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.