Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 648 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PUN, a play upon words, particularly the use of a word in two or more different applications or of two or more words similar in sound but with different meanings by which a humorous or ludicrous effect is produced; thus Charles I.'s Court Jester is said to have made the punning grace " great praise be to God and little Laud to the devil " for which the archbishop dismissed him from his service. Another famous pun was that upon The Beggar's Opera, which " made Gay rich and Rich gay." Thomas Hood was the king of pun-makers. " They went and told the sexton, and the sexton toll'd the bell " (" Sally Brown "1 is one example among the innumerable puns with which his poems are filled. The derivation of the word is not known. It first appears in the second half of the 1 7th century. Skeat (Etym. Did., 1898) identifies it with an obsolete and dialectal variant of " pound," to beat in the sense of " to pound words, to beat them into new senses, to hammer at forced similes" The New English Dictionary considers it was probably one of the shortened words, like " mob," " cit," &c., which were common in slang after the Restoration. In R. L'Estrange, Counsellor Manners's Last Legacy (1676), " pun " is found with punnet, pundigrion and quibble, " of which fifteen will not make up one single jest." Possibly these may be all referred to " punctilio" (It. puntiglio, dim. of punto, point, Lat. punctum), a small, fine point, a cavil or quibble. No historical connexion, however, has been found between the words.
End of Article: PUN

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