By Anthony Deyal
When one of my friends heard that a Trini taxi-driver was charged with bigamy, he remarked that it was the first time in his experience that two rites make a wrong. “Well,” I added, “it is just a simple case that the bigamist loved, not wisely, but two well.” Jokes like these, based on puns, go back to the dawn of time. God got so tired after saying “Let there be light” that he said to himself, “I think I will call it a day.” Then after He created Adam and Eve, He took a look at them and realised that while they were not exactly the same, they were not entirely dissimilar. Thus, He split the difference.
Puns are not restricted to paradise. In 2014, the popular Leicester festival in Britain introduced the U.K. Pun Championship and the inaugural winner, Darren Walsh, won with puns like, “I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It’s Hans free” and “I went to my allotment and found that there was twice as much soil as there was the week before.
The plot thickens.” One of the competitors admitted to getting a “Miley Virus. It’s stopped twerking.” Leo Kears won in 2015 with, “I was in hospital last week. I asked the nurse if I could do my own stitches. She said ‘Suture self’.” Masai Graham, who won in 2016, had a few great ones “What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo? One’s really heavy and the other is a little lighter”, “My Jamaican Nan wants to know why I love chocolate spread so much, but mi Nutella”, and “My girlfriend loves innuendos. When she said I could have the key to her back door, let’s just say we both took it the wrong way.”
In 2017, there was this classic, “My girlfriend likes to tie me to the bed and cover me in caramel and chocolate. She’s a dominatwix.” Roger Swift, one of the competitors came with, “I was following a Marmite lorry down the motorway it was heading yeast.” And to do a little backtrack to where we started, Swift said that he asked his wife if she would mind if he married another woman. She replied, “Would that be bigamy?” and he said, “It’d be very big of you.” This year’s competition was won, for the first time, by a woman, Adele Cliff, who came up with, “A Thesaurus is great. There’s no other word for it.”
I’ve never been to the festival, but I’ve been to Venezuela where I met a glassblower who inhaled and got a pane in the stomach. Then, during my time doing public education in climate change, I heard that when global warming hit the Arctic ocean, scientists were assigned to watch glaciers in danger of splitting. Naturally, all the researchers were required to have good ice sight. They realised, too, that winter seems the longest season because it comes in one year and out the other. At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, where my two youngest children were born, I actually saw that while he was passing the nurse as he arrived at the hospital, the doctor cauterise and smiled. She, intern, smiled back. The doctor, unfortunately, was a pediatrician who had very little patients.
I resort to puns when I need a bit of comic relief or to think out an issue. While working on my presentations and timing for two sessions of an international conference on Trinidad and Tobago writers from 1980 – 2020, I was told I was not a “journalist”. My being the first Caribbean person to get a First Class Honours in Journalism in 1974 from Carleton University in Canada and being described as “an eminent West Indian journalist” by Reader’s Digest in 1995 did not count. After a while, I did not let it bother me because, as Confucius said, “Only man with no front garden looks forlorn.” I consoled myself by thinking that hanging is too good for a man who makes puns. He should be drawn and quoted. With that, I decided to exercise my mental muscles instead of getting rid of my anger by weightlifting which, when you think of it, is a hard way to hernia living.
Even in the animal world there is a lot of fodder for our puns despite the snakes in the grass. Cows are the most grateful animals. They realise that all they have they owe to udders. In Switzerland, where digital watches and clocks have replaced the old mechanical instruments, the craftsmen have virtually disappeared. One of the last of the old clock-masters, Hans Pfall, decided to write a book about his craft. When it was published, all the critics said it was about time. Then there was the voyeur who was arrested while looking into the changing rooms of the Miss Universe contestants. It was tough on him for it happened at the peek of his career. There is the story of the young woman married to the ninety-year old man. Complaining about her sex-life, she said, “It’s the same thing weak-in, weak-out.”
In education, there was the American school board that banned Sir Walter Scott’s classic English novel, Ivanhoe, because it contained too much Saxon violence. Then there is the Attorney who introduced himself to his client, a psychologist, as a criminal lawyer. The client commended him for being so self-aware. There was another Attorney who worked day and night to break the young widow’s will. Of course, lawyers are a unique breed. In no other profession would someone write a fifty-page document and call it a “brief”.
For a moment I thought of responding but I remember what one blade of grass said to another about the lack of rain, “I guess we’ll just have to make dew.” What’s the difference between a poorly dressed man on a unicycle and a well-dressed man on a bicycle? Attire. And my favourite which my children love, “What lies at the bottom of the ocean trembling?” A nervous wreck.
*Tony Deyal, who is several inches under six feet, was last seen saying to his wife, “It is better to have loved a short man than never to have loved a tall.”