Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Words, words, words

As writers we make our living with words (or we try like heck and hope to). Words can be used in so many ways besides novels and short stories, and that’s the topic for today’s Playground blog – Plays on Words.

I’ve always liked jokes that use words to create the humor. Puns have long been a favorite of my mom’s and she has a stack of books devoted to puns. In my research over the last few days, I discovered there are three types of puns. Homographic puns make use of multiple meanings from a single spelling. For example, did you hear about the man who impulsively got a cat despite his allergies and later realized it was a rash decision? And homophonic puns use similar sounds with different spellings. It's been said that seven days without laughter makes one weak.

My favorite is pun jokes that go beyond the one-liner.

Once upon a time, a Wisconsin baseball team acquired a pitcher named Milt Famey. As it was, Milt had signed an endorsement deal with a local brewery and was provided a lifetime supply of their product. And boy, did Milt use the product. One day, a game went into extra innings and Milt was called on to pitch. He had been partaking of his endorsement product and was a bit wobbly on the mound. In the bottom of the sixteenth inning, he walked four batters to load the bases and then walked in the winning run. After the game, a reporter commented that he’d seen cans of beer in the bullpen where Milt had been warming up. A player from the opposing team grinned and replied, “Yeah, that’s the beer that made Milt Famey walk us.”


The friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone likes to buy flowers from men of God, the rival florist thought this was unfair. He asked the good Fathers to close, but they wouldn’t. He went back weeks later and begged them to close, and they ignored him. So the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest thug in town to persuade them to close shop. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed the shop, saying he’d return if they didn’t close their doors once and for all. They were terrified and immediately went out of business, which proves that Hugh and only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

Puns aren’t the only ways to play with words.

Malapropisms (named after Mrs. Malaprop, a character in a play by R.B. Sheridan) are the unintentional and humorous misuse of a word. Mrs. Smith wanted to learn to speak better so she signed up for electrocution lessons.

Spoonerisms switch the initial sound of two or more words. It is often kistomary to cuss the bride. Or, last Sunday night the Saints dealt the Colts a blushing crow.

Palindromes are the spelled the same backwards and forwards. Obvious ones are the words mom, level and kayak. More clever, however, are whole sentences, such as “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.” In palindrome sentences, punctuation and spaces are not taken into consideration, as in the one above. However, Napoleon supposedly uttered one that does not discard them: Able was I ere I saw Elba.

Tom Swifties play on a relationship between an adverb, and an action spoken in dialogue. We all know that good writers never use adverbs, so we’d never write something like, “I’d love some Chinese food,” said Tom wantonly. Or “I need a pencil sharpener,” said Tom bluntly.

Oxymorons combine contradictory words like jumbo shrimp, deafening silence, definite maybe, unbiased opinion, original copies, pretty ugly and exact estimate.

Tongue twisters are audible plays on words that don’t deliver a message but exist to trip up the speaker. How many of you grew up reciting about Peter Piper and his pickled peppers, seashells by the seashore or rubber baby buggy bumpers? Here’s one I found, but don’t try it in public.

I am a pheasant plucker,
I'm a pheasant-plucker's son,
I will be plucking pheasants
'till the pheasant plucker comes.

Redefinition is giving new meaning to an existing word. The Washington Post has a yearly contest where readers can submit alternative meanings for common words. Among the 2009 winners were:

Coffee (n), the person upon whom one coughs
Negligent (adj), absentmindedly answering the door in your nightgown
Esplanade (v), to attempt an explanation while drunk
Balderdash (n), a rapidly receding hairline
Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist

I’m not sure how the following are classified, but I found them worthy of a chuckle.

If a pig lost its voice would it be disgruntled?
Would a cardboard belt be a waist of paper?
Would writing with a broken pencil be pointless?
Are tennis players cold-hearted because love means nothing to them?

And last, but definitely not least are the humorous church signs found across the country.

Do you like word play? Share some with us!


PM's Mother said...

You asked for this...

A gentleman from Miami had some dolphins in his swimming pool. He was told that if he fed the fish terns they would live forever. So, he went to Biscayne Bay, caught some of the sea birds and took them back to his home. When he arrived at the pool, there was an old, toothless, lion, escaped from the local zoo, lying across the entrance to his pool. Summoning up his courage, he stepped across the lion and was immediately arrested -- get this --for transporting gulls across a staid lion for immortal porpoises!

Maven Linda said...

No word play, but a humorous sign. I'm currently in the Smoky Mountains, where the off-season has many businesses closed. On one motel sign yesterday was:

CLOSED -- go to Florida.

BTW, I just got out of bed to see several inches of snow on the ground :-).

Instigator said...

I love that church sign about staying in bed. :-) I like plays on words but I have no talent in doing them myself.

PM's Mom, that was hilariously awful. :-)


Problem Child said...

I'm not punny, although I wish I was.

But I'm a Word Nerd, so I love topics like this one.

Smarty Pants said...

A rabbi is walking down a country road when he notices an unusual occurance. On a hill to his right, a herd of small tribbs (which I can only imagine to be like Star Trek Tribbles, I have no idea) keeps attempting to run up the top of the hill. When the reach the peak, a man kicks them, knocking them back to the bottom where they start off up the hill again. Concerned, the rabbi climbs the hill himself, but the man doesn't kick him.

"Why don't you kick me like you kick these animals?" he asked.

The man sighed. "You silly Rabbi, kicks are for tribbs."

