puns (e.g., WHICH vs. WITCH et al.)

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 28 00:04:35 UTC 2008


There "was no way that" WITCH could possibly be a punning reference for WITCH
in the speech of those old folks who preserve initial /w/-versus-/hw/

Not! This seems unusually dense of you, Wilson, in that puns that involve
words that are similar but not identical in pronunciation ABOUND. Two examples:

1. Five minutes ago, I opened an e-mail message on my neighborhood listserve
with the subject line, "After the grill is gone," which (the text confirmed)
was a pun on "after the thrill is gone." One could also pun (in the right
context) by saying, "After the frill is gone," "After the trill is gone," and maybe
even "After the thew is gone" (e.g., in a headline for a newspaper feature
story about how to get back in shape after a   sedantary period in one's life).

2. A few months ago I was in the Orlando airport and a voice on the
loudspeaker announced (surely at the request of a snickering adolescent traveler),
"Will Jack Mihoff [mihaf] please meet Iva Woody right away at the Hyatt Hotel
entrance?" Obviously, the gullible announcer missed the quadruple pun, but people
in the airport did not--despite the intrusive [h], the announcer's [o/a]
merger, and even though "Iva" for "I have" is not a normal contraction in American
English. When I was in high school, there was a whole genre of author-title
jokes (discussed here some time ago, I think) that depended on such puns
(remember Hugo S. DeMoose? Wun Hung Lo?).

A number of years ago, it was (I believe) Larry Horn who pointed out how much
sports page headline writers depend on such non-identical (but of course
non-obscene) puns.

By the way, isn't it also the case that, for speakers who maintain the
distinction, the [h] and [w] are actually co-artriculated (hence the spelling <wh->

In a message dated 1/26/08 10:47:26 PM, hwgray at GMAIL.COM writes:

> Do you remember the special iue of CLS entitled
> "Chicago Which Hunt"?
> I had to have it explained to me that this title was a pun. I told the
> person who attempted to explain it to me that I understood it, but I
> was lying. For me, the claim that /hw/ could be replaced by /w/ by a
> native speaker of English was nonsense. There was no way that such a
> title could be a pun.

Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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