Review #53: The Pun Also Rises

The Pun Also Rises:

How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language,

Changed History,

and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics

by

John POLLACK

154 pages

Publication:  April 14, 2011 – Gotham

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

and for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

As you probably all know by now, I LOVE words, playing with words, and this book was just a delight.

I had no idea there was such a thing as a World Pun Championship. Words are your weapon, and you’d better be as quick as the guys at O.K. Corral if you want to win! John Pollack won it one year, and you will learn all about this competition at the beginning of the book.

The book is of course much more than that. It traces the phenomenon of puns back to Antiquity, when there were real life and death fights based on puns, and explains how they evolved throughout the centuries. It also tries to explain what happens in your brain when you hear or make a pun. You can also distinguish lots of different categories of puns, and Pollack will help you doing that as well.

I learned a lot on all these levels, and the style is so lively, of course full of puns all along.  Very edifying and entertaining at the same time. Even the book cover is a visual pun!

My only regrets are in the organization of the book:

  • It may have been clearer starting with the origin and development of puns, but I understand also that the writer wanted to start by more exciting data to keep his readers. I would anyway have read the whole book, so good as it is.
  • There are a lot of notes, about all the sources for instance, and they are referenced at the end of the book, by page. I just hate that type of thing, I still prefer footnotes with numbers as well. It makes reading and studying easier if you do want to read the notes. But once again, I guess the writer wanted to keep the experience on the entertaining side, while not disappointing more scholarly oriented minds.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The pun is commonly dismissed as the lowest form of wit, and punsters are often unpopular for their obsessive wordplay. But such attitudes are relatively recent developments. In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack-a former World Pun Champion and presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton-explains why such wordplay is significant: It both revolutionized language and played a pivotal role in making the modern world possible. Skillfully weaving together stories and evidence from history, brain science, pop culture, literature, anthropology, and humor, The Pun Also Rises is an authoritative yet playful exploration of a practice that is common, in one form or another, to virtually every language on earth.

At once entertaining and educational, this engaging book answers fundamental questions: Just what is a pun, and why do people make them? How did punning impact the development of human language, and how did that drive creativity and progress? And why, after centuries of decline, does the pun still matter?  [Goodreads]

EXCERPT

This is actually the last paragraph of the book, but I thought it gave a good idea

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Former presidential speechwriter John Pollack won the 1995 O. Henry World Championship Pun-Off. Earlier in his career, he wrote for The Hartford Courant and spent three years in Spain as a freelance foreign correspondent writing for the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Miami Herald, and Advertising Age, among others. His previous books include Cork Boat and The World on a String: How to Become a Freelance Foreign Correspondent. He currently works as a speechwriter and consultant for ROI Communication, a consulting firm. He lives in New York City.  [amazon]

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

“Anyone with an interest in language is going to find this book fascinating.”
-David Crystal, author of How Language Works

“With his compelling narrative style, Pollack unearths hard evidence that the noble pun is much more than a literary step-child or linguistic anomaly. And as a practitioner of the art and artifice of wordplay himself, John naturally dedicates a bit of spice to peppering and assaulting us with a few subtle zingers of his zone.”
-Gary Hallock, producer of the O.Henry Pun-Off World Championships

“In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack stirs the brain and tickles the funny bone with rewording insights into why the pun is dramatically rising in our culture, and illuminates with dazzling whiz and witdom how the pun has made us who we are today.”
-Richard Lederer, International Punster of the Year and author of Get Thee to a Punnery

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
ANY GOOD BOOK ON WORDS YOU READ RECENTLY?
DO YOU FEEL LIKE READING THIS BOOK?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS  IN A COMMENT PLEASE

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2 thoughts on “Review #53: The Pun Also Rises

  1. Pingback: My Dewey Decimal Challenge 2011 « Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: July 2011 Wrap Up « Words And Peace

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