Tag Archives: O. Henry Pun-Off

Amusing Monday: Pain and pleasure of the pun

Every year at this time, a unique group of people who share an odd sense of humor venture to Austin, Texas, for the annual O. Henry Pun-Off competition. It has been five years since I’ve reported on this event — probably because the contest attracts so many people who believe they are punny, but they’re not.

English poet and essayist Samuel Johnson, who lived during the Revolutionary War, once described puns as “the lowest form of humor.”

Puns remind me of the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When they are good, they are very, very good. But when they are bad, they are horrid. (See the blog “Destiny-land” for the full poem.)

I’ll tell you more about the O.Henry Pun-Off in a moment, and you can check out the videos on this page. But first let me share a few water-related puns that have been circulating on the Internet for years and are worth repeating, I think.

  1. If we don’t conserve water, we could go from one ex-stream to another.
  2. All the waterfowl kept their eyes closed except for one. He was a Peking Duck.
  3. A friend told me he dug a hole in my backyard and filled it with water. I thought he meant well.
  4. For plumbers, a flush beats a full house.
  5. The building inspector said whoever installed the water pipes was plumb loco.
  6. There was a big paddle sale at the boat store. It was quite an oar deal.
  7. The soundtrack for the killer whale movie was orcastrated.
  8. To spot a glacier, you have to have good ice sight.
  9. What keeps a dock floating above water? Pier pressure.
  10. I used to be a tap dancer until I fell into the sink.

The O. Henry Pun-Off features two types of competitions. In “Punniest of Show,” competitors, sometimes in elaborate costumes, arrive with prepared puns strung together in a story focused on a theme. They have a minute and a half to tell their stories with as many good puns as possible.

In “Punslingers,” two contestants are given a theme as they go on stage. Their goal is to take turns making up puns, going back and forth without repeating any of them. The first punslinger who fails to toss out a pun within a short time is eliminated, while the winner goes on to another round.

The first three videos are the top winners in the “Punniest of Show.” The first features Southpaw Jones, who took second place in the contest. I guess I liked his story the best, because he was quick and talked about all sorts of birds that I could recognize. He edited the original video to count the birds in his talk. (Be sure to go full-screen.)

The second video features Jerzy Gwiazdowski, the first-place winner who takes us across Europe and the Middle East with his word play. The third-place winner, Michael Kohl, has some fun with vegetables.

For an example of “Punslingers,” I’m featuring a semi-final round in which Janani Krishna-Jha goes up against Jerzy Gwiazdowski on the topic of “hair.”

Credit for these videos goes to Brian Combs, who produced them in a way that makes it easy to pick out the various competitions. For all the videos, go to his YouTube website. Winners of both competitions are listed on Facebook under “The O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships.”

John Pollock, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, talks about the anatomy of puns and what it is like to compete in the O. Henry contest in his book “The Pun Also Rises.” Read or listen to a 2011 interview with National Public Radio, which includes an interesting excerpt from the book.

Amusing Monday: 25 bits of word play

Puns have been called the lowest form of humor, I think, because there are so many bad puns hanging around.

Some puns, however, are at least as good as the most clever jokes. I talked about this last year in “Water Ways” during the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship.

Now, I’d like to share some water-related puns from the website “Pun of the Day.” I seem to hear a few groans already, but I’m hoping most people will like these.

1. If we don’t conserve water, we could go from one ex-stream to another.

2. All the waterfowl kept their eyes closed except for one. He was a Peking Duck.

3. A friend told me he dug a hole in my backyard and filled it with water. I thought he meant well.

4. For plumbers, a flush beats a full house.

5. The building inspector said whoever installed the water pipes was plumb loco.

6. The well-driller had a boring job.

7. An ex-sailor prefers to forget the days he spent playing cards in submarines, dismissing them as ‘so much bridge under the water’.

8. You would think that being a submarine captain would pay well, but I hear they can’t keep their heads above water.

9. I used to be a tap dancer until I fell into the sink.

10. There was a big paddle sale at the boat store. It was quite an oar deal. (Ron – Eldora, IA)

11. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft it sank. This proves once and for all that you can’t have your kayak and heat it, too.

12. The soundtrack for the killer whale movie was orcastrated.

13. The water department made a gallon-t effort to provide litre-ship during the drought.

14. A waterbed may just be the vinyl resting place.

15. Anyone hear about the dictionary that fell into the river? It was un-a-bridged.

16. The river crested when a factory spilled toothpaste into it.

17. To spot a glacier you have to have good ice sight.

18. When carrying your musical instrument over ice if you don’t C sharp you will B flat.

19. Swimming can be easy or hard. It deep-ends.

20. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.

21. It’s raining cats and dogs. Well, as long as it doesn’t reindeer. (Juls – Sweden)

22. What keeps a dock floating above water? Pier pressure.

A few non-water puns:

23. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was ticketed for littering.

24. The little old woman who lived in a shoe wasn’t the sole owner. There were strings attached.

25. Police were called to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Amusing Monday: Rejoice when the pun shines

Some people say puns are the lowest form of humor.

The real problem, I believe, is that it takes too little effort to make a bad pun. The good ones are somewhat rare, so enjoy them when they come. When puns ring true, there is no other form of humor that tickles your brain the same way.

Saturday was the 34th Annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship.

Yesterday, Liane Hansen of National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” interviewed John Pollack, the 1995 champion of the Pun-Off, who has written a new book “The Pun Also Rises.” Listen to the interview in NPR’s media player or check out the story “Not Jest For Pun: A Surprising History Of Wordplay,” which includes an excerpt from the book.

Before getting to this year’s contest, I’d like to share a few of the “Best Stressed Puns of the Millennium,” as voted on by the International Save the Pun Foundation, which puts on the pun-off:

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