April 22, 2008

#01-101: Talking about Puns - Part I

a lone American buffalo stands looking just to left of camera
What did the buffalo tell his child when he left the house?

Note: Puns may be "the lowest form of humor," but they can still be a challenge for English learners--and even natives!

Get Ready: Can you guess the answer to the question about the buffalo above?

One of the hardest things to "get" from another culture is its humor. What is funny in one culture may not be funny in another. As a Japanese friend told me, "Laughing point is different!"

Puns, although considered a "low" form of humor, can be quite challenging for second-language learners (and sometimes even for natives) because they require the listener to catch two meanings from one set of sounds, kind of like seeing an optical illusion.

Example: In the pun "Eye can see you," the first word is both "eye" and "I."

Following are ten short jokes containing puns. Can you find what's supposed to be funny? Explanations are given below.

  1. Two oranges walk into a bar. One turns to the other and says, "Your round."
  2. Two peanuts walk into a bar. One was assaulted.
  3. Two silkworms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  4. When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
  5. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  6. I'm sure it was raining cats and dogs because I stepped in a poodle!
  7. Seven days without puns makes one weak.
  8. A three-legged dog walks into a bar in the Old West and said, "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."
  9. When the grape got stepped on, it didn't say anything; it just let out a little whine.
  10. If seagulls fly over the sea, do bagels fly over the bay?


  1. "Your round" sounds like "You're round." So he may have been saying that his friend should buy the next "round" of drinks, or he may have been describing his friend's shape.
  2. "assaulted" sounds like "a salted." So one was attacked, or he was a salted peanut.
  3. "a tie" can mean they both finished the race at the same time, or they were made into a silk tie for a man to wear.
  4. "dye" sounds like "die," so either she'd color her hair or she'd die of embarrassment from having gray hair.
  5. "Time flies" is a noun and verb; "like" describes how time flies. "Fruit flies" are a kind of fly, so the subject of the sentence; "like" is a verb here, and tells what fruit flies like to eat.
  6. "poodle" sounds like "puddle." Poodle is a type of dog; puddles come after a rain. Get it?
  7. "weak" sounds like "week." Seven days of anything makes one week!
  8. "paw" sounds like "pa." The dog has three legs, so his paw (foot) must have been injured (shot?) Or he could be looking for someone who killed his father.
  9. "whine" sounds like "wine." So the grape made a noise indicating pain, or it made some juice.
  10. "bagels" sounds like "bay gulls."

Some of these are so bad, we would call them "groaners" because when we "get them," we make a groaning sound, like "uuuunnnggggg...." (But I love them!) We'll see some more in Lesson #01-102.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pun

Practice: Match the setup to its punchline below:

  1. How do you make a good egg-roll?
  2. Somebody stole all my lamps.
  3. What did the buffalo say to his child when he left home?
  4. What did the duck say when she bought a new lipstick?
  5. What did the mayonnaise say to the refrigerator?
  6. What's the best way to make antifreeze?

  1. I couldn't be more de-lighted!
  2. Push it down a hill!
  3. Hey, close the door! I'm dressing!
  4. Bison!
  5. Steal her blanket!
  6. Put it on my bill!

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 22, 2008

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