Being a fiction author is a novel profession, pun intended.
Pun, in a nutshell, is a witty play on words to inject humor or rhetoric in a presentation, conversation, or, for us writers, our literary compositions.
In a broader definition, it is the art of inter-changing words or a combination of two or three words that sound almost the same to come up with a hilarious, and sometimes, cringe-worthy sentence or statement.
Want to hear some mind-tickling examples of puns that can stimulate your literary creativity? Read on, my friend.
Why take interest in the art of making and using puns?
Timely and tasteful use of wordplay that elicits laughter or even a grin extends your audience’s attention span, so they keep on reading.
You don’t have to be a standup comic, a cartoonist, a gag writer, or even a preacher to know how humor can make your audience or readers glued to your work or presentation.
While you can use jokes, tales, and limericks to entertain, a good pun can also play a role in creating punchlines, and other rib-tickling statements, to make those methods have more pizzaz in their delivery (get it?).
A List Of Writing Puns With Examples
There are at least six major classifications of puns.
To be honest, there’s quite a lot of overlap here. But to clarify the technical classification of each pun, let us look at each one and its basic definition.
We will also see a few examples of each category, including ones produced by famous authors and other influential personalities in history.
1. Homophonic Puns
They involve replacing a word or words in a sentence with something that sounds the same but has a very different meaning. Examples:
- Define Iraq, Iran, and Egypt: Iraq (a rock) is bigger than a stone, Iran (a run) is faster than a walk, and Egypt (a jeep) is smaller than a truck.
- I dream of embarking on an adventure in an ocean of orange soda. It turns out it’s just a Fanta sea.
- A wife said to her husband: It sounds like elks are falling from the sky. The husband replied: No, it’s just reindeer.
- The doctor assured his patient, who ingested a whole bottle of food coloring, that he is going to be fine. The man said, “but doc, I feel like I’m dyeing inside”.
- England went through the Dark Ages in the 14th century because they have too many knights.
2. Homographic Puns
In this category, we substitute a word or group of words in a sentence or paragraph with another that is spelled the same but has a different meaning. Examples:
- Can a salmon play music? No, but a bass can.
- Why are his breath fresheners so valuable? Because they are in mint condition.
- My cousin told me that he was chased by a squirrel. I said, “maybe it thinks you’re nuts!”
- My wife misses me a lot last week, but this morning her aim got better!
- Will February march? No, but April may.
3. Homonymic Puns
This one may entail the use of either homographic or homophonic puns or both. They are characterized by a straight and complete statement, but they have hidden or double meanings. Examples:
- Biologists made lab frogs immortal by removing their vocal cords. They can’t croak.
- Horses are emotionally peaceful because they are stable animals.
- Two silkworms decided to race and they ended up in a tie.
- Coffee beans tend to be humble and realistic because they are always grounded.
- You cannot lie to a radiologist because he can see through you.
- Teddy bears don’t need to eat because they are already stuffed.
4. Compounded Puns
This one is about using two or more wordplays in a single statement. It could be a combination of two puns of the same category or a mix-and-match of different puns. Examples:
- The muscle said to the blood vessel “you are so vein”. The blood vessel retorted, “you are just saying that because you are shellfish”.
- Don’t take the kids to an orchestra concert, too much sax and violins there. Take them mini-golfing instead, it is more hole-some.
- It’s hard to joke around with pediatricians as they easily get annoyed. They have very little patients. You’ll get more laughs hanging out with surgeons as they always leave you in stitches.
5. Recursive Puns
In this category, the listener must have prior knowledge or understanding of the background of the subject for a pun or the element of the first part of the statement. Examples:
- 19th-century Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde once commented: “Immanuel doesn’t pun, he Kant”. This is, of course, a wordplay on the name of the renowned 18th-century German philosopher. But if you do not know who Immanuel Kant was, you won’t get the joke.
- Another great (and more recent) example is when fans of the Star Wars movie franchise named May 4 “Star Wars Day” because of the pun “May the Fourth be with you”.
This is, of course, a wordplay on the popular byline of the franchise “May the force be with you”. But unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in the past few decades and have no idea about the context of the popular movie line, you won’t appreciate the humor.
6. Visual Puns
In this category, the punned word is replaced by a picture or illustration.
You will see great examples of visual puns in cartoons, syndicated comic strips, TV and print ads, and satiric illustrations. You can also find them in logos, insignias, and other graphic symbols.
Some of my favorite visual puns come from the cartoonist Gary Larson, and his syndicated comic strip The Far Side. He commonly uses anthropomorphic animals, foodstuff, and other objects to convey humor.
A complete collection of his comic strips are available on Amazon in hardbound and paperback editions.
Some of the brightest literary minds in history have used puns now and then to create their masterpieces.
Besides who’s already mentioned above, you can add the great Roman playwright Plautus (254 – 184 BC), William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov, Alexander Pope, James Joyce, and many other well-loved and critically acclaimed authors in history that used puns on several occasions in their work.
I know that they all cast a long shadow, but there are still many ways for us young writers to bask in the sun in our literary pursuits. I hope this article has somewhat nudged your mindset in that direction.
Can you share with me some of your favorite puns too? I would love to hear from you as well.
Free resource: Download your free PDF and learn about the top tools used by freelance writers.Download here