In Competition No. 3063 you were invited to submit a poem about puns containing puns.
Dryden regarded paronomasia as ‘the lowest and most grovelling kind of wit’; Samuel Johnson took an equally dim view. But this most derided form of humour produced a witty and accomplished entry that elicited only the occasional groan.
Robert Schechter’s four-liner — ‘Opun and shut’ — caught my eye:
As the punster’s puns
were reaching a crescendo,
I said, ‘Take your puns
and stick them innuendo!’
Also displaying considerable punache were Bill Greenwell, Basil Ransome-Davies, Sylvia Fairley, Michael Jameson and Joseph Houlihan. They narrowly lost out to the winners, printed below, who pocket £25 apiece. W.J. Webster snaffles the extra fiver.
‘No hurry,’ said the nurse, ‘more haste less peed.’
Or did she? Words I find may mix and match:
I hear my hair is starting to re-seed,
While thinking, ‘Alopecia, goodbye thatch.’
A girl I knew once (when I was hirsuter)
Liked being chased to titillate and tease;
She lost me in a forest, being cuter —
I couldn’t see the wooed there for the trees.
A well-made play on words will conjure smiles,
Though some dismiss such handiwork as sleight;
Heigh-ho! The field of humour’s full of styles,
And blinkered eyes may come to see delight.
It is the way that Tom hoodwinks for fun,
And Oscar gives an earnest of his art;
It showed Donne in his cell not all undone,
And penetrated Shakespeare’s every part.
Though critics, averse to a verse about puns,
Like windows, see puns as a pain,
One humouring humour, a pun never shuns
Nor refrains from a funny refrain;
In refrains, wholly holy, Donne, penning a pun,
Plucks fun like a lyre from his name,
‘And having done that,’ he exclaims, ‘thou hast done.’
To play upon words he was game.
The bard too bombards us with puns on ‘goodbyes’
As when breathing his last in the mire,
‘You shall find me a grave man,’ Mercutio sighs,
Whilst respiring about to expire;
Like lawyers, a good pun will always appeal,
Or like strata, bring tiers to the eyes,
Like fishermen, cause us with laughter to reel
And like wheat, spring a corny surprise.
Where do we go to find the finest pun?
To Europe or Paronomasia?
Scotland provides a shoal of fishy fun.
Who says she Disney do Fantasia?
There once the Salmond swam, a boastful sole,
Who ultimately wasn’t up to parr.
A sturgeon took his plaice; it is her goal
To swim scot-free and be a fishy star.
Her ray of hope might come in muddled May
If she can show that she possesses mussels;
Just let her hum one favourite tuna day
And she might sprout some sympathy in Brussels.
True, she’s no angel. She will carp and wail
To lure her listeners to her fishy tale.
Could puns that made Hood lively once
A livelihood maintain?
‘No no!’ claimed knowing pundits. ‘Pen
Up all puns so inane.’
When Hood’s long Shirt tale came out these
Blue dye-hards scoffed, ‘No good
At all! Low Marx! It’s doomed to be
Little-read writing, Hood.
‘What to your seamstress may seem stress
Is just not sew; with candour
We rate you a right proper goose
When you write propaganda.’
Said Tom, ‘You slate my playful work,
My ‘Work!’ — full work you slam;
Henceforth, though you will damn my puns,
My puns you will not dam!’
We fireproof our buildings asbestos we can.
Dutch cheeses taste Gouda; to Edam’s the plan.
Urine the money with pay-to-pee loos.
Why pick one’s own footwear? Have Jimmy Choo’s.
On the value of avarice all are agreed,
And we’re searching in vein to find out why we bleed.
Uncouth at the centaur of ancient myth action,
Half-horse plus half-man equals one whole infraction.
You’ve eyed it before, so this sight’s deja view.
If you’re an identical twin, I’m one, two.
The teacher drew circles but said pie are squared.
I’ve lost my left leg; my right’s left unimpaired.
Do the rich suffer gilt in a gold-toilet suite?
Does a one-legged marathon mean half defeat?
Those hotdogs were bad, but these brats are the wurst.
This poem is arse-backwards. It must be reversed.
To make a neat self-referencing pun,
It comes in handy if your name is Donne;
The possibilities are greater still
If, happily, your Christian name is Will.
But pity all those men called Lou or Jake,
And all the toilet jokes that people make.
Worse still, a chap called Kevin was the brunt
Of ribald jests; his surname was ‘Leigh-Hunt’.
And what do girls’ names tell us? Not a lot,
In sexual terms; June may, but May may not.
In France, the breadless peasants were upset
By all the cake that Marie-Antoine ate,
And Bluff King Henry, when he thought to wed,
Made sure his wife was good at giving head.
That’s it. I cannot find another pun.
Although my name’s not John, I think I’m done.
Sylvia O. Smith
No. 3066: this sporting life
You are invited to provide an ode to a piece of sporting equipment. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 12 September.
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