Wordplay Wednesday – pun

A pun is a joke exploiting the different meanings of a word or the fact that there are words of the same sound and different meanings. Here are some examples:

  • I wondered why the basketball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.
  • Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
  • I couldn’t quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but eventually it came back to me.
  • I was going to look for my missing watch but I could never find the time.
  • There was once a cross-eyed teacher who couldn’t control his pupils.
  • The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
  • I’ve been to the dentist several times so I know the drill.

Shakespeare was famous for his use of puns. Here are some examples:

‘Richard III’ Act 1 Scene 1
‘Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York . . .’
Context: These are the opening lines of ‘Richard III’. King Richard III was the son of the Duke of York.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Act 1 Scene 4
‘Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling.
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.’
Context: Romeo is reluctant to attend a party because he is suffering from a broken heart.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Act 1 Scene 4
Mercutio: ‘Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.’
Romeo: ‘Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles; I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.’
Context: Romeo is reluctant to attend a party because he is suffering from a broken heart.

‘Hamlet’ Act 1 Scene 2
Claudius: ‘But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son’
Hamlet: [aside] ‘A little more than kin, and less than kind.’
Context: Hamlet is upset that his uncle Claudius has married his mother. Think of ‘kind’ as also short for ‘kindred’.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Act 2 Scene 1
Beatrice: ‘The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well: but civil, count; civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.’
Context: Beatrice is referring to the character Claudio. There is a type of bitter orange that comes from Seville, Spain.

For students of ‘Hamlet’, follow this link for more puns from the play with their explanations:


Time for a challenge
Are there any more puns you know of? I would be particularly interested in seeing if any of you can remember puns that we noted while studying our poetry!