The unintended pun in everyday life.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The False Presumption

I have a couple of good Unintended Puns to blog about--one involves "missionary positions" on a job posting web page and the other "handshakes" being "grasped" by someone from a culture where hugs are the common form of greeting--so they're both good candidates to discuss. But along with puns, another of my hobbies is to figure out human nature. This is perhaps a somewhat arrogant endeavor, I know, but one has to do something while one navigates the NASCAR race tracks around here, seeing human nature in its rawest, most anonymous form. That is, watching drivers, anonymous behind their tinted windows, race from one traffic light to the next, jockey to save fractions of a second while risking their own and others' lives on the freeways, driving recklessly while texting or otherwise distracted.

And because I recently came to a deeper understanding of human nature, I wanted to blog about it right away; happily for this blog's sake, it involved a play on words as I thought about how to describe it. First, a few definitions to get us started:

MacMillan Online Dictionary definitions:
  1. presume upon: to expect more than you should get or have a right to, especially in your relationships with other people.
  2. presumption: an act or instance of taking something to be true or adopting a particular attitude toward something, esp. at the start of a chain of argument or action; also: Acceptance or belief based on reasonable evidence; assumption or supposition
  3. assume: to believe that something is true, even though no one has told you or even though you have no proof
  4. assumption: something that you consider likely to be true even though no one has told you directly or even though you have no proof

Drivers, and therefore perhaps people in general if drivers represent people hiding behind tinted windows, go around presuming upon other people. They "assume" that everybody else will behave as non-variables in their equation of life (thanks to my son for helping me with that wording). As they zip in out of lanes, they assume everybody else will continue exactly as they are going. This, of course, is ridiculous and actually impossible. It amounts to saying A is not A. Thus, it is a False Presumption. How can each person on the planet, or in a driver to driver exchange, be a non-variable to every other person? We can't, because we are all agents, agents of action, so therefore we bother each other, sometimes to the point of traffic accidents, sometimes to the point of arguments, etc.

False Presumption is the somewhat Unintended Pun/play on words that I named my insight. The term False Assumption is well known, and I think my brain hit upon that when I was looking for a name; but since I had already been thinking about "presumption", the term came out False Presumption, which is much better anyway.

To conclude: People presume upon others, what they wouldn't let others presume upon them. That is, they expect the others to let them drive like fools and not care. Thus, to generalize, I believe we can dub this The Era of Presumption. When we are not driving, we pretend we are not presumptuous by putting on a veneer of civility, which is a good thing--but that doesn't change human nature. At the bottom, we all want to be the ruler of all we can see (we all presume upon others), me included, and presuming upon others is just the beginning.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Seriously Punny and Don't Harass Me about It

My company requires me to take (I won't say "suffer through," because that would create a negative impression) several on-line training courses every year. They are designed to make sure that I am aware of company policy and legislative laws (not to be confused with God's common sense Laws as written in my heart and conscience), and therefore that I don't get in trouble with the company, and much more importantly, that the company get in trouble with the government.

If you guessed based on my flippant attitude that I took one of these today, you would be right. Today's was about Workplace Harassment, usually my favorite. It's my favorite, because right at the beginning I am told that I will learn not only what harassment is, but also what it isn't. In my ironic/warped way of viewing the universe, that means to me that I will be learning exactly what it is I can do that will bother/offend other people, but that will not be considered legal harassment. I find that deeply humorous, for two reasons:
  1. The designers of the course certainly do not intend to teach me how to legally harass.
  2. The designers of the course have no sense of humor.
Thus, when I came across the scenario that was meant to teach that one can harass someone of the same race, and found an Unintended Pun, I was elated. What better prize in such a course as this could there be than fodder for my blog?

October 21, 2013 In a fake work scenario, an employee said: "Hi, it's me, Valentina. Can I ask your advice about something? Julia, Sylvia, and I are all Latina. Julia always teases Sylvia and me about how dark our skin is. She says that we need to stop hitting the tanning booth so we don't get any darker. When I mentioned it to Sylvia, she laughed and told me to lighten up and stop taking everything so seriously. Maybe I am being too sensitive, but it still bothers me."

I guess it's minimally possible the course designers threw this in there to see if anybody was paying attention. But assuming not, this is a truly great pun--because of course, if Sylvia and Valentina would indeed lighten up (if their skin tone would lighten), then Julia would have nothing to tease them about. The phrasing chosen by these course designers is beautiful, though Unintended.

