You’re my Pun and Only

Last week in my ecology class, my professor was talking about the out-of-control wildfires that happened in Yellowstone National Park in 1988. At first, the park personnel didn’t put out the fires immediately because the flames began naturally — by lightning, to be precise. There are some trees (most notably the Jack Pine) that can only germinate if they are subjected to forest fires, and the underbrush is cleared for easier propagation of new sapling generations. For these and other reasons, the park employees let the fires burn.

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…And burn they did. For months, these seemingly never-ending conflagrations refused to let up, and after over a million acres of damage, Yellowstone was eventually fire-free. “The national park got a lot of heat from the media from not putting the fires out sooner,” my professor said.

Albeit unacknowledged by even the speaker himself, this pun was gloriously impressive. Sadly, I was convinced that I was the only one in class that actually noticed it — I looked around, and I didn’t see anyone else nearly as smug as I was. Oh, well. It seems the most enjoyable things in life are slight and unrecognized.

I recently started reading The Pun also Rises by Jonathan Pollack, a 1995 O’Henry Pun-Off champion. I’m not even 20 pages in, and I find myself with stupid grin plastered across my face, loving every bit of it. I even make little notes that say “nice one!” and “oho!” and “hehehehe!” Goodness, I love my puns. And other people’s puns, for that matter. I, for pun, don’t discriminate.

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So I took my adoration of puns, and I wrote about it, and it got published. Last year, I was just getting into this fascinating culture that had been unbeknownst to me for most of my life. I write for my university’s newspaper, and somehow I got away with this little gem. Depending on the audience, it was either considered cringe-worthy or terribly entertaining (emphasis on the “terrible”). Nevertheless, it is mine and mine alone. I had to tunnel into the depths of my imagination to write something that rocked. And I’ll treasure it always.

Since I first combined pen and pun, I have made it my duty to immerse myself into this society of punnsters and appreciators of verbal jousting. You may say I started from square pun. (har har har)

I know I’m among many who cherish this witty wordplay. I recently stumbled upon this lovely little article that illustrates the mighty pun and its prodigious ubiquity.

Here are some notable examples:

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So, until next time, I’ll leave you with my very own half-baked shaggy dog story:

Two bakers entered a rigorous baking contest. Each was to bring her own ingredients to the competition, making sure not to forget any necessary items.

Once the competition got underway, one of the bakers realized that she misplaced her butter. She did what she could without it, but the cake turned out three times smaller than planned. She gave each judge a miniature piece of cake, hoping that the flavors would be enough to help her win.

The judges devoured the slices and deliberated. In the end, they chose the other competitor as the winner. They turned to the second-place baker and said, “We couldn’t choose your cake because your sample size was too small, and your margarine of error was far too large.”

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Revolutionizing Online Writing, One Semicolon at a Time

Hello again! It has been far too long since I posted on this blog, so I decided to do an impromptu post to stop neglecting the poor thing.

Background info on this particular post: I wrote this essay for a scholarship contest, answering the question of how the internet has impacted the quality/style of my writing. I didn’t win, but nonetheless I figured I had put together a pretty decent set of words. Enjoy.

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The internet is a paradox. It spawns nationwide and worldwide revolutions while it simultaneously spreads countless instances of sheer stupidity. It breeds brilliant minds and propagates wicked-intentioned evildoers. Arguably the most consequential seeds that the internet has planted have been in the field of respectable writing and grammar (or, in many cases, the lack thereof).  For me, these seeds have developed into a revamped approach to writing, enabling me to augment my writing structure and widen my scope.

To illustrate my point, it is important to explain both kinds of people who inhabit the murky depths of the internet:

On one hand, there are those who have forgotten the ins and outs of the English language altogether—those who ruthlessly butcher innocent words such as “its,” “your,” and “there,” among many others. Numbers are inserted in places where numbers should never be. Commas are heartlessly misused, and oftentimes it seems like a lost cause for grammarians everywhere. The fate of dignified written communication hangs by the delicate threads that separate a well-placed “Happy Holidays” with a shockingly inaccurate “Happy Holiday’s” (it makes me twitch just looking at it).

On the other hand are the intrepid defenders of syntax who have gained power in the fight against this generation’s disgraceful internet jargon.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and often their identities are shrouded in the mysteries of an anonymous username on a random website. These are the grammar correctors of the internet world. An independent faction, this insurgent movement took roots in the very thing the internet had initially created: lazy, apathetic typists and texters. The internet’s renegade grammarians are fighting for a respectable scholarly cause.

