Apr 172013
 
Review: The Pun Also RisesThe Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics by John Pollack
Published by Gotham on Apr 14, 2011
Genres: Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover from Giveaway Prize
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

A former word pun champion’s funny, erudite, and provocative exploration of puns, the people who make them, and this derided wordplay’s remarkable impact on history.

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?

I love puns. The cornier, the better. With that in mind, I was interested to learn a bit of history about puns. I didn’t realize how old the pun is, or how varied they can be. I also didn’t know that must puns are not meant to be funny, and that at various points in history, they were used quite seriously.

The book itself was at times humourous and entertaining, and at other times dry and slightly boring. When the focus was on ancedotal stories, the book was great. Both entertaining and educational at once. When the focus was on strict facts, that is when it became less entertaining.

Overall, the book was an interesting, and a light hearted take on language. There were puns scattered throughout the book, and while I likely missed a lot of them, the ones I caught were either giggle or groan worthy, like most puns are. This is a book I would suggest to linguistic-minded people who like to be entertained while learning.

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