of people supposedly hate puns. But where is the line between wordplay and puns?

I can’t say for certain, but I suspect the line is drawn directly between what makes someone groan and what makes them nod their head in appreciation.

“Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns. He should be drawn and quoted.” — Fred Allen

A quick Google search will find celebrities on both sides of the great pun divide. Alfred Hitchcock famously said that puns are the highest form of literature. Shakespeare is loaded with puns. Edgar Allan Poe enjoyed wordplay in all its forms.


[Well, maybe not in this particular form…]

We find puns everywhere. In the one-liners of action heroes, in funny asides by the Cryptkeeper, on bumper stickers, in tweets, in dad jokes, on coffee mugs. And certainly in crossword clues.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but in the end, I’d rather have a groan-worthy pun than no puns at all.

So what do you say we share a few? Leave your favorite puns in the comments section below!

Here’s a really bad one to get the ball rolling:

A man is about to have surgery, and before he goes into the operating room, the anesthesiologist pulls him aside and says, “We’re out of the usual anesthetics, so you have two unconventional options. I can use an older organic compound that’ll knock you out… or I can hit you in the head with a boat paddle.”

The man replied, “So it’s an ether-oar situation?”


Your turn. Go!


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