It's a perfect metaphor for government rules and regulations. If the bureaucrats would just lighten up and give up their desire for political correctness in the ideal world (the course was full of references to an imaginary "reasonable person" who "might" be offended by something--that is, the Ideal Person), we could just get along with our lives. If we don't like what Julia says, we can tell her to buzz off. If we don't like a joke somebody tells us, we can stop hanging around him. If we don't like somebody touching us, we can slug him or walk away. We don't have to wonder if we should tell HR, or if we should confront the person and worry about "retaliation" or other official terms. This kind of official speak just makes us all question and doubt each other, and turns us all into a bunch of snitches.

We don't need the Nanny State teaching us what true harassment is--we know it when we see it, and it's disgusting. It isn't somebody telling a bad joke that supposedly makes fun of some group--people aren't that easily offended unless they go around looking for something to offend them. True harassment involves tangible intimidation that makes an individual's life intolerable. When that happens, people of goodwill step in. We can take care of ourselves, and don't need layers of bureaucracy to "help." And most of all, we don't need another legal layer of unenforceable laws making us all spy on each other while we sit at our desks and try to get work done.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Arizona Pun

Homeowners in Arizona share their property with many critters you don't see just anywhere: scorpions, rattlesnakes, javelinas, bobcats, geckos, lizards, tarantulas, etc., along with a bunch of more familiar friends, such as birds, crickets, black widows, brown recluses, etc. Fortunately for this homeowner and his family, from these lists, we share with just geckos, crickets, birds, and maybe the occasional lizard or two.

Others aren't so fortunate, so are often discussing their battle and/or fascination with the goings-on of the wildlife they witness in their yards and houses. Just the other day at work I heard two colleagues discussing the circle of life and the way the various prey and predators kind of keep things in balance. It had gotten out of balance at one point, leading one of my colleagues to notice interesting proportions of critters.

September 25, 2013 In describing the new opportunities for the one critter to feast on another, he said: "Out of the clear blue sky the birds started eating all the geckos."

This had then led to further complications, since the geckos were now not around to eat the crickets, which then invaded his house.

I thought it was pretty funny in a gentle sort of way, but of course true to the philosophy of this blog, didn't point it out to anybody, knowing that would lead to boring and misunderstood explanations. This Unintended Pun Factors pretty nicely, since it is self-contained, doesn't need context to be a pun, and provides humor in and of itself.

Please leave your comments, especially if have come across any Unintended Puns in your daily life, or invading your house or conversations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Great Punkin of a Pun

Invoking one of my all time favorites, Charlie Brown and the gang by the great Charles Shultz, today's post involves none other than a Great Pumpkin. A man in Alaska has made it his main purpose in life to grow gargantuan pumpkins, and I don't use the word the word "gargantuan" lightly, if you'll pardon the pun, which I'm sure you will given the nature of this blog. The Pumpkin in question weighs over 1400 pounds.

Anyway, assuming the article still exists, read all about it here:

Great Pumpkin Article

August 27, 2013 In describing her brother-in-law's disappointment that his gigantic pumpkin would not be eligible for this year's weigh-off, she said: "It's just killing him," said Pam Elkins, Megchelsen's sister-in-law. "He eats, sleeps and dreams pumpkins. All he does is pumpkins."

I realize that this isn't one of the funnier or more knock'em dead puns that we've had here on the Unintended Pun blog. But the subject matter is so vivid and the man is so serious in his quest that I thought it deserved recognition. And the sister-in-law's quote certainly qualifies as a pun. Then throw in the fact that if Mr. Megchelsen really did eat his pumpkins, it would take him a very long time, and he would probably gain a lot of weight--it's a fairly humorous image.

And of course--it lets me talk about Charlie Brown and Snoopy--the best combination of a boy and his dog in history. Here's to you, Charles Shultz.

Please leave your comments, especially if have come across any Unintended Puns in your daily life.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Very Tall Pun

I'm beginning to wonder if I should reference news pages. They seem to be actively edited, so that for the second pun in a row, I can't find the page I want to quote, even though this time I just read it the other day. I'm wondering if the writer or the editor had the pun pointed out, and that particular sentence was removed, or if more prosaically, the article was simply edited for brevity.

