The Internet at the Speed of Thought

What Makes People Love or Hate Puns?

at6:09 pm | By

Apparently not everybody thinks they’re so punderful.

Since ancient times, humans have been making puns. It goes without saying, then, that people have had plenty of time to get sick of them.

If you’re anything like me, however, nothing beats a good pun. In fact, not a day goes by without at least a few desperate attempts of making at least several puns that are sure to make my coworkers groan. But why is that?

Of course, an individual’s sense of humor is one of the easiest ways that we can make judgements about them (especially when they have none). If we have strong feelings about somebody, we might dislike their jokes regardless of how cleverly-crafted they are. Yet puns have a special place within humor, one that is often greeted with annoyance or a hesitant laugh instead of appreciation.

puns coffee

Source: Twitter @goodreads

From one of the highest forms of cultural humor to a one step below a knock-knock joke, journalist Julie Beck set out to understand why puns have fallen from grace.

Evidence shows that puns are at least as old as written language.

puns shakespeare

Source: Twitter @lingholic

Lingual artifacts from ancient civilizations have proven that wordplay and puns have long existed as a form of humor for thousands of years. Most notably among these are Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs, and Latin writings. Even the works of Shakespeare and more contemporary classics depend heavily on their puns to pass subtle understandings to the audience while surpassing social restrictions and even censorship.

Puns used to be a higher form of humor since people on both sides of the joke had to be smart enough to manipulate the words and meanings at hand, as well as to understand the wordplay.

pun also rises

Source: Twitter @CloughDominica

In fact, according to The Pun Also Rises, puns’ declining popularity is a “fairly recent” occurrence. One of the first outspoken dissenters against paronomasia (puns) was 1755 Dictionary of the English Language author Samuel Johnson, who once wrote, “To trifle with the vocabulary which is the vehicle of social intercourse is to tamper with the currency of human intelligence,” a statement I flat-out disagree with since I believe that puns often encourage interlocutors to be abstractly smarter and to have a deeper understanding of their language.