1. Matt G says

    I wonder if there’s any research out there into why the most common responses to puns are groaning and the urge to throw furniture. At least that’s been my experience.

  2. blf says

    Some of the most famous baggers of all, Bilbo and Frodo, didn’t wear shoes… so yeah, baggers aren’t shoesers.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Matt G,

    I sometimes wonder if because of the publicly expressed disdain for puns as lowbrow humor, people feel obliged to disparage them.

    I find myself chuckling for days on end after seeing a good pun.

  4. Matt G says

    Mano@3- I’ve always thought of puns as highbrow humor because it requires (at its best) seeing connections between words in different contexts. Also, it seems popular with nerds…. It’s the same with sarcasm. My partner is from a developing world country, and I’m perpetually surprised at how often she and her family members take me literally when I’m being sarcastic.

  5. Jazzlet says

    There’s a science fiction short story from at least three or four decades ago in which it is discovered that all jokes are fed to us by aliens, whereas puns we create ourselves. It doesn’t end well for humour.

  6. says

    Jazzlet @5

    “There’s a science fiction short story from at least three or four decades ago in which it is discovered that all jokes are fed to us by aliens, whereas puns we create ourselves.”

    There are people out there who don’t believe others when they say they write their own jokes. I don’t know if they think jokes just happen fully formed or only come in books left by the elder gods, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d think that was a true story about aliens.

  7. Mano Singham says

    bluerizlagirl @#7,

    That was a shrewd bit of deduction on your part. I love cryptic crosswords! I rarely do any other kind.

  8. says

    Well, a pun and a crossword clue both involve basically the same sort of subversive wordplay: there is an elaborate set-up guiding you to think of a word or phrase in one sense, which is then subverted by its use in a very different sense. If you can properly appreciate the thought processes involved, as opposed to thinking I could come up with better if all I had to do was draw 4 frames every day! then you already have the mindset to see how words can fit together differently.

    Consider a clue such as “Over a foot, or a little lower (4)”. The surface phrasing deliberately leads you to imagine “foot” being used to mean an ancient unit of measurement just shy of a third of a metre, with “over” and “lower” being comparatives, and form an expectation accordingly. The subversion is that it’s actually referring to a part of your leg, or a young cow ….. the answer is CALF.

    A really good puzzle gives you a glimpse into the author’s mind, because the solution invariably involves answering the question, What were they thinking?

  9. John Morales says

    I confess I’m hopeless at those; I read a guide once, and note there are conventions. Maybe I’m too literal-minded.

    bluerizlagirl, in your example, why not ‘shin’?

  10. Mano Singham says


    Cryptic crosswords always give you two clues to the answer. While ‘shin’ would work for ‘over a foot’, it would not work for ‘a little lower’. The clue ‘a little lower’ is a pun. A cow lows and thus can be thought of as a ‘lower’. ‘A little lower’ is a little cow or a calf.

  11. Mano Singham says


    Unless you are an aficionado of these puzzles and do a lot of them, this kind of verbal trickery can go completely over your head. But once you get used to the concept, you become alert to double meanings. Indeed, that is their appeal.

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