Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why do I Pun? (Or: How I learned to Love the Adam Bum)

I stopped for gas on the way to work today.  While I was there, the guy pumping gas across from me finished, got back in his car, and lit a cigarette.  The residual gas that splashed on his hands ignited.

He jumped out, swinging the hand in wide arcs, until I jumped over and grabbed him.  A cop who happened to be in the parking lot got there at the same time, and we put the fire out.

I went inside to explain to the very upset sales clerk what had happened, and when I came back out, the policeman was arresting him.  Possession of an illegal fire arm.

There is something special about an unexpected relationship between words.  I love it when my brain picks up on connections that involve a stretch.

MoZ Stolen image from here.
In the otherwise unremarkable movie Mask of Zorro, Catherine Zeta Jones is involved in a swordfight with the masked man.  The fencing is pretty good, and the footwork keeps bringing Zorro closer, until he is close enough.  He grabs her and kisses her.

"Will you surrender?"

"Never.  But I may scream."

I laughed so loudly that the other movie patrons shot me dirty looks. 

See, with the spanish accent, it came out "I may-a scream."  Or maybe "I may escrime."

"Escrime" is "fencing" in French (which is the lengua franca for fencing). 

The more convoluted the connection, the more I like it.  (That one, requiring connection between english spoken with a latin accent, then translating from the french, is probably the most convoluted I have noticed. And might have even been a-purpose.)

Granddaddy told me the apocryphal story about the journalist's interview of Winston Churchill, where he asked the man, "Sir, you are known widely for your wit and especially for your puns.  Can you give me an example of a pun?"

"Uh-pun what subject?"

Yes, I know.  I have been told all my life.  The pun is the lowest form of humor.  It relies exclusively on quick response, quick connections, and overlap of meaning or sounds between two words.  It cannot be revisited.  It cannot - in correct usage - be prepared. 

It cannot, under any circumstances, be explained. 

And I cannot ever, ever EVER seem to be able to stop myself.

"Get it?  Did you get it?" 

I have very good friends who confessed to me that they often pretend not to follow my puns and verbal plays, for the simple joy it gives them to see me struggle to make people understand and follow.

Come to think of it, those people might not be close friends, after all.

I have always admired the hand grenade joke.  The one that is casually dropped in the lap of an unsuspecting victim, which then explodes ("HEY!") when you walk away. My uncle CE and my brother are masters at it.  My desire to please - and my desire to impress - far outweighs my ability to use the joke simply to amuse myself. I simply want to share in the cleverness, in the humor.   I need to share the laugh.

But in the end, I am OK with that.  Humor is meant to be shared.  And so when I explain a pun that I had no business making in the first place, recognize it for what it is. 

It is my gift to you.  My quirky, odd, strange gift.  It is my expression of love for you, from a guy who doesn't always follow the socially acceptable ways of expressing love. 

No comments: