Puns make use of the double-meanings within homophones--words that sound the same, but have different meanings--to make us laugh…or GROAN, in many cases! I recall, as a child, finding this pun-based joke surprisingly amusing:
What's black and white and red [read] everywhere?... A newspaper!
Forget the fact that the joke is completely out-of-date, since many people don't bother with newspapers anymore. The point is that everyone enjoys, even though they might cover their enjoyment with a groan, figuring out a clever pun--especially children.
The classic pun-centered children's books about Amelia Bedelia featured the hapless housekeeper confusing her orders from her boss because she heard homophones instead of the boss's intended words. When told to "dust" the furniture, she throws dust around the room; when told to "dress" the chicken, she puts the dead bird into a doll-sized dress, etc. Homophones comprise both homographs, words spelled identically that have different meanings (such as "dust" and "dress"), and homonyms, words spelled differently that sound the same and have different meanings ("red" and "read," "bare" and "bear," "knight" and "night," etc.). Young children can also enjoy a homophonically humorous picture book by Fred Gwynne (a.k.a. the actor who played "Herman Munster" on the old TV sitcom, "The Munsters"), titled The King Who Rained. Using Gwynne's book, as well as Pun and Games, by Richard Lederer, I recently prompted some of my private students, from 8 to 12 years old, to write their own mini-stories about someone's confusion over a homophone. Of course, they also had to use my "D.A.D. Technique" (Description, Action, Dialogue) to paint a word picture. This year, as always, the kids show obvious enjoyment in playing with words and creating slapstick scenes. Plus, it forces them to brainstorm lists of homophones, and appreciate the complexity of our language in the process.
Homograph Confusion Exercise--Student Sample, by A.C.
“Hey, you over there, go put two more coats on the wall. It looks a little bare,” I direct the worker. I turn away and shout to my boss, “We’re putting two more coats on the wall…” I check the map [by map, this young author meant architectural plans]. “Wall X on the right wing,” I tell him. He nods.
Wiping sweat from my brow, I start drilling again. I turn back around, hoping the worker is back with paint by now. But when I turn around, there are two yellow construction jackets plastered to the wall and no worker in sight. “What the—“ I stammer. All the workers around me burst out laughing.
“It was a good joke, Kim,” one of them sputters.
“It’s not funny,” I bark at them, but even my boss has started to laugh, so I can’t help but join in.
TRY WRITING YOUR OWN SCENE USING HOMOPHONIC HUMOR! And please post your comments below (or on my Google+ page).