The unintended pun in everyday life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Multi-Sensory Unintended Puns

This Unintended Pun combines the visual and taste senses, along with the word usage itself.

My daughter, a regular contributor to, and encourager of, this blog, and definitely a verbally fluent person, was struggling to screw the cap onto a bottle of S. Pellegrino sparkling water. A few inches away from the S. Pellegrino bottle, there was a bottle of Refreshe Raspberry-Acai flavored sparkling water on the table because Claire likes to have some of both waters with dinner.

You'll need to have an image of the dining room table in your mind as you contemplate the following words.

July 21, 2011
As the cap spun uselessly in her hand, she said: “It's fruitless.”

This seems a little different from the multi-modal puns we discussed a few months ago, since it includes different senses. What do you think?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Pun as a Boundary Line and an Integrator

I am about 30% through a fascinating book called Boundaries of Order by Butler Schaeffer. Click here for the book's Amazon page.

In what I have read so far, the author describes how today's technologies, especially but not only social media, have started to lead to the disintegration of centralized, institutionalized, hierarchical, vertical structures, in favor of decentralized, organic, horizontal associations. He uses examples from nature, including biology and chemistry, as well as species other than humans, to show how they are organized in the second way. He also discusses that though institutional structures try to emphasize human dualistic thinking to segregate us into various groups ("You're either with us or against us"), human language and thinking can show us that our minds actually often subconsciously integrate what our conscious minds segregate.

This may be the strongest evidence yet of the reason behind Unintended Puns, or the activation web, that I described from Dr. Motley several months ago. This activation web, perhaps, subconsciously integrates two thoughts that our conscious minds had segregated. Here is a long quote from Dr. Schaeffer's book:

"Humor seems to be a reflection of our unconscious mind’s awareness of the harmony found in seemingly contradictory relationships. Whether we are considering jokes, puns, sight gags, witticisms, irony, or satire, humor provides a pleasurable meaning because it gives us the opportunity to integrate what our conscious mind tells us is to be segregated. James Thurber described “humour” as “emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” It operates along the boundary lines separating the expected from the unexpected, sometimes bouncing back and forth from one side of the line to the other, giving us glimpses of the complementary nature of the world. This is what gives puns their potency: a word or phrase used to communicate different meanings than when such expressions are used in a different context. Puns challenge the boundary lines of what we like to think of as the mutually-exclusive meanings of our abstractions."

In terms of the purpose of investigating Unintended Puns, I think Dr. Schaeffer is saying that puns, as abstractions, allow us to mean two different things at the same time, which allows us to integrate two thoughts into one. Unintended Puns are often silly or mundane, but show that our brains are perfectly capable of doing such a thing; therefore, as an example: we as humans can handle the fact that a person might be of a different race or nationality, but not want to kill or harm us just because of that difference (as Dr. Schaeffer discusses in a different part of the book)--our brains can deal with that fact, even though some institutional structures in some contexts would have us keep those facts separate.

We don't have to think in terms of the simple segregated groupings that many of us have been taught most of our lives. Our brains are capable of integrating things that we've been told can't be integrated.

Let me know what you think. This seems right to me, but maybe it's too big of a leap to think that Unintended Puns show that we are capable of holding two disparate thoughts in our minds at once, especially thoughts that have been inculcated by years of teaching.

Friday, July 15, 2011

If you catch yourself saying "literally" or "so to speak"...

Today, I'd like to share a way to tell if you've just uttered an Unintended Pun; at least it's a way I notice them when I have. It's when I say something, and then I trail off a little, then say "literally" or "so to speak." Example: "This brewed iced tea is a hot to speak," or "I hope you had some striking views of lightning...literally." This technique also works even if you just think "literally" or "so to speak," as in the second example, when you don't want your listener to notice that you just uttered something you don't want him or her to notice, and kind of wish you hadn't said it.

And here are a couple of Unintended Puns to start your weekend right.

June 19, 2011
After friends of ours who had just gotten married described getting lost in the desert near Sedona, my wife explained that every marriage needs those tough experiences at the beginning: “After we drove into the cloud hovering over Mt. Washington, and Bob couldn't see two feet in front of the windshield, it was all downhill after that.”

April 23, 2011
On the TV show Psych, Henry was being pursued by a lady. I said: “We'll have to see how Henry makes out with his lady friend."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Okay, one more related to heat, which may not even count...

Today's word usage may branch us into a new category of puns; at least I don't think I've catalogued one like this before. It involves the mis-spelling of a word, which results in a homonymic pun with the correctly spelled word. You'll see what I mean in a second, and you'll have to help me decide if it counts.

July 9, 2011
As we came home from the grocery, just before she pulled into the driveway, my wife hesitated, trying to decide on which side of the driveway she should park based on which car in the garage she should park behind. I said, as I pointed toward the back of the car: “Whatever you decide, do it soon, because this meat is bakin'.”

I said "bakin'" just like that--not "baking". It sounded just like bacon. So, it wasn't a pun of just one word having two meanings, it was a case of two different words, sounding the same, creating the pun. Does that count as a pun? You help me make the final determination. I would like to add it to my catalogue, because I think it should count. But I'd like your opinion.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Last Heat-related Pun (maybe)

Amazingly, the temperature here dropped to the high 70s on Sunday evening (compared to about 105 the past several days). I mentioned two posts ago that my son had found a job working outside. He and I had talked about the need to work whenever the weather gave him a chance--not so much in Phoenix, but in many parts of the country, landscapers work 12 hour days when the weather permits, because they don't make money when they can't work, and they can't work when the weather doesn't let them. Here, you need to take advantage when it's a little cooler, I said.

This morning at 8:45, as I walked past his closed bedroom door, I thought about our conversation.
July 4, 2011
I said to myself: “You better strike while the iron's hot.”
He doesn't use iron tools, but he does use metal tools. And he will be working in a very hot environment if he doesn't get going soon.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Another Phoenix Heat-Related Pun

To celebrate Saturday's 118 degree scorcher here in Phoenix, I thought I'd pass this one along.

My wife owns her own medical practice. All of these 110-degree-plus days in a row has revealed a serious flaw in her office suite's A/C system. Apparently, the mechanical engineer had recommended a certain size unit for the compressor, but a smaller size was actually installed three years ago. Thus, several of the rooms cannot be cooled sufficiently to make them comfortable for the staff or patients. This, of course, is going to lead to some tricky negotiations--who is going to pay for an upgrade to the A/C system--the landlord should pay, but since the "feeling" of air differs from person to person, how can one really prove that a bigger system is needed, or that some other remedy must be investigated and installed.
July 3, 2011
My wife explained the dilemma like this: “The feeling of air is subjective. Warmth is a matter of degrees.”
This use of words shows that a pun can be a true statement taken either way.