A pun is a type of humor whose punch line sounds like, or is a mangled version of, another word or phrase. You reach the conclusion of a pun by identifying that other word or phrase.

An example would be --

(Setup) Did you hear the one about the Buddhist who was upset because (punch line) his karma ran over his dogma?

Conclusion: That sounds like "his car ran over his dog."

Here is another --

(Setup) A genetic scientist created the clone of a human being in his laboratory. But the experiment failed, because the clone was forever running out in public stark naked while uttering lewd curses at the top of his lungs. Exasperated, the scientist took the clone to the top of the Empire State Building and threw him off. The police arrested the scientist, not for murder, but for (punch line) making an obscene clone fall.

Conclusion: That sounds like "making an obscene phone call."

The pun is a close cousin to the play on words. In both, the Audience is given one set of words and one meaning. The main difference is that in a play on words the conclusion requires finding a second meaning which is always related to the setup and punch line. A pun involves seeking a second set of words which often has no relation to the setup, but always sounds like the punch line.


In the following exchange between Bobby Sandler and Ted Gray see if you can identify which is the pun and which is the play on words

Bobby: From my perspective, this discussion [of homosexuality] has divided us into two camps: those who see the free-will issue clearly, and those who see it queerly.

Ted: Bobby, you have committed a serious logical fallacy called argumentum ad homonem.




Back to Betsy Speicher's Home Page