I have since joined the ranks of the latter group—but I don’t fight on the front lines; I fight my own personal battle. I tackle the issue of shoddy online writing through my own counteractive methods: Sticking to my own rigid standards, being aware of the audience’s and my own points of view, and preserving a distinctive, characteristic writing style. To put it simply, the internet has made me a better, more detail-oriented writer, and I’d like to inspire others to reassess their writing in a similar fashion.

Although I have always been enthusiastic about writing and grammar, the internet has been a huge step up for me in spirit and practice. I value the spreading of knowledge and the proliferation of ideas, and technology has made it monumentally simpler to find and cite articles, pictures, videos, what have you. This way, my writing has spanned an entirely new dimension. While writing itself is a powerful thing, writing with the internet gives me boundless opportunities and entirely new layers of information-sharing in a single article or sentence. Not only has the character and structure of my writing changed, but my influence has widened due to the internet’s seemingly endless capabilities.

Knowing this, people still misuse their power. If the online powers-that-be would collectively improve and revamp their writing and grammatical approach, just think of the worldwide effects. Gone will be the days of dropped vowels and misused apostrophes. People will be taken more seriously, and, potentially, world peace would be affirmed (except for the ongoing battle for or against the Oxford comma—of which I will forever stand in favor). These hypothetical widespread grammatical reforms might cause people to become more aware of their written wrongdoings of the past, and rectify them accordingly.

While I may not have nearly as much power as those with millions of Twitter followers or thousands of Facebook status likes, I’d like to start my own small-scale writing revolution. Ideally, I’d like my writing to influence others to reassess theirs, if possible. Until that time, I write for myself, keep my own standards high, and feel accomplished for the small things.

In this case, I’d like to influence the nice people of the internet with powerful judging authority and keen editor’s eyes. Good luck with your endeavors, and may you never misuse a semicolon.

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An Analysis of the Quintessential Walrus

Disclaimer: As this is my first blog post, I have decided to write about whatever popped into my little head. Today, this happened to be walruses for some reason (just roll with it). I may eventually find some structure to this blog, but in its beginning phases it will simply be a medium for my random nuggets of analysis. What will come next? Even I myself cannot say! Oh! The mystery!

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In my eighth grade graduation speech, I quoted a snippet of possibly my favorite classic quirky poem of Mr. Lewis Carroll (of Alice in Wonderland fame):

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.’

While few people may associate large-tusked sea-faring mammals with any sort of educational elevation, this poem epitomized the feelings that our fourteen-year-old selves were attempting to grasp at that point in our lives (Disclaimer: I was a rather analytical, literary kid from an early age).

Blissfully unaware, this whiskered guy represents the forefront of our futures

Ok, let’s back up. If we look at the entirety of the poem, we find that the walrus and his good friend the carpenter trick their newfound oyster friends into the waiting bellies of their charming oppressors. Through his beguile, the walrus begins this strangely compelling speech with the ominous phrase, “the time has come.”

Carpenter (left) and Walrus (a.k.a. Jamie Hyneman of “Mythbusters”)

What “time,” exactly? That, my friends, is where our good pal symbolism comes in (always welcome in my company). Symbolism sweeps us out of the poem and into an alternate reality—similar to the “flash sideways” universe in season 6 of “Lost.” Sometimes you just want to believe that it’s true; other times you’re convinced that it must be. In this situation, the sideways universe involved a new forward step in our lives, educationally, spiritually, and otherwise.

Claire and a very dapper Desmond discuss important things in their sideways universe

So what have I accomplished here besides elaborating on our literary flippered friend (and alluding to one of the greatest shows in the history of shows)? I have illustrated that we, the students, are the oysters. Society is, therefore, the walrus. (This is a working theory. Also, I realize how ridiculous it might sound to say the phrase “society is the walrus,” but just go with it.)

It’s not just Mr. Carroll who makes this claim. Society’s representation through the walrus also appears in other mediums as well. For example, surely you are familiar with the strange yet melodic Beatles classic “I am the Walrus,” which begins with an eloquent “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Taking into the account that this could mean nothing at all, there could be a modicum of logic in this incongruity. Basically, it is saying that we are all part of the same crowd—that is, society—whether we choose to be or not. Yes, besides some possible other, ahem, influences which the Beatles may have used to write these peculiar lyrics, they are cleverly relevant, if you dissect them enough.

They know who the walrus is

There you have it, folks. Despite all your previous notions of this whiskered marine mammal, it is in fact an archetypal standard of the social order. So next time you come across a walrus, be sure to be respectful, because it has a lot of responsibility to uphold.

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