Some Kind Of Punderful

While doing research for the blog this week I cam across a haterade drinker who was bashing puns and their effectiveness in advertising.

And let me just say — things got a little personal.

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Paul Suggett with The Balance while discussing puns in advertising says, “They’re tacky, they debase the product or service and they should be avoided at all costs.”

Wow.

And he kept going.

He went on to say, “A “good pun” is an oxymoron if ever there was one, and a book full of them will guarantee you a permanent place on the rejection pile. To be honest, you can do better. You should do better.”

WOW. 

Puns in advertising are nothing new. We’ve seen them employed many times before. Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes on accident. Sometimes done very well and other times done abhorrently wrong. Just like what I said two weeks ago — there is a time and place for a pun. But to say a pun never has a place in an ad and there’s no such thing as a good pun? Wrong.

Believe it or not, and you probably do because you’ve learned by now I am a huge pun loving nerd, I did some research on this for a class a couple semesters back and found a very interesting study that, well, disproves Suggett’s argument.

For an abstract I wrote in my Communication Theory class I analyzed the following article — “A Study of the Humor Aspect of English Puns: Views from the Relevance Theory

In this article, the author, Xiaoli Gan, argues puns effectively use the relevance theory, which is a social theory that says human beings pay attention to things more relevant to them rather than other things which are less relevant.

Gan goes on to say puns evoke humor and cause us to pay attention and ponder the unexpected and confusing words we have just heard. He also found in his research that puns result in extra mental processing which makes them strengthen a person’s memory. In other words, puns are more memorable because of their unique use of language and altering of our usual contextual perceptions.

And what advertiser doesn’t want someone to better remember their product or brand? Isn’t that kind of, the point?

Another interesting point Gan made about puns and advertising — he found in his research there were correlations between people having to think harder about a pun and how the longer a person had to think about a pun the funnier it was when that person finally figured it out. 

A good pun in an ad it seems — is one that’s clever and requires some thought to figure out — often times accomplished by a visual pun that may take and extra moment or two to process.

Suggett seems to suggestt (that is me trying to make a sad attempt at punning on this guy’s last name NOT a typo) that puns are never above a low caliber, base level humor — another argument I strongly disagree with.

Yes, a pun can sometimes be the simplest word play based off the lowest hanging fruit. And there is a time and place for those kind of puns (I say them all the time in my every day, non professional, lay person life.) But in advertising, journalism, public relations, and literature there are also higher level, thought provoking puns meant to not only entertain or catch the attention of an audience but also to make them think about and remember that certain pun and the subject matter, brand, or story that pun is trying to supplement and convey.

Puns have a place in advertising and can enhance a brand and engage with an audience like no other form of rhetoric can.

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The End.

 

 

 

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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.