How Puns Can Save a Language

The early scientists were nothing more than alchemists, mixing bottles of fluids together randomly hoping to acquire the desired effect. While they were rarely successful, they often created something a bit useful.

(For instance: Modern Science.)

The idea of alchemy, the constant play of substances paired and mixed with each other, the eternal experimentation, has a certain appeal to me. The idea that by continually playing around with things, that I might create something new and beautiful lives in my brain and won’t die.

That’s why I love puns.

If you read the word “Pun” and haven’t groaned, then you definitely haven’t heard enough puns.

Although the pun is called the lowest form of humor, crafting an immediate snippet of wordplay requires an adept mind and a bustling vocabulary. So you think you can pun? I dare you to make a pun right now. Don’t worry I’ll wait.

Okay, I’m ready to hear it.

Seriously, that’s the best you could come up with?

I don’t mean to mock you, I just want to show you how difficult it can be to do what looks so easy.

Puns are a valuable form of literature.

Read any of Shakespeare’s plays and you’ll find that there is hardly any of them devoid of a horrible pun or wordplay of some sort.

(Okay that’s kind of unfair. The name Shakespeare is practically a synonym for wordplay, but still, this only shows that puns are cool. If puns are good enough for Shakespeare, shouldn’t they be good enough for you?)

But seriously, puns are an ancient and accepted form of literary humor. They can be found in Medieval English poetry, the Bible, and Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Even more than that, there is evidence that it is puns and wordplay alone that keeps languages alive. Case in point, English spoken by your parents when they were your age is practically a separate language from what we speak today.

I’m not talking about simple changes in what’s the hot word this year (like “Groovy”). Languages are a fluid and dynamic construct that change from experimentation and usage. The basic principle is that the more a language is used, the more it changes, and keeps the language alive.

Technically, there are more people alive today who can speak Latin than in the days of the Roman empire, yet Latin is still considered a dead language? Why? Because Latin does not change. (Latin would change more if people made puns in Latin, but apparently this does not happen.)

Puns keep languages alive by constantly changing the definitions, making some words more accessible for constant usage, and yes, making speech just that much more fun.

So go ahead, read signs in a different voice, wonder how many different ways you can say “butt”, make up nonsensical alliteration.

P.S. Don’t be afraid to groan when your five year old shares a particularly awful pun. The ancient Romans groaned to express their appreciation for a great pun.

Isn’t that punny? ;D

Don’t be afraid to comment your favorite puns. Double points to whoever shares a pun in Latin. I won’t understand it, but I will thank you for resurrecting the Latin language. -BW

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