THE PUN (Topic for August 2016)
Like a malapropism, a pun is a play on words, but of a different sort. It is the use of a word (or its homophone) in such a manner as to convey an idea different from, even opposite to, its meaning at face value. For instance, in the classic novel about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the determined investigator says of his elusive quarry, Mr. Hyde: “If he be Mr. Hyde, then I’ll be Mr. Seek.”
One particularly sharp pun was attributed to Ferdinand Marcos, the once dictator of The Philippines, in an interview he gave to Playboy magazine in the presence of his wife Imelda, shortly before he died. Mr. Marcos had once trained in law and liked to consider himself a lawyer still. The interviewer asked Mr. Marcos what epitaph he would like on his tombstone.
Reflecting for a while, Mr. Marcos answered, “Here lies a lawyer.”
His wife pursed her lips and said, “No. ‘Here lies a lawyer who lies no more’.”
Mr. Marcos caught the mood and said, “No. ‘Here lies a lawyer who lies still’.”
The quotes may have been a knock-off (by Playboy or by Mr. Marcos) from an apocryphal lawyer joke, but the pun is neat.
In Mr. Marcos’ first choice, “lies” is unambiguous.
In the second (Imelda’s version) the pun is on “lies” (used in two different senses).
In the third version the pun is on both “lies” and “still.”