Tim Vine and other contemporary stand-ups who base their acts on puns might take some inspiration from nineteenth century books on the subject, such as Puniana(1866), which was edited by the Hon Hugh Rowley, who also did the illustrations. Even if we recognise that many words ( such as ‘draught’ in the medical sense) have fallen into disuse over the past 150 years and that manners and morals have likewise changed, it is astonishing how well many of these mid-Victorian puns work today. Here are a few that do:
Why are cats like unskilful surgeons ?
Because they mew till late and destroy persons.
Why are cowardly soldiers like candles?
Because when exposed to the fire they run.
What flowers are there between a lady’s nose and chin?
Why are books your best friends?
Because you can shut them up without giving offence.
What street in London reminds you of a tooth from which you have suffered a great deal?
What’ s the difference between a mouse and a young lady?
One wishes to harm the cheese, the other to charm the he’s
What two ages often prove illusory?
Mir—age and marri—age.
Why are clouds like coachmen?
Because they hold the rains.
Why is a girl like a mirror?
Because she’s a good looking lass.
Why is a butler like a mountain?
Because he looks down on the valet.
Why are fixed stars like wicked old men?
Because they scintillate (sin till late )
Where do sparrows go in cherry time?
Which of the feathered tribe can lift the heaviest weights?
More puns later… [R.R.]