Pun intended
[ 2007-06-05 13:45 ]

Reader question:
What does "pun intended" mean?

My comments:
A pun, if you look up a dictionary, is a play on words, and usually for humorous effects. Example: "Seven days without water makes one weak (week)" (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English).

You see, puns are a word or phrase that has two meanings or of words with the same sound but different meanings. Some puns are made deliberately. Example: "God, you've got a good Job. Don't blow it" (Woody Allen).

Sometimes, a pun is sprung inadvertently. When discussing the phenomenon of nepotism in State-owned businesses, for example, I once remarked casually this is due to the fact that "some leaders are only interested in fattening up themselves". There was no pun intended there because we were not talking about anybody's protruding belly, double jaw or immovable backside. But then I realized that this is literarily true too, hence adding: "If you check the waistline of your bosses you'll know what I mean, how much fat they've put on since they assumed their leadership positions and began to really throw their weight around." Everybody leaned back (everybody who was lean enough to do so, that is) and laughed in agreement.

Authors sometimes point out whether it is "pun intended" or "no pun intended" in case readers might miss the point. Here's a newspaper example:

After September 11 and the war against terror, the hidden hand and fist have had their cover blown - and we have a clear view now of America's other weapon - the free market - bearing down on the developing world, with a clenched, unsmiling smile. The Task That Never Ends is America's perfect war, the perfect vehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, the word for profit is fayda. Al-qaida means the word, the word of God, the law. So, in India, some of us call the War Against Terror, Al-qaida vs Al-fayda - The Word vs The Profit (no pun intended).
- Not Again, The Guardian, Friday, September 27, 2002.

The Profit, you see, sounds the same as The Prophet.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

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