A punny thing happened

12 months ago

The language we use here in the U.S. is considered modern English. As a living language, it grows and changes just like the rest of us. 

A paunch develops, the knees get creaking and the next thing you know, you have no idea what kids are saying these days. 

April is perhaps the funniest month of all the months in the year and not just because it begins with April Fool’s Day. This April marks the 400th year since the First Folio was published. In this respect we honor the memory of William Shakespeare.

If you listen closely to the rivulets of melt water and the sound of shoots popping through the thatch of last year’s bones, you can kind of hear the Master himself chuckling at this joke we call language. Lots of English words have multiple variations in how they are spelled. This, of course, causes no end of anxiety in fourth-grade spelling test and leads to the annoying refrain from adults who should know better saying that they cannot spell. 

Modern English acts like a sponge. If there is a word or phrase that makes a point, then English borrows it. Thus we get words like “kowtow” from China, meaning to bow before a leader, and “boomerang,” from aborigines from Australia. 

If it works, use it — which brings us to the noblest of human language inventions: the pun.

Puns are plays on the sounds and spellings of words and they exist in every language spoken by people. There are some that are obvious, like “Do you have a pear…”” or “What that in the road ahead?” Puns also depend on just how a sentence is constructed, as in the second example. 

Whatever the case, April is a fine month for a pun. The first full month of spring and the weather is moody. Mother Nature is waking up fro her sleep and she needs her coffee: rain one day, sunshine the next, and snow as an afterthought. Best thing to do is just laugh.

The dear pranksters at the Aroostook Center Mall had the best pun moment of all this year, when they alerted the world to the relocation of the campus for the Maine School of Science and Mathematics from Limestone to Presque Isle. A quick glance and one story forms. A deeper reading and one‘s leg was being pulled. Well done.

So if someone comes up to you and starts talking about a new gazelle ranch coming to the Star Cit,y it might be time to think about no gnus as being good news.

The world is smiling.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television, later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.