Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Best Puns

The Best Puns in the English Language

Some 20 years ago, I conducted a poll of a bunch of literary people – among them, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, writer Cleveland Amory, critic John Ciardi and historian Jacques Barzun.
The question I asked: Which are the best puns in the English language? And I listed my 41 favorite puns.
The lowest-rated pun, I am sorry to report, was my own contribution: “One man’s Meat Loaf is another man’s Adelina Pate.” (Adelina Patti was an opera singer – I assume that you remember Meat Loaf.)
Other good puns that did not make the top ten included:
“A fool and her money are soon courted.” (Helen Rowland)
“Half a love is better than none.” (Helen Rowland)
“Take care of the peonies and the dahlias will take care of themselves.” (Franklin P. Adams)
“Upon looking over this report, I find that I have knocked everything but the chorus girls’ legs—but nature has anticipated me there.” (Percy Hammond, drama critic)
“One man’s fish is another man’s poisson.” (Carolyn Wells)
“Time wounds all heels.” (Jane Ace)
“Peccavi” (I have sinned). Message of Sir Charles Napier, in 1884, upon disobeying orders and capturing Sind, a province in Pakistan)
“An historical novel is like a bustle, a fictional tale covering a stern reality.” (Augusta Tucker)
Review of the play, “I Am a Camera”: “No Leica.” (Goodman Ace)
“Every dogma must have its day.” (Carolyn Wells)
“Golden lads and girls all must
As chimney sweepers, come to dust.” (Shakespeare)
“When a man falls into his anecdotage, it is time for him to retire.” (Benjamin Disraeli)
Finally, here are the top ten puns as chosen by the panel of experts:
“Please return this book; I find that though many of my friends are poor arithmeticians, they are nearly all good bookkeepers.” (Sir Walter Scott)
“She was a good cook as cooks go; and as cooks go, she went.” (H.H. Munro)
“One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.” (George S. Kaufman)
“The pretty girls in Utah mostly marry Young.” (Artemus Ward)
“Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.” (Addison Mizner)
“We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” (Benjamin Franklin)
“Verlaine was always chasing Rimbaud.” (Dorothy Parker, referring to two French poets)
“When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.” (Hilaire Belloc)
“Nothing succeeds like excess.” (Oscar Wilde)
And the highest-ranked pun of all:
“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make it her think.” (Dorothy Parker)

Some other excellent puns:

A classics master taught Laughing and Grief. -- Lewis Carroll
A pessimist looks at the world through morose-colored glasses. -- Rebecca Boroson
Of course pigs have wings. They're called pigeons. -- Rebecca Boroson