I knew a man once who was a pro at puns. Well, that’s not true – I’ve known three men who were pros at puns. My dad, my older brother, and another fellow, lets call him Paul. Not his real name of course, except, yeah, it is. Oh, and Mark. So four, at least.
Men all, and I can’t help but think there’s something in that. I never feel safe with them. They may burst into puns at any moment.
Each one of them is capable of stringing off puns, one after another, until I lie, writhing, on the ground, laughing and groaning and wincing with pain all at once. I remember one gruesome car trip where my brother and father riffed on puns about fish for an hour or more. I was trapped in the back seat, trying to block out the endless “I have a haddock!” “Perhaps it’s a cod coming on”, until my ears were about to rupture.
It takes brains to rig a pun. You’ve got to see parallel universes and be able to link them, you’ve got to adore word play, you’ve got to be literate and silly and not afraid of shunning.
Because shunned you will be.
Like dirty limericks or sleazy romance novels or lurid poetry, a little punning goes a long way. Remember, punning and shunning rhyme, and could probably be used in a limerick or lurid poem as such. To wit (as it were):
For whom life was one terrible pun
He gathered no wife
Nor friends all his life
When they saw him a-coming, they’d run.
Now, I hasten to add that I like a good pun now and again. They can add spice, lighten up an otherwise turgid conversation, and when done well, can impress others with your wit. In writing, they don’t scan, really, except on a t-shirt. It’s sort of a “you had to be there” kind of thing. However, as book titles, they are fabulous. More than once I’ve grabbed a book based on the pun in its title. This author, I rationalize, must have a wicked sense of humour. I’m rarely disappointed.
Some of the titles I’ve seen:
The Long Quiche Goodbye (CHEESE SHOP MYSTERY) by Avery Ames
Affairs of Steak (A White House Chef Mystery) by Julie Hyzy
The Gingerbread Bump-Off: A Fresh-Baked Mystery by Livia J. Washburn
Liver Let Die (A Clueless Cook Mystery) by Liz Lipperman
One Foot In The Gravy: A Nashville Katz Mystery (D… by Delia Rosen
Due or Die (A Library Lover’s Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay
The More the Terrier (A Pet Rescue Mystery) by Linda O. Johnston
Shoe Done It (An Accessories Mystery) by Grace Carroll
You Better Knot Die (A Crochet Mystery) by Betty Hechtman
Ghoul Interrupted: A Ghost Hunter Mystery by Victoria Laurie
See? Dontcha want to read these? As for me, I’ve just ordered up a huge helping of Mary Jane Maffini books from the library. I feel the need for a well-written cozy as the snowflakes continue to fall, and she’s the queen of those. (Some of the others – well – a cute title still needs some good credible writing behind it!)
A good cozy is a welcome break from the very grim (but also wonderful) more realistic mysteries, like those by the inimitable Giles Blunt, or Mark Billingham. Like meringue after steak, they are a treat on the tongue, light and frothy and totally enjoyable and you don’t feel the need to check in your closets before turning out the light.
But use those puns sparingly, please. As one gardener pointed out to another, while looking at the beans sprouting from his compost pile, “The mung is the lowest form of humus”…