Anyway, once again, I can't point you to the actual utterance, almost certainly an Unintended Pun, and in this case, pretty funny if you can picture the context. So, you'll have to trust me, once again. But ask my friends--I'm pretty trustworthy.

As a fan of Cleveland sports teams, I have been following news of Cleveland's NBA team's pursuit of an oft-injured center named Andrew Bynum. He is 7 feet tall, and plays at a weight of about 280 pounds. He has had quite a bit of success early in his career, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers on several playoff teams alongside NBA great Kobe Bryant.

approximately July 18, 2013 At the press conference to introduce the newly signed Andrew Bynum, General Manager Chris Grant said: "It is a pleasure adding a player of Andrew's stature to our roster."

I was not in Chris Grant's mind when he said this, but I am positive when he said "stature," he was not referring to the player's height, but rather to his playoff experience and general success in the league. But, when you are standing next to a man who is 7 feet tall, and currently weighs over 300 pounds, what other word would come to mind? I submit this as a stellar example of the activation web at work--Mr. Grant's mind surveyed the landscape of words to capture his thought to express "success, experience, exposure to great players" and came up with the only word it could when in the presence of such a massive person.

Please leave your comments, especially if have come across any Unintended Puns in your daily life.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Huh? A Study in Obfuscation

approximately June 23, 2013 An NBA draft prospect said: "My weakness is my strength."

"My weakness is my strength." Without context, and even with context, this sentence can have so many different meanings, it's almost mind-numbing. In this case, I think the player was saying that he knew he needed to work out more so he could get physically stronger--he was using the word "weakness" in its metaphorical sense, and the word strength in its actual, physical sense. This play on words/almost-impossible-to-understand-sentence sent me on a research project, looking on the Web for "my weakness is my strength", resulting in a lot of hits. Apparently, most uses are the more standard fare, using both "weakness" and "strength" in their metaphorical senses--that is, "one of the worst things about me is one of the best things about me," and then the author explains what he or she means. In some cases, it has a spiritual meaning, others, some kind of internal awakening, in another, it was political of some kind. But I didn't find any cases where the words were mixed, as in the NBA prospect's quote above, so I think we have something of an Unintended Pun.

The multiple meanings I alluded to above:
  • The one I already mentioned--my metaphorical weakness--the thing I'm not so great at, is my physical strength
  • The opposite--my physical weakness is my metaphorical strength--because it keeps me humble, or relying on my family or God
  • Both metaphorical (seems to be the most common)--my metaphorical weakness--the thing I am not very good at--is my metaphorical strength--is the thing I end up being the best at.
  • And then it gets really interesting, because if we decide that the last item is the case, that both "weakness" and "strength" are being used metaphorically, we have then to learn what is the weakness and what is the strength. But the player was quoted only one more sentence, with no further explanation.
So I think the activation web comes into play here. The player knows he has an area of his basketball game that needs to improve--he needs to get physically stronger so he has more stamina, so he can withstand the more physical play at the NBA level vs. college, so he can drive to the basket and not have the ball knocked out of his hands as easily, etc. He chose the word "weakness" instead of "area of improvement" or some such because, of course, it is close in his mind's web to the word "strength." But the result is obfuscation, and a pretty good entry for our blog.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

These Aren't Really Puns, So What Are They?

Today's entries don't seem to be exactly puns, but they nonetheless have the "feel" of somebody choosing words that "fit" the previous words they used, in the same way that I've tried to define and describe Unintended Puns. So I would appreciate your feedback on how they fit this blog's intent.

For the first one, I wrote it down, but don't have a link for it. If you find a link, please post it in a comment so we can give credit to the right person.

approximately May 15, 2013 One of the contestants on the reality TV show The Biggest Loser lost 120 pounds. She said: "I didn't know I had it in me."

She means, of course, that she didn't realize she had the courage and perseverance to lose that much weight. But here on the Unintended Pun Forum, we notice the irony in the world, especially in how people word things. So, as I said, it's not really a pun, though I suppose you could make a case that "it," if you look at it in the pun sense, refers to the weight she lost, and of course that is what she had in her, so in that sense, there is a pun. But I wouldn't usually allow that the word "it" can qualify as a pun, since it's a pronoun, and also very short. What do you think?

