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.
…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.
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:
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.”