PM's Mother said...

I told you not to get me started...

A bear walked into a bar in Idaho and asked the bartender for a beer. The bartender informed the bear that he did not serve beer to bears in bars in Boise. The bear insisted on being served and bear and the bartender still contended that he did not serve beer to bears in bars in Boise.
The bear pointed to a female customer at the other end of the bar and threatened to bite her head off if he was not served a beer. The bartender repeated that he did not serve beer to bears in bars in Boise and true to his word the bear bit the head off the woman customer, then turned to the bartender and demanded a beer.
The bartender once more replied, “I do not serve beer to bears in bars in Boise, especially bears on drugs.”
“What do you mean, on drugs?” replied the bear. “Who’s on drugs?”
To which the bartender retorted, “Well, you are. That was a bar bitch you ate!” ...

PM's Mother said...

I'm on a roll...

Gandhi walked barefoot everywhere, to the point that the soles of his feet became quite thick and hard. Being a very spiritual person, he ate very little, and often fasted. As a result, he was quite thin and frail. Furthermore, due to his diet, he ended up with very bad breath.
Therefore, he became to be known as . . . “SUPER CALLOUSED FRAGILE MYSTIC PLAGUED WITH HALITOSIS.”

Playground Monitor said...

My all-time favorite.

Once there was a guy named Mack. All his friends called him "Big Mack" because of his size. Mack had always wanted to be a bus driver, and one day his dream came true. He finally became one. They gave him his bus, which was yellow. When he saw it, he asked the boss "Can I paint it a bit, make it look better?" and the boss said he could. So he painted Sesame Street Characters all over the bus and off he went on his first route.

His first passenger was a young, pale boy of about 8. When he stopped, Mack said "Hi! My names Mack, but my friends call me Big Mack". The young boy said "Oh hello, I'm Josh, but all my friends call me 'Special Josh' because they think I'm special." The boy got on the bus and Mack kept driving.

At the next stop there were 2 overweight ladies. When he stopped he said "Hi! My names Mack, but my friends call me Big Mack". The ladies introduced themselves as Patty and Patty. They got on the bus and away they went.

At the next stop was this punk guy. When Mack stopped he said "Hi! My names Mack, but my friends call me Big Mack". The Punk said "Yeah Hi, I'm Lester Cleese." He got on the bus and away they went.

Everything was going fine until Lester pulled out his knife and started to pick the bunions off his foot and fling them at the Josh. Josh got really scared and ran under the seat where the two Pattys were. They didn't know what was happening and started to scream, and then Josh started crying and then Lester started picking his bunions again.

Mack finished his route and then drove the empty bus to the bus barn, walked into the office and tendered his resignation.

"Why do you want to resign? You just started this job?"

"Why do I want to resign? It's my first day on the job and what do I have? Two obese Pattys, special Josh and Lester Cleese picking bunions on a Sesame Street bus."

PM's Mother said...

See, she is her Mother's daughter!

PM's Mother said...

Word verification - "jaear" as in "Did you jaear this one?"

A number of years ago, the Seattle Symphony was going to perform Beethoven’s Ninth.
At this point, it helps to for you to know two things:
(1) There’s a long segment in this symphony where the bass violins don’t have a thing to do. Not a single note for page after page.
(2) There used to be a tavern right across the street from the Seattle Opera House, rather favored by local musicians.
It had been decided that during this performance, after the bass players had played their parts in the opening of the Ninth, they were to quietly lay down their instruments and leave the stage rather than sit on their stools looking and feeling dumb for twenty minutes.
Well, once they got backstage, someone suggested that they trot across the street and quaff a few brews. After they had quaffed the first couple of rounds, one said, “Shouldn’t we be getting back? It’d be awfully embarrassing of we were late.”
Another, presumably the one who suggested this excursion in the first place, replied, “Oh, I anticipated we could use a little more time so I tied a string around the last pages of the conductor’s score. When he gets down to there, Milton’s going to have to slow the tempo way down while he waves the baton with one hand and fumbles with the string with the other.”
So they had another round and finally returned to the Opera House, a little tipsy by now. However, as they came back on stage, one look at their conductor’s face told them they were in serious trouble. The conductor was furious! After all . . .
It was the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied and the basses were loaded.

Maven Linda said...

You don't EVEN want to hear about the musical lobster who lost his harp in Sam Clam's disco.

Caroline Storer said...

I often say things without realising that what has just come out of my mouth is complete gobbledegook. For instance in the supermarket recently looking at the fresh chickens I remarked to the DH "I'm not buying one of those battery operated chickens. I want a free range one." It took me a minute to wonder why DH was laughing like mad.

I saw this on a sign outside Church once.
CH--CH - Whats missing? U R - I liked that! Caroline x

Problem Child said...

Patty Black worked in the loan department of the local bank. One day, a frog came in to ask for a loan to fix up his pad.

Patty asked if he had any collateral for the loan. The frog thought about it for a minute, then reached in his bag and pulled out a little wooden carving.

"My father gave me this when I was a tadpole. He brought it back from his trip to the Okefenokee Swamp."

Patty looked at it, unsure. She wanted to help the frog out, but without collateral, what could she do? She called her boss over and explained how the frog wanted a loan but this was all he had for collateral. Could she approve the loan and help the frog when she didn't even really know what this thing was?

"Sure," her boss said, "It's a knick-knack Patty Black, give the frog a loan."