03/02/2017 admin

Fun with puns – Los juegos de palabras en inglés

The Universal Language of Puns

by Joseph A. Salazar – Teacher at AIT Language School


«Paper calendars—I think their days are numbered!»

Tim Vine (English Writer, Actor and Comedian)

Several years ago, The Los Angeles Times published a front-page article about a traffic accident involving a lorry that was transporting oranges and apples. The headline read: “Fruit Truck Crashes, Creating Terrible Jam.”

Today, it is not uncommon in English to come across humorous word play in the press, as well as in everyday conversation, emails, social media and TV. One of the most popular forms of word play are puns. Puns are words or phrases that create humour because they have more than one meaning. There are two basic kinds of puns: homographic and homophonic.

Homographic puns make use of the varied meanings of words that have the same spelling. The word “jam” in the headline above is a good example. Jam can mean a sweet preserve made from fruit and sugar. But it can also refer to traffic congestion.

Homophonic puns, on the other hand, exploit words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. For example: jeans and genes, fair and fare, write and right.

Puns are generally considered to be a fairly basic form of humour, though they can also be very sophisticated and witty. Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets abound in puns, many of which are among the most quoted phrases in the English language. Why not read the following sentences and see if you can detect the pun!


  • I took my dog for a walk the other day and it got very angry with me. But that’s not surprising—it’s a cross breed (Tommy Cooper).
  • Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution? (Groucho Marx)
  • A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money (W.C. Fields).
  • This wallpaper will be the death of me. One of us will have to go (Oscar Wilde).
  • Religion is a non-prophet organization (Robert Carlin).
Tagged: , , ,