The Pun Also Rises
How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some AnticsBook - 2011
Some people may dismiss puns as the lowest form of humor. But this attitude is a relatively recent development in the sweep of history. In The Pun Also Rises , John Pollack-a former presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton, and winner of the world pun championship-explains how punning revolutionized language and made possible the rise of modern civilization. Integrating evidence from history, op culture, literature, comedy, science, business, and everyday life, this book will make readers reconsider everything they think they know about puns.
Pollock leads readers from the pyramids of ancient Egypt to the smoky coffeehouses of Newton's London to the high-tech labs of today's top neuroscientists. Along the way, he identifies what may be humanity's first known pun, recounts the deadly punning duels of Polynesian legend, details William Shakespeare's invention of the knock-knock joke, and discovers Thomas Jefferson's lost commentary on punning in America. Weaving a playful yet authoritative narrative, Pollack also explores how the brain processes humorous wordplay and suggest why-in evolutionary terms - punsters just might end up getting the last laugh.
Provocative and fun, The Pun Also Rises illuminates the powerful role that puns play in human creativity and progress, and why they will always be more than just some antics.
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In a way, the pun was humanity's first hyperlink, a way to identify and articulate potential connections that aren't necessarily or immediately apparent. Punning was and remains a way to sling a verbal rope, in an instant, across vast conceptual canyons. It is this same urge to imagine, explore and establish new connections that fuels creativity generally, and science specifically. Not that puns are a substitute for reason, but neither is reason a substitute for imagination... Puns reveal a mind free to roam frontiers of possibility, without shame or fear of being wrong.
In the modern world, learning one's ABCs is considered elementary learning. But when the alphabet as we know it was invented, its impact was dramatic and lasting... In the broadest terms, alphabetic writing suddenly endowed humans with the means to transmit detailed information with accuracy, both over distance and time... What enabled this key breakthrough? Again it was the human capacity to recognize the distinctions between sound, symbol and meaning, and our inclination to recombine them in assemblages of infinite variety-in a word, punning. Yes, the alphabet and the human progress it subsequently made possible flowed directly from both our ability and inclination to make puns... it was essentially punning - intentional and increasingly complex punning - that laid the foundation for alphabetic writing as we know it, which in turn made possible the accumulation of knowledge and the creation of the modern world.
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