Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pun Training

Over the weekend we drove up to Calvert Cliffs State Park in Maryland with our daughter and the local grandchildren. It was a fun, if exhausting day ... after an hour or so of steady and energetic play on the recycled tire playground, we hiked the 1.8 miles down to the beach to search for fossils and shells. This is not an overly long distance unless you are carrying a tired child, and it is a little-known law of physics that the weight of a child increases geometrically with the distance she is to be carried. We were a bit worn out at the end of the day, while the girls had their second wind and were raring to go.

But the real topic of this post is not the sheer joy of carrying a six-year-old in damp, sandy clothes on your shoulders, but puns.

One of the topics of discussion during the ride back from the park was puns. You know that I love puns*, as do most of the members of my family, and my daughter was wistfully wishing I'd taught her more of the art of punning so that she could, in turn, teach it to Leya and Elise. Leya is at the age where she loves jokes, but doesn't yet understand what makes a joke funny, or how to tell it. She enjoys knock-knock jokes and can tell them endlessly, but doesn't understand the concept of the pun that underlies them. Here's an example:

Leya: Knock-knock!

Me: Who's there?

Leya: Elephant.

Me: Elephant who?

Leya: There's an elephant in the refrigerator and he's eating all your yogurt!

Me: (laughs hysterically, because that's what grandparents do)

I have been trying to get Leya to understand the idea that what makes a pun funny is it's use of a word in an unexpected way that makes use of its sound, rather than its meaning ...

Me: "Leya, what would you call a man who is digging in his yard with a shovel?"

Leya: "I don't know."

Me: "Doug Holes."

Leya: "?"

Me: "'Doug' is a man's name. And 'dug' also means making holes. So the man's name would be 'Doug Holes.'"

Leya: (laughs hysterically, then proceeds to generate an endless series of meaningless jokes using the word "dug.")

My Daughter: (looks at me with that "nice try, Opa" look that she reserves for my most egregious missteps)

Agnes: (continues to nap in the back seat)

So, how do you explain puns to a six-year-old? The only way I know is to tell lots of really obvious jokes and be prepared to explain in nauseating detail why they're funny ... and to be prepared to laugh at a lot of jokes that only make sense to a young child.

Because, of course, that's what grandparents do.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* As do many of you. See also my post from last month titled "I Know What You Do."


Lisa Rosenbusch said...

I'm with Agnes.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

It's well worth teaching your grandchildren how to fun, because they're fun! Punning contributes to more verbal flexibility, in my opinion.

Be prepared for some outrageous ones from that source!

Big Sky Heidi said...

But think of the humor rewards for teaching her about puns that you will get when she's in junior high school!