'Pun My Word!
I implied yesterday in my punning poem that puns are harmless, but through extensive reading and the wisdom that comes with age and experience, I have since learned how wrong I was:
King Charles I's court jester, Archy Armstrong, lost his job by saying grace -- "Great praise be given to God and little laud to the Devil" -- at dinner with the archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud.This pun requires that one know that "laud" is Latin for "praise," and the only thing that would enhance the punishment of this anecdote would be if the jester's name were "Archy Archibald," for rather than implying a "ruler strong of arm," his name could be construed as meaning a "ruler shorn of his rule" -- an ironic outcome for the ruling jester, whose 'strong arm' didn't preserve his status, and later for King Charles I, who lost his head to the revolting Protestants, John Milton being a chief 'protester' among them.
I wonder if the unfortunate jester with his ill-timed pun ever got his job back. He appears not to have. His full name, incidentally, was "Archibald Armstrong," which offers several puns but not the one I craved. I have the above, somewhat abridged anecdote from P.J. O'Rourke's article, "The Pun's Story," published in the New York Times (April 15, 2011)
O'Rourke is reviewing John Pollack's book on puns, The Pun also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics, which is quite an expansive title to bear the weight of such an atrocious pun on "sun," but O'Rourke's review makes the book seem to work. He -- whether O'Rourke or Pollack, I don't know -- offers three crucial rules on punning:
"The Rule of Interruption: Although the company may be engaged in a discourse of the most serious consequence, it is and may be lawful to interrupt them with a pun."These three are, apparently, gleaned form Thomas Sheridan's 1719 pamphlet, Ars Punica. I have never read Sheridan, but I discovered his rules on my own and have long been making a nuisance of myself by pestering others with my verbal acrobatics.
"The Rule of Risibility: A man must be the first that laughs at his own pun."
"The Rule of Repetition: You must never let a pun be lost, but repeat and comment upon it, till every one in the company both hears and understands it."
I suspect that this explains my very laudable standing in the academic world . . .