Pathetic puns

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So some writers love puns. They think it’s clever to make a sneaky little play on words for their readers to appreciate. There is a good example with the new ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper in London. It was in the news over the summer for acting as a giant parabolic mirror and focusing the sun’s rays to melt cars. The British press promptly redubbed the building the ‘Walkie Scorchie’. Now, that’s quite a good pun but I’m ambivalent about it. There’s a part of me that really loves a good pun, and another part that wants to punch the first part in the face.

Anyway, Land Securities, the people behind the skyscraper, released a pun-tastic statement to shareholders this morning:

“At 20 Fenchurch Street, our landmark tower in the City, we have continued to attract new tenants and the building is now 56% pre-let, with a further 20% in solicitors’ hands. Despite the solar glare issue of the summer, occupiers have not been blinded to the efficiency and location of the building.”

(bold mine)

This time I was not ambivalent. It made me wish that the writer would fall down a hole. I think that’s because 1) it’s really, really weak and forced and 2) I expect puns from newspapers, but not from statements to investors. A serious subject requires a serious tone.

That said, in spite of its other problems the “Kick It Out” campaign against racism in football shows you can combine a pun with a serious message. It works well in this case because the dynamism of the phrase reflects the dynamism of the game. The lesson is to keep puns out of your writing unless they are actually funny and appropriate.

I’ll end with some highbrow Latin puns. There’s a great selection from Pope Gregory I on Wikipedia. “Non Angli sed angeli” comparing the beauty of Angles to angels is truly cringeworthy.

Mind you, that’s not as bad as the time I put nearly a dozen entries in for a pun competition. I was hoping one would win, but no pun in ten did.

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