Here Comes The Pun

In a lot of way puns and wordplay are kind of like poetry. The artistic placement of a certain word in place of another to bring attention to that particular sentence has a very creative and aesthetic appeal to it. Music and song lyrics — in my humble oPUNion — can fulfill a similar purpose.

 

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I decided this week to do something a little different with this blog and get a little more creative, since we are talking about the creativity that goes into puns when placed in song lyrics. I made my own pun playlist featuring songs, artists, and album titles that have some sort of pun cleverly crafted inside them. Feel free to check out my pun playlist here. I also annotated/explained the selection of each song on the playlist here.

I’d now like to talk about my overall process when selecting songs for the pun playlist and some themes and commonalities I noticed when it comes to puns and music.

The easiest place to start when looking for puns in music was hip-hop and rap music. Rappers are constantly dropping puns in their music — sometimes to make a comedic insults or sexual references, but more often then not — to make a strong societal critique.

A common pun I kept noticing as I scrolled though my archives of hip hop music was puns on the word “chains.” The double meaning usually comes from rappers trying to make a parallel between black men as slaves being chained and sold as property to the modern day mass incarceration of black men in prisons, often for nonviolent drug crimes or due to under addressed socioeconomic inequalities in our society. Often in these lyrics rather than saying the protagonist of the song is in handcuffs the word “chains” is deliberately used instead to draw this parallel. The best example I have to this in my pun playlist is “Chaining Day” by JCole. This was a powerful pun not meant to be taken in jest at all but rather to think about how racism has persisted today and how we have a long and hard push for equality left before the systemic mistreatment of black people as well as other racial minorities ends.

Another commonality I noticed while studying hard rock, classic rock, and alternative rock genres of music was the usage of puns about, dare I say it, sex. While some are not so subtle double meanings referring to male and female genitals, often employed by our friends Led Zeppelin, other times they are used as a way to draw attention to corruption or misplaced values in society. The best example of the latter, a track I also feature on my pun playlist, is called Californication meant to bring forth the often hidden side of Hollywood where sex appeal is sold and capitalized on as well as young people exploited to sell their sex appeal and good looks or sex itself.

Overall, what I have seen transcend through all musical genres is the usage of puns to highlight a love for something or someone, an imperfection or flaw within a person — usually the singer/narrator — or as a humorous appeal.

Puns and music are like peanut butter and jelly, Oreos and milk, pickles and the trash can — they just go together.

I would encourage all of you today to go back and listen to your favorite bops because more than likely some of them have puns you’ve never overtly noticed but probably implicitly have loved for a long time.

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After All Is Said And Punned

This will likely be my favorite blog post and possibly the most groan inducing. I offer you — the readers — my deepest PUNdolances.

If there’s two things I easily and effortlessly am passionate about — its puns and journalism.

There are people out there, in particular some of my newspaper colleges at The Index, who believe puns are unprofessional and don’t have a place in journalism. Now, I may be a little biased, but I could not disagree more with this notion more.

Puns and journalism is a certain kind of craft in itself in that the pun needs to fit and supplement the story, it needs to make sense and most importantly — it needs to be used at an appropriate time. Not every journalism story or headline should have a pun.

However, to make a sweeping statement that no puns should belong in the media is both a lost cause — because puns already show up in journalistic writing all.the.time. —but also potentially devaluing or cheapening a story by not allowing it to truly shine and grab the attention it needs and deserves by giving it a punny title.

In high school I wrote for my school’s yearbook where we constantly were looking for new and clever ways to produce innovative feature writing and design. Puns were the answer and I was often the one in charge of coming up with them. When a yearbook colleague needed a headline for that lacrosse story I’d be the one to hop on idioms.com and list off puns like “ReLAX,” “Stick with it,” “Laximum overdrive,” and “Lacrosse the universe.” My favorite pun of all time that we used was for an infographic about people at my high school with interesting hair styles called “Hairy Styles,” making a pun on the word hairstyle but also on Harry Styles from the group One Direction. That was back before each of the members went off in five directions.

But I’m not in high school anymore. I work for a college publication and the rules are apparently different. For the past three years every Editor-In-Chief working for the paper has said repeatedly “no puns in the paper.” As a lowly staff writer I complied. As the news editor last year — understanding a decent amount of my stories would not lend themselves well to puns — I complied. But this year — as features editor — I put my foot down. Well, I put my paw down:

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Paws, and take a look. 

