PunA pun (also known as paronomasia) is a play on words that transposes the meanings of words with similar sounds. This is usually for humorous effect, although one well known pun of serious intent is found in the Bible: Matthew 16.18:
- "Thou art Peter [Greek Πετρος, Petros], and upon this rock [Greek πετρα, petra] I will build my church."
Although there are several varieties of puns, there are two main linguistic methods for creating them:
- Homographic, where the pun exploits a word with multiple meanings. For example: "Being in politics is just like playing golf - you are trapped in one bad lie after another."
- Homophonic where the pun exploits two words with similar sounds. For example: "A chicken crossing the road is pure poultry [poetry] in motion."
- A woman had three sons who emigrated from Ireland to the USA. They prospered and soon became the owners of a large cattle ranch. They weren't, however, sure what to call it, so they wrote back to their mother for advice. She sent a one-word reply on a postcard: Focus. Puzzled, they wrote back for an explanation. Her response was: "It's where the sons raise meat". [sun's rays meet] (As a trivial aside, this pun seems to have inspired a number of real Focus Ranches, for example: http://www.coloradoduderanches.com/focus-ranch/. )
Numerous pun formats exist, see also:
- Tom Swifty
- Knock-knock joke
- Shaggy dog story
- Transpositional puns
- Bilingual pun