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

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 28 15:48:33 UTC 2008

I understand that the use of WHICH as if it were an ordinary noun might have been temporarily confusing, but it is still a pun, regardless of one's dialect.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>

Date:         Sun, 27 Jan 2008 23:50:26
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] puns (e.g., WHICH vs. WITCH et al.)

I could tell that Chicago *Which* Hunt was an attempt at a pun or
something approaching a pun, but, for me, it was no pun. It wasn't
until I discovered that, as that guy in the Army had tried to point
out to me, there *are* people who don't pronounce the "h" in words
that begin with "wh." Hence for those people, the title was a perfect

For me, there was also the problem that "which" is a relative, whereas
"witch" is a noun. I would gotten "The Trill Is Gone" v. "The Thrill
Is Gone" immediately, especially since I've been familiar with the
blues song by "Master B.B.," as we called him in Saint Louis, since
its release. And I recall "author-title" puns like "Under The
Grandstand" by Seymour Hairyass and "jones" like, "He wear Seymours:
see more feet than you do shoes" and "He wear Dunlops: heels worn
down, done lopped over."

The person who tried to deconstruct "Chicago Which Hunt" for me, Joan
Maling, was surprised by my preservation of the /hw/, at least as
surprised as I was to learn that there really were normal people for
whom initial /hw/ and /w/ fell together as /w/.

Hm. I wonder whether there are still people who are annoyed by those
of us for whom /E[nasal]/ and /I[nasal/ have fallen together as
/I[nasaal]/? There were when I was a child. Or those who break /aen/
(Ann) into [i at n], as is common in the Boston area?


On Jan 27, 2008 7:04 PM,  <RonButters at aol.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       RonButters at AOL.COM
> Subject:      puns (e.g., WHICH vs. WITCH et al.)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Huh?
> 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/
> distinction?
> 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.
> http://body.aol.com/fitness/winter-exercise?NCID=aolcmp00300000002489
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list