The unintended pun in everyday 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.