Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

March 18, 2013

Wolfsie: Now this column is punny

Last week my column covered the growing controversy about horse meat in food products around the world. At the beginning, I acknowledged that the piece would include a number of puns, first noting that Swedish meatballs would now be perfect for bridle showers. This is called a homophonic pun because the two words (bridal and bridle) are identical in sound, but different in meaning. Don’t fall asleep yet.

The column contained only four puns, but the first draft (oops, that’s another horse pun) actually included about six additional plays on words. My copy editor, Heidi, told me that was overkill and that I needed to rein them in. Very funny, Heidi.

She was correct, though, so I removed many of them. But it is fascinating how many people wrote me about the column and peppered their remarks with additional puns, some of which I had not thought of:

“I was chomping at the bit to read your column.”

“Pony up and pay for that cheeseburger.”

“Column seemed rushed. Are you too saddled with other work?”

“A lot of lame jokes in that one.”

“The column really did stirrup my emotions.”

Stop! You’re killing me! All these offerings reminded me of one humorist’s observation: “A pun is a short quip followed by a long groan.” But why does a pun often elicit such a response? I have a theory about that.

In any joke there is a gap between the information provided and the info required to comprehend the witty remark. For example: “The man who invented the Hokey Pokey dance has died. It took the family six hours to get him in the coffin.” To laugh at this observation requires that you know what the Hokey Pokey is and then have a visual image of the man’s legs and arms moving in and out of the casket. If the reference to the lyrics “you put your right foot in, you put your right foot out” were to be included in the telling, the joke would not be funny because the listener has too small a role in putting it all together. Basically, there’s too much information. And so my theory is that laughter is the reward you pay yourself for being smart enough to “get” the joke—by filling in the missing data. The proof of this theory is quite elegant: If you have to explain a joke to people, they will never laugh. Even if they then get it. At that point, it’s way too late for them to take credit for any of their own gray matter involved.

Now, here’s the problem with puns: There is no missing data. Most everybody gets a pun. All the information is right there. The punster seems to be broadcasting that what he or she just said doesn’t take any brains to understand it, so anyone will be smart enough to enjoy it. Even you. While most people don’t usually laugh at other people’s puns, they generally feel free to offer their own when the humor spirits move them, which is why a pun really is the lowest form of humor, unless you thought of it yourself.

A final suggestion from a Mr. Anonymous: If you do have a friend who is an incorrigible punster, my suggestion is to not incorrige him.

Dick Wolfsie is a television news reporter, syndicated humor columnist and author. He can be reached at Wolfsie@aol.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • CHEERS & JEERS: 'What serving in joy means' ‘A rich Kokomo tradition’Robert W. Parks of Kokomo sends this Cheer for all involved in the “Moose” Carden Fishing Clinic:“Augusta, Georgia, has The Masters; Louisville, Kentucky, has the Kentucky Derby; Anchorage, Alaska, has the Iditarod. And Kokom

    August 2, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Don't ever give up hope As the wind blows, the air refreshes itself. As the sky opens up to the looker, the looker finds happiness in seeing the clouds go by. And as nighttime creeps forward, the eyes seek rest.Such is the way our days are spent, looking for that little ray

    August 2, 2014

  • 'Reads' panel narrows titles Howard County Reads, a program introduced in 2004 to cultivate a love of reading and promote a sense of community, is another step closer to selecting a book for its 10th anniversary.In February, county residents began nominating a favorite for consi

    August 1, 2014

  • LETTERS: Concert Series 'beautiful musical experience' Store employees should split prizeSeveral weeks ago, a winning lottery ticket was purchased at one of our larger grocery stores. What I’d like to know is why the upper-management get a large cash prize (which they don’t need) while the employees of t

    August 1, 2014

  • Work program requires buy-in from industry Good help is hard to find.That’s essentially what Indiana companies have insisted for several years. The state struggles with a “skills gap,” the firms explain. They need employees, but can’t find enough — or in some cases, any — qualified Hoosiers.

    August 1, 2014

  • Take a walk to school At the risk of sounding like “old fogies,” we remember walking to school when we were kids.Back in the day, that’s how it was. If it was within walking distance, you were walking to school.Today, like much else, it’s a very different picture. The vas

    July 31, 2014

  • DAN COATS: New Harmony marks its 200th anniversary Situated between St. Louis and Louisville, New Harmony is a small town in southwest Indiana smaller than 1 square mile in area. Fewer than 1,000 Hoosiers call this serene Posey County community home.Despite its size, the town has monumental significa

    July 31, 2014

  • LETTERS: Marriage culture in area must change Marriage culture in area must change Last week's article on the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Kids Count report caught my eye. While I'm happy that Indiana is improving in the educational domain, the poverty statistics are saddening. I was just s

    July 31, 2014

  • A lookat IU salaries Of the five highest paid employees of Indiana University, three are involved with athletics. That was the case in 2013 as well.In new evidence that spending on athletic department salaries is outpacing the rest of the university, if not the vast majo

    July 31, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Let's put lethal injection to sleep

    It was only a matter of time before this happened again; and I’m sad to say I’m not surprised at all.
    On July 22, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for the killing of Arizona death row inmate James R. Wood III, who had filed suit requesting a delay until the state revealed the details of the drugs that would be used to end his life.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll