Today’s output from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute’s state-of-the-art HEMMED (High-Energy Meta Mojo Elucidation Detector) machine is an extremely serious subject: puns.

Yesterday, The Donald “dropped out” of “serious” consideration for the Republican 2012 presidential nomination. The quotes are there because journalistically one cannot really describe his campaign as serious and if you are not really in, can you drop out?

His departure was not missed by the pundits with this headline:

“Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”

My Google search showed it with “About 71,700 results”

Turns out that puns are pretty popular maybe even more popular than making fun of bad combovers (bad combovers … is that redundant?).

I love puns. To me a day without puns is a day without sunshine so imagine my delight when I found a story on puns during my news aggregation duties at BPI Campus.

NPR.org posted a book review of The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics by John Pollack.

“Some Antics”? ::Snort::! More like a lot of semantic antics.

As I started feeding pieces of this story into the uptake valve in the HEMMED lab (over there on the right, next to the green dial), I was startled to see this Product Description from the Amazon link:

The pun is commonly dismissed as the lowest form of wit, and punsters are often unpopular for their obsessive wordplay. But such attitudes are relatively recent developments. In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack-a former World Pun Champion and presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton-explains why such wordplay is significant: It both revolutionized language and played a pivotal role in making the modern world possible. Skillfully weaving together stories and evidence from history, brain science, pop culture, literature, anthropology, and humor, The Pun Also Rises is an authoritative yet playful exploration of a practice that is common, in one form or another, to virtually every language on earth.

No no, say it isn’t so!

“the lowest form of wit” and “punsters are often unpopular“? 😥

Then I thought about it and I believe that the next sentence holds the key to that most distressing comment:

But such attitudes are relatively recent developments.

I blame Republicans. They are the most humorless people. Their idea of humor is a photo of a Vietnam vet who lost 3 of his limbs morphing into Osama bin Laden. 😯 Or mocking a person with Parkinson’s disease. 🙁 When you start with that you can see that the whole concept of clever wordplay and linguistic gymnastics would be lost on them. Unfortunately, they gave birth to the even more humorless tea partiers and together they are one long bummer … for America in general and for humor specifically.

But I digress.

Pollack uses this knock knock joke to explain the complexity of puns:

“Knock knock.
“Who’s there?
“Isabelle.
“Isabelle who?
“Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?”

“The brain goes through some incredible gymnastics to capture the meaning of puns,” Pollack tells Weekend Edition Sunday’s Liane Hanson. “And if you think about it, it’s incredibly complex. Especially when two words can sound exactly alike.”

“Your brain has to backtrack because you’re thinking it’s a name, and then it breaks apart the component syllables of that word, ‘Isabelle,’ and applies them with new meaning to a new situation.”

As one who loves words, not only their meanings but their sounds, this comment captured puns perfectly:

“The power of a pun comes from two things,” [Pollack] says. “One is its ambiguity, and second is: that it enables you to pack more meaning, or more layers of meaning, into fewer words. And so if you’re trying to convey complex ideas, puns can be really powerful tools to do that.”

Why do I admire puns so much? I am not eggzactly sure. Maybe it’s the cheep laughs.

Happy Tuesday to everyone and fist bumps!

The BPI Campus Progressive agenda:
1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.

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