This was a pun so eye catching, so witty, so hilarious, so fitting for the tone and style of the story that even our current Editor-In-Chief Seth could not refuse.

I hope if you as readers take away anything from this post today it’s that puns do have a place in journalism. That being said there is a time to use them and a time not to. If Timmy falls down a well — please, I beg of you — don’t make the headline “Well, well, well, what do we have here?”

But when you are trying to add some comic relief to a softer hitting story or attempting to draw attention and wit to a hard hitting piece — a pun can be a way to do that.

Never let people tell you that journalistic writing has to be boring, mechanical, and dull. Journalism is a beautiful story-telling art. It’s finding hidden nuggets and jewels of information that will inform and/or entertain the public.

By simply twisting around a word into a pun on a page, a journalist can captivate an audience and compel them to keep reading the words they have oh so carefully crafted in the form of an important message about the world around us.

 

 

 

Punning For An Election

A common misconception is that puns and wordplay can only be used for humor, jokes, and informal settings. This is far from the case. Puns have been a useful — and in my opinion, effective — rhetorical strategy for decades, in particular, in political campaigning.

Take this past 2016 Presidential Election cycle for example. It was riddled with puns. I was a huge Bernie Sanders fan both for his altruistic efforts to help marginalized and neglected people in our society live decent lives but also, because I am pun trash, his campaigning slogans.

“Feel The Bern” was a genius slogan that I full-heartedly endorsed and supported. I had buttons. I had signs. I had t-shirts. I Bernt myself to a crisp.

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Feeling The Bern 

The puns in Bernie’s campaign, as well as his popularity that ensued in late 2015 and early 2016, grew even further with a newer, fresher pun added to his branding and his campaign as a carefree, spirited, social justice warrior. This was the bird that landed on Bernie’s podium while he was addressing the public at a rally.

On March 24, 2016 Bernie Sanders spoke in Portland, Oregon to a group of young supporters stating his plans to give every one of them the opportunity to go to college when a bird began flying around the venue of the rally. The audience began laughing and Bernie chuckled, when all of the sudden the bird landed on Bernie’s podium. The audience erupted with cheers and Bernie stopped mid sentence to look at the bird then stated “I think there may be some symbolism here.”

Oh Bernie, you had no idea.

Within hours a hashtag on Twitter #birdiesanders began to spread — or should I say Bern — like wildfire. From there the internet went insane. “Birdie Sanders” became an unintentionally branded pun in no time. There was buttons, shirts, graphics, photos, memes, social media posts, and videos in support of the “Birdie Sanders” brand plastered across the world wide web. Bernie’s campaign became even more pun-filled and the puns, while also a major source of entertainment also furthered Bernie’s campaign. The bird landing on Bernie’s podium symbolically for many represented Bernie’s approachability and perpetuated the ideals within Bernie’s rhetoric of helping those oppressed or ignored under society’s hegemony.

Bernie wasn’t the only one who used puns in that election cycle. They were everywhere.

Hillary Clinton deep into her election campaign began circulating “Love Trumps Hate” stickers, shirts, and other paraphernalia. She also went with an ironic, almost satirical, tangible “woman card” that people could purchase and carry around in support of her campaign. This was in response to her main adversary and now President — Donald Trump — accusing her of playing a metaphorical “woman card” in order to garner sympathy and empathy to get votes.

Democrats were also not the only ones to use puns in their campaigns.

Ted Cruz had a brief flirtation with puns with his “TrustTed” slogan making a pun off of the word trust and trying to create a connotative correlation between his name and the word “trust.”

Puns have also not been exclusive to national elections.

One of my favorite politicians who is a Missouri State Representative in my local voting district — Deb Lavender — also uses a pun in her branding. Some might say this doesn’t “count” as a pun but I think her branding is a wonderfully clever visual pun. All of Deb Lavender’s yard signs that she gives out during local election cycles are purple. Deb also can be found at political rallies and events often times wearing purple. While this is a subtle kind of pun, playing on the fact that her last name is a shade of purple, I think it’s still worth noting, and for me, totally worth relishing in and enjoying.

The usage of all of these puns in election campaigning have had common effects and impacts in that they have made the candidates come across as more relatable, approachable, and authentic. A pun has a way of breaking down walls put up between prominent politicians and the masses by taking a characteristic about a particular candidate, whether that be their name, something about their personality, or an aspect of their appearance and teasing it out into a short, witty, pun-induced brand.