Quack Me Up

19 Oct

Jessica Foster liked Monday’s post because:

I love cheesy jokes. They’re grate.

Get it? grATE. Good one, Jessica.

Huw Thomas had some fun puns to add:

What do you call a three-legged donkey? A wonkey.

Where does a wonkey live? In an unstable.

Or my all-time favourite: what do you play with a wombat? Wom.

I love the wonkey one. And I have a few more to add:

Why did the turkey cross the road? Because he wasn’t chicken.

What did a Mexican fireman name his two sons? Hose A and Hose B.

Why did I call the police? Because Mister was resisting a rest.

What do you think? Groan worthy, I know.

Lately I’ve been thinking that puns aren’t just for groan-ups. And there’s research to back me up:

Younger children also benefit from pun play by learning the different meanings of the same words. Children develop a greater command of language and vocabulary with practice of commonly used puns. This broadens their wit and critical thinking connections with such learning activities.

That’s why I’ve introduced them to Mister. Someone we did our routine for just asked if I thought he got them (he is young- not quite 2 years old), and I really think he does. I’ve told him more jokes than the ones he recites. He weeds them out by only repeating the ones he understands. The rest, the flops, I’ll file away for when he’s a little bit older.

But in children’s books, I don’t have room for puns that flop. With the already short length of children’s books and the spare text trend, every word counts (ha!). Using a pun seems like a little bit of a risk, and I wonder if it is the write thing to do. And now is the time for me to figure it out. My chapter book (with series potential) I’ve just started pitching has a pun in the title.

Once I started thinking about it, I realized that lost of authors have used puns: Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Nina Laden, and Shakespeare just to name a few. But that doesn’t necessarily mean puns are right for me. Those writers the experts.

To find out more, I looked to another expert, John Pollack, who really knows his puns (he was a political speech writer). He said:

The power of a pun comes from two things: one is its ambiguity, and second is that it enables you to pack more meaning, or more layers of meaning, into fewer words. And so if you’re trying to convey complex ideas, puns can be really powerful tools to do that.

If writing for children isn’t packing “more meaning, or more layers of meaning, into fewer words” I don’t know what is.

So, I’m going to keep writing with puns because, like another of Mister’s favorite puns (What does a duck say when something is funny?), puns “quack” me up and hopefully they do the same for other big and little kids too.

More about puns:

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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Word Choice


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