Puns

Puns remind The Curmudgeon of the old tv commercials for Slim Jims: people seem to love them or hate them.

The Curmudgeon loves them and tries never to miss an opportunity to use one. His philosophy: the bigger the groan you elicit, the better the pun.

Mrs. Curmudgeon appears to like them. The qualifier “appears” appears because he has this nagging sense that there are times when she’s just humoring him. The Curmudgeon’s stepson? Not so much. When The Curmudgeon offers a pun, J’s reaction is simply to utter “Please stop.”

Well, as the late Ricky Nelson told us in his song “Garden Party,”

But it’s all right now,

I learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can’t please everyone,

so ya got to please yourself

Which, on the other hand, may go a long way toward explaining why it took The Curmudgeon 59 years to marry.

Recently The Curmudgeon was delighted to see a brief discussion of puns in a New Yorker book review of a new novel by the Scottish writer Ali Smith, who through this review earned her way onto his lengthy and growing you-need-to-read-something-by-this-person list.

For your entertainment and maybe even enlightenment, that commentary about puns:

If you are tired of puns, are you tired of life? Puns are easy to disdain. They are essentially found, not made; discovered after the fact rather than intended before it. Puns are accidental echoes, random likenesses thrown out by our lexical cosmos. They lurk, pallidly hibernating, inside fortune cookies and Christmas crackers; the groan is the pun’s appropriate unit of appreciation. On the other hand, everyone secretly loves a pun, and, wonderfully, the worst are often as funny as the best, as the great punster Nabokov knew, because the genre is so democratically debased. Puns are part of the careless abundance of creation, the delicious surplus of life, and, therefore, fundamentally joyful. Being accidental, they are like free money—nature’s charity. There’s a reason that the most abundant writer in the language was so abundant in puns: words, like Bottom’s dream, are bottomless.

And the reviewer offered a sample of Ms. Smith’s work:

She shifts on the substandard bed. The substandard bed creaks loudly. After the creak she can hear the silence in the rest of the house. They are all asleep. Nobody knows she is awake. Nobody is any the wiser. Any the wiser sounds like a character from ancient history. Astrid in the year 1003 BC (Before Celebrity) goes to the woods where Any the Wiser, who is really royalty and a king but who has unexpectedly chosen to be a Nobody and to live the simple life, lives in a hut, no, a cave, and answers the questions that the people of the commonweal come from miles around to ask him (most probably a him since if it was a her she’d have to be in a convent or burnt).

Sold! The Curmudgeon immediately went to the Free Library of Philadelphia’s e-book web site to reserve one of her novels.

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