The second one came out of my mouth, as many of these puns do--I am quite a purposeful punster, and maybe that "practice" results in many Unintended Puns as well. This happened as I was driving on the notorious AZ Loop 101--I have referred to it as a NASCAR raceway in previous posts. I noticed a small, boxy car in my rear view mirror. It then disappeared in my blind spot. For some reason, I spoke out loud, though nobody else was in the car with me, and I chose a "jive" accent.

May 20, 2013 As I needed to move into the lane where the small, boxy car was, I said: "I see you, my Kia Soul Brotha'."

Why in the world did I choose the jive accent and wording? That one made me laugh out loud to myself. Of all the cars it could have been (I am something of a car buff, so I usually can recognize cars), it was a Kia Soul, and I chose to add "Brotha'" to my little expostulation. Again, not really a pun, but something happened in my brain to make me choose this combination. What was it? Was it the same activation web that results in Unintended Puns?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The (Almost) Perfect Unintended Pun?

Okay, pefection basically doesn't happen within the human realm. Outside the human plane, you've got Plato's Ideal Forms, God's immutable character and will, maybe one or two others I can't think of right now. Inside the human plane, you have chocolate cream pie, chicken tikka masala over basmati rice...I already gotcha, because you're thinking "Those aren't perfect, but [insert something here] is." So anyway, when I say that I've got the "almost" perfect pun, I realize that perfection on this human plane is in the eye of the beholder. The way to assess, of course, is by using the Pun Factors: Fitting, Humor, Context, Depth, and Subtelty (this last I'm not sure is a good factor). This one we'll see works in all but Subtlety.

As I type, I am looking at pine trees, hillsides, and blue skies beyond. No, I'm not looking out the back window of my Phoenix home, but rather of our new weekend getaway home in the mountains north of Phoenix. And when I sleep away from my own comfortable bed, I try to remember to bring my own comfortable pillow. This time, I forgot, thus setting us up for the almost perfect Unintended Pun.

It's perfect for several reasons.
  • You actually sleep "over" a pillow--Fitting.
  • You use a pillow during sleep--Fitting.
  • I had just lain down to sleep when I said the pun--Context
  • I had tried to say a different metaphor, but couldn't get the words right, so I switched into the pun-ic metaphor--just plain Awesome.
  • Maybe other reasons, which you can help me with.
  • And finally, perhaps because I was so tired, but I think more because of the beauty of the pun, I actually laughed out loud-- and I never laugh at my own jokes--Humor
The metaphor I was trying to say was "don't cry over spilled milk." But I was very tired, so the words would not quite form themselves into a coherent sentence. As we know here on the forum, the brain has a way of subconsiously helping us out of our verbal dilemmas, making its associations far better than we could have consiously, thus bringing us to the almost perfect Unintended Pun.

April 27, 2013 As I lay down to sleep resting my head on a cushion not my familiar pillow, I said to myself: "Well, it's not my regular pillow, but I won't lose any sleep over it."

Alas, I in fact did lose sleep over it, or at least near, or on it--the piece of resistance--Depth!

I'd appreciate your grading of the perfection of this pun, as well as submitting more reasons for its beauty and perfection. Thanks for helping me have fun with this.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mrs. Malaprop and Unintended Puns

You remember Mrs. Malaprop, the fictional character who always mixed up words to hilarious effect. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about "Malapropism":
The word "malapropism" comes from the French "mal à propos" meaning "inappropriate", and was personified by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in his comedy The Rivals (1775) as "Mrs. Malaprop", a character who habitually misused her words, while Dogberryism comes from "Officer Dogberry," the name of a character in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing who also makes this kind of error. These are the two best-known fictional characters who make this kind of error--there are many other examples. Malapropisms also occur as errors in natural speech. Malapropisms are often the subject of media attention, especially when made by politicians or other prominent individuals. When used intentionally, malapropisms can be an example of irony.[citation needed] The philosopher Donald Davidson has noted that malapropisms show how complex the process is by which the brain translates thoughts into language.
I highlighted a couple of the sentences, given that one of the purposes of this blog is to explore the neuro-electro-mechanical origins of Unintended Puns. I suspect that malapropisms have much the same origin as Unintended Puns, as we have discussed in many past posts, and therefore could be researched in much the same way.

