Tag Archives: Puns

Fun with Puns

Fun with Puns

Found at Jot HQ the other day, a small booklet of 48 pages entitled  A Pennyworth of Puns, which in its references to Home Rule and The New Woman,  can be dated to the close of the nineteenth century. In its attempts to describe various types of pun, to date its origin to Ancient Greece and to comment on its place in the history of English humour, this is more a disquisition on the pun than a mere list of examples of it. Perhaps we should begin with some punning book titles.   

In a previous Jot we listed some witty book titles which one writer had concocted for books in his library. Thomas Hood was asked by the Duke of Devonshire to come up with titles that he could place on the spines of a ‘ blind door ‘ in his library at Chatsworth. Not all can be appreciated today, but the following are some of the best.

Book titles

Cooke’s Specimens of the Sandwich Tongue 

Wolfe’s Treatment of Sheep

Boyle on the Gums

Bunyan on the Foot: by a Pilgrim

Walker’s Excursions to the Birthplaces of distinguished Travellers.


Why is a postage stamp like a naughty boy?

Because it’s licked and put in a corner.

What makes Treason reason, and Ireland wretched ?

The absentee (T)

Why is it a dangerous thing to sit in the free seats at church?

Because you learn to be good for nothing

Why is a novelist the most extraordinary of animals?

Because his tale comes out of his head.

Why is blindman’s buff like sympathy ?

Because it is a fellow feeling for a fellow creature.

When is a ship in love ?

When she is attached to a buoy

When is her love serious?

When she wants a mate.

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Having pun

Puniana title 001Tim 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?

Two lips.


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?

Long Acre. Continue reading

Puzzles and Problems, mostly punning

From A Winter Evening Entertainments; or, Curious Mathematical and Philosophical Problems, etc. (Jasper Wiseman, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 1820.) Most of these puzzles have punning answers that might nowadays elicit groans.. Almost all are present in many other books and magazines of the time, it is doubtful that the author made up any of them. Wise man.


What step must I take to remove the letter A from the alphabet?

By B heading it.

If I buy four oranges for a penny, and give one of them away, why am I like a telescope?

Because I make a far-thing present.

Which of the cardinal virtues will water be when just frozen?


Why is spectator like a bee-hive?

Because he is a be-holder.

Why is an axe like coffee?

Because it must be ground, before it can be used.

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