Archive for Puns

The perils of punning

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The hippo bottom of us

One of the most successful weekly essays I wrote in an early sixties college class on modern English poetry was about T. S. Eliot's "The Hippopotamus", the first two (out of nine) stanzas of which read thus:

THE BROAD-BACKED hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and blood is weak and frail,            5
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

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Bilingual paronomasia in Literary Sinitic and Korean

The United States of America and Great Britain / United Kingdom are not the only countries in the midst of political crises.  South Korea has a nasty one of its own involving the undue influence of a shamaness over their President.

"Tens of Thousands Call on South Korea's President to Quit" (ABC News, 11/5/16)

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Cutesy hairdresser names

I've heard it said that among the retail establishments most addicted to cutesy punning business names are hairdressing salons. I mean, you don't find law practices called Law 'n' Order to Go, do you? Or a hardware store called Get Hard? Or a butcher's called Meat and Greet? But with hairdressers… Well, I don't know all that many myself; just about 150 or so that I've personally seen the signs for…

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Humor among the Finns

According to The Economist (July 9, 2016, "Just visiting" [p.30 in UK edition]), a joke was "making the rounds" in Finland back in 2008 when Russia invaded part of Georgia (and Finns aren't laughing at it quite so much since the Ukraine conflict flared up):

Vladimir Putin lands at Helsinki airport and proceeds to passport control. "Name?" asks the border guard. "Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," answers the Russian president. "Occupation?" asks the border guard. "No, just visiting," answers Mr Putin.

But wait a minute, I thought: that relies on a pun. In English the word for a militarily backed presence and control of governmental functions imposed by one state on the territory of another happens to be identical with one of the words for a person's regular paying job or profession. Are the two also, by pure accident, identical in Finnish (a non-Indo-European language)? That somehow feels implausible to me.

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June 4, 198brew

A tweet from Cherie Chan:

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The year of the Golden Monkey is truly excellent

Time for Chinese New Year celebrations.  This is the year of the Monkey.  In this article from the online China Times, the customary couplet (it's more of a singlet in this case) on red paper features an interlingual pun: the characters 金猴 ("golden monkey"), when read in Mandarin, are pronounced jīn hóu, which is a near homophone for the Taiwanese chin-hó 真好 ("truly good", i.e., "excellent").  Thus roughly the "peaceful golden monkey" becomes "peace is wonderful".

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More sound-loan Taiwanese

Michael Cannings sent in this photograph:

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Madame Curry

Mark Swofford called my attention to this Taipei restaurant, noting the risqué pun in its name:  gālí niáng 咖哩娘 (lit., "curry mom").  The restaurant also has the Frenchified Western name "cari de madame".

It could conceivably be a pun for jiālǐ niàng 家裡釀 ("home brew"), but I suspect that Mark had something else in mind.  Well, the proprietors tell part of the story themselves here, "A naughty name for insane curry".

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Delay no more

This is what happens when copy editors type what they're feeling and then forget to take it out again before it goes online:

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I.SEOUL.U

The city of Seoul, South Korea, has a new slogan.  This is what it looks like:

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China reigns

Headline from the China Daily:

"China reigns in brutal police tactics" (9/9/03)

This hilarious misspelling causes China's widest circulating English-language newspaper accidentally to have a true headline.

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Outsiders and hard drives

It's a bit of a mystery how and why "outsiders" (wàidìrén 外地人) are referred to by Shanghainese as "hard disks / drives" (yìngpán 硬盘).

Intrigued, I asked around, and here are some of the replies I received.

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