What is a Pun?

A pun is a play on words that takes advantage of two things: (1) the fact that some words with different meanings sound the same, such as “air” and “heir”; and (2) the fact that other words have more than one meaning, such as “case,” which can mean either a piece of baggage or a instance of a disease.

“Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana,” Groucho Marx’s famous pun, cleverly uses “flies” both as a verb and a noun and “like” both as an adverb and a verb. Our mind, accustomed to the rhetorical device of parallelism, wants to think there is something profound here. But in fact Marx has simply created a pun with a comic effect.

How Do you Identify a Pun in Writing?

In literary texts, a pun can serve a couple of important functions. A pun may reveal the clever, duplicitous, or frivolous nature of the character who uses them to excess. A pun sometimes highlights the author’s self-consciousness about the ambiguous nature of language itself, which can lend itself to different interpretations.

Examples of Puns

Pun Example 1. “A horse is a very stable kind of animal.”

Pun Example 2.”Corduroy pillows make headlines.” Get it? Head lines.

Pun Example 3. “Santa’s helpers are subordinate Clauses.”

Pun Example 4. “I can’t believe I got fired by the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.”

Pun Example 5. “I’m glad I know sign language; it’s pretty handy.”

Pun Example 6. “We need a 12-step group for compulsive talkers. They could call it On Anon Anon.”

(View all literary devices)