Puns can be one of the most entertaining ways to have fun with words. A pun inserted in a joke or riddle can result in an amusing punch line with the added element of surprise. The humor comes from the misuse of words that are spelled the same or sound similar, but have very different meanings.



The cracking of funny puns is as old as recorded history. Ancient writings from Egypt, Iraq, China and Japan, and even Mayan cultures, have been found to contain examples of amusing word play. It seems that all human cultures, throughout history, are able to recognize similar sounding terms and craft them into clever puns. The scientific term for a pun is paronomasia.

Around the world, one of the most popular of the paronomasia genre are fish puns. With names like “sole,” “tuna,” and “flounder,” fish provide many opportunities to crack some funny jokes. There is no “trout” about it, fish make it easy to think of similar-sounding words and make a pun!

Children’s riddles will often make use of puns. In fact, the pun in a child’s riddle can be so obvious that it will elicit groans of protest from adults who think they have heard it all before. Knock-knock jokes are a perfect example of how children enjoy puns.

Surely everyone has heard the riddle where a “Knock-knock” at the door is answered by, “Who’s there?” There are hundreds of these jokes, but if the jokester says, “Banana,” the standard reply would be, “Banana who?” There is more knocking and the sequence is repeated several times. Eventually the answer to, “Who’s there?” is, “Orange.” The final punch line to this particular knock-knock joke is, “Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘banana’?” (Insert groan.)

The type of humor that puns represent is considered one of the most unsophisticated and base. That characterization is not entirely on spot, however. Puns can also be quite sophisticated. For instance, a Buddhist might refuse Novocain at the dentist because he wishes to transcend dental medication. For all the witty ways puns have been used to amuse and entertain, they will forever remain part of the world’s comic repertoire.

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