I'll leave you with a pun from a sports article forum. It's the kind we love here at the Pun Forum in that beyond just being a simple pun, it expresses a truth as it makes the pun--enriching the sentence in a way the writer did not intend, and perhaps would not understand without an explanation.

January 2, 2013 I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, so I follow the Cleveland professional sports teams. Earlier this year, the Browns pursued Chip Kelly to become their next head coach. In an article entitled Browns have sights on Oregon's Chip Kelly (the article is no longer on Yahoo's site), a commenter, obviously a Browns fan, below the article said: "I will go with the flow and let the chips fall where they may. Wears me out hoping and wishing."

Please post your Unintended Puns, or give us your ideas on how they happen.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Two from Work

As I've mentioned in past blogs, I work a lot with computers. So today, I'll share a couple of Unintended Puns dealing with my job and computers, one that I said, and one I swallowed right before I said it.

Usually, I am able to get my job done with minimal frustration. Our company has launched a big initiative in an attempt to join the virtualization craze, meaning that I am often using my desktop computer to remote to another computer, and then remoting from there to a third computer. That third computer has a very small window, and despite my large, high resolution monitor, I usually have to re-position and re-size the window several times, working the mouse quite a bit in order to see what I want to see.

January 29, 2013 As I was showing a colleague something on the squeezed screen so I could then ask her a question about it, and struggling a little bit getting the window positioned so the right information was on the screen, I said: "This is a drag. Literally."

The second Unintended Pun didn't make it past my lips, only because it was very bad, and I guess my brain formulated it soon enough for my body to stop it. Anyway, I was talking to a colleague about a test suite written in the Python language. I am attempting to adapt the suite for our use, knowing that we have a tight schedule. I had also just told my colleague that the extension for Python files is ".py" or phonetically ".pie".
February 5, 2013 I was explaining that it could be tough to get the test suite working for our purposes, but I would do my best. I was about to say:"Making the schedule may be a little pie in the sky thinking."

I changed the wording at the last second to something like "The schedule is tight, but I think we can make it, and it's probably worth it."

I've asked before--have you stopped yourself from saying something, assuming it would be perceived as a pun, and figuring your audience would take you for a fool if you said it? Let us know here at the Pun Forum.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Just had to post this one...

This one rates pretty high--it's funny, it states a truth, and it doesn't need any context. There's only one problem: I just realized that the person may use this as a planned comment that he says to everybody. So I'll need some help from the jury. Without further ado, I'll get to today's Unintended Pun (I think).

January 20, 2013 At the end of a call I made to the insurance company to add a car to our policy, the representative said: "If you run into anything else you want to discuss, just give us a call here at [name withheld to protect me from lawsuits] auto insurance."

What do you think? Is this something the guy thought about and now says to everybody, putting one over on his clients, as well as his boss? Let us know here at the Pun Forum.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Puns for the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! I've got a couple of recent Unintended Puns to share with you, both said by me. I guess one of them isn't so much a pun, but it's kind of a pun (perhaps you can give me your opinion of its pun-ness). In saying it, I realized another way that one can tell that one is saying, if not an Unintended Pun, at least a word play.

On to the puns, to start the New Year on the right foot.
November 19, 2012 To be honest, I can't remember the full context, but while discussing the nature of desert plants and their defense mechanisms with a work colleague, I said: "I wouldn't want to get on the bad side of a cactus, and I do mean the bad side."

This made me think that a way to tell that you've just said a pun is that you repeat yourself: "and I do mean the bad side." I could have said the much more mundane, "I wouldn't want to get stuck by a cactus." But as I realized that the "bad side" of course had a double meaning--the outside, as well as the mean side, I repeated myself to accentuate the humor.

The second one comes from me just talking to myself. (Yes, I do that, and have most of my life. What can I say? I'm doing it right now.) I had been trying to decide whether or not to buy an extra long twin-sized bed for my son, the advantage of which would be allowing him to sleep better than on a regular length twin-sized bed, but of course take less room than a queen-sized bed. But as a I contemplated the extra cost of less common-sized sheets, I decided against the purchase.
November 21, 2012 I said to myself: "When you throw the (extra cost of) sheets on top of it, we should just buy another queen."

I actually laughed out loud at that one.

If you catch yourself repeating something, or discover some other method of noticing word play or better yet, Unintended Puns, drop us a line.