Friday, September 14, 2012

On Unintentional (Intentional) Puns

So I have a minor literary pet peeve.

Every once in a while I will come across a statement in an article that is immediately followed by the words "no pun intended," written in parenthesis.

Whenever I see "no pun intended" actually written out like that, I automatically assume that the pun actually WAS intended, otherwise, why would they call attention to it?

That fact that they wrote out "no pun intended" means that, in the course of writing their article, they recognized the presence of the pun, chose to leave it in place rather than revise their choice of words, and then chose to call attention to the fact that they had just made a pun.  Doesn't that process prove that the inclusion of the pun was intentional?!

In writing, if the pun truly was unintentional, they wouldn't even call attention to it.  It would just be there, unannounced.

What I think is actually happening, is that the author has thought up a clever little pun that they think would be very "punny," are very proud of their pun, and don't want anyone to miss it.  So to make sure that everyone sees their cleverness, they decide to spell it out for the reader by saying "no pun intended," when what they really mean is "hey there was a pun in what I just said, and I want to make sure you saw it."
Let's face it, it's kind of lame to make a pun and then write "pun intended." It's kind of the literary equivalent of laughing at your own jokes.  Personally, I would much rather see someone write "pun intended" rather than "no pun intended." It might actually be more humorous.

I know I am probably way over thinking this idea, but it seems to me that the phrase "no pun intended" should only ever be used verbally since it is possible to unintentionally make a pun, and realize that you just made a pun, but it is impossible to go back and alter what you just said. However, that is not the case with writing. It is possible to go back and edit your words, and thus unintentional puns can be easily corrected.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Emmy said... one of those people who writes "no pun intended" after puns in my writing, I have to agree with everything you said. Yes, we do it because we find ourselves to be oh so witty, but we don't want to be that person laughing at our own jokes. :P

It's funny....I always think of this when I'm writing that, "Am I really going to be that person?" and it made me laugh when you brought it up...Obviously, I'm not as coverty clever as I thought :P