I love puns. Always have, always will. My mom is a great punster and I think it’s the kind of thing that is not only hereditary but crosses the placenta barrier. Sometimes the puns come hot and heavy, and sometimes they just limp along. (Oh dear, it’s going to be one of those days, I see. Some of you might want to go read something else today.)
I think my love for puns is due to the intricacies of the English language. There are some words that simply feel lovely as they roll around on your tongue and some that are just plain awesome when used in one sentence together. And, then of course, are the situations where things just don’t come out the way they were intended. Or, even more funny, is when the situation isn’t really appropriate for such words.
Let me start with a tweet conversation started by the absolutely lovely Myra McEntire. (If you aren’t on the edge of your seat for the release of her debut novel, Hourglass, well you should be.) Like me, she is a fellow English Lit major. And if you know any English Lit majors, you know one thing we all have in common: we have this wee thing about writers. We like ’em. A lot. We tend to wax on about their amazing ways with words. Pretty much, we sound about published writers like pre-teens do about Justin Bieber. So last night, Myra was waxing on about three of her favorite poets: Byron, Shelley, and Keats. And, of course, I devolved the whole thing into a way more sexual kind of waxing on than she did. Because that’s how I roll.
Really, it didn’t take much of a leap to make a sexual innuendo out of the whole thing but that’s what we word nerds do. What can I say, the lexicon turns me on. Except we word nerd girls (and boys) can do these kinds of things without needing our drink on, although coffee can make the whole process happen a lot faster.
In retrospect, I have a feeling that being a word nerd has never made me many friends but does make me an entertaining guest at a dinner party. Especially if the majority of the guests are accountants and underwriters. Which brings to mind my absolute favorite inappropriate thing said. Ever.
Back in 1990, I was living in London with a gaggle of other 20 and 21 year olds. We had a flat near Bedford Square and in between classes, we did what college aged kids living in London do best: we drank. (I’m a cider kind of gal myself.)
One day, we were on an excursion to some distant place. (The Brontë sisters’ Haworth to be exact. I ambled the heath in search of my own Heathcliff, but alas, only found a sheep and some heather.) After traipsing about, several of us stopped at a pub for some refreshment. And so, because of the constraints of the situation, there came to be an odd group of folks gathered about the tables in the pub’s corner. I shall “name” a few of them: Joe, the aspiring actor; Alex, the football player; Bob, the philosophy major and Poe enthusiast; Susan, the socialite; Liz, the aspiring novelist and British Literature specialist; John, the double major in literature and theater; Amanda, poet and double major in Creative Writing and Literature; and me, the double major in English Lit and History, minoring in Political Science. Do you see anything wonky going down here? A table of folks, several pints into a conversation taking place in Brontë-land and there is a jock and a cool-cat at a table of word nerds.
As the number of empty pint glasses increased, so did the pitch and fervor of the conversation. Each word-loving college student expanded upon the previous conversational gem until it was a full-blown literature love-fest. That conversation probably could have set the world on fire or brought about world peace. Until Susan got disgusted with all our literary pomposity and dropped this bomb-shell:
“Well, I don’t know a thing about all this literature shit, but I know how to give a good blow job.”
Things got really quiet for a few moments until I guffawed. Several times. And then told her I was going to put that line in a novel someday. (I know, this isn’t a novel, but I couldn’t resist telling the story today.)
In this example of an inappropriate thing said, “Susan” literally brought the conversation to a halt. Looking around the table, it was pretty clear what different folks were thinking. The young men who might still be living with their mothers were pretty sure they wet their pants, the young women were appalled to have heard such drivel in a previously pristine conversation and the football player, well, let’s say he looked like he could comment on the authenticity of her statement. Maybe.
I guess this was just one of those situations where the wordsmithing of a non-word nerd took the prize for impact.
Other times, wordsmithing wins the prize for a different kind of impact. Namely, the ish-factor of a label I read last night while at the grocery store.
At some recent point on my twitter-stream, folks were talking about “Spotted Dick.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that appears to me to be the very example of a marketing fail, but what do I know about such things having gone out of my way to avoid the business classes at college. For the uninitiated, Spotted Dick is basically a baked sponge cake-type dish with dried raisins in it, served with a custard sauce. The etymology of the name is cloaked in much unknown aside from the obvious side effect of adding raisins, currents, or other such things to a baked dessert. So while I think the name is hysterical, the product is of no issue for me. In fact, its actually pretty nummy.
However, I happened to spot some Spotted Dick whilst at my grocery store last night. Yep, right here in the rainy northwest, it is possible to savor the flavor of a Spotted Dick, via the importing and marketing skills of Heinz. If you are worried, these folks have been improving your French fries and cheeseburgers for years. You can trust them with your Spotted Dick.
Because I was sans children, I did what any self-respecting word nerd and foodie would do. I picked up the can and read the label. The ingredients didn’t cause me to pause. The serving directions did, however.
There, right under the water bath directions were these words, “To prevent spurting, hold cloth over…can opener.”
I’m sorry, but I sure don’t want the words “spurting” and anything I am planning on eating to ever be combined in one label.
Got that? ‘Cause this word nerd about lost it, right there in the middle of the grocery store.
Sometimes, the things we read are much more inappropriate due to our own flights of fancy than anything some poor writer might think up. Because some of we word nerds, we simply love making puns, turns of phrases, or simply off-color statements. Keep that in mind when planning your next dinner party. Most of us don’t even charge for our conversation enhancing skills.