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Thursday, May 12, 2011

My History with Paronomasia, pt. 1: The Spider Bite

Hi, I'm Michael, and I am afflicted with paronomasia. Some call it a disease that needs to be stomped out. I consider it a condition; some find it interesting, others are repulsed by it. Look it up, and make your own decisions on how you feel about it. Here, a link: Paronomasia.


So, to begin again. If you are reading this blog, you (hopefully) listen to the show. And, you've heard my puns. Some of you love them, some of you hate them. But you all notice them. And, I'm gonna keep at it. So, you might as well learn my history with puns. I've not always been a punster. Oh, I'd probably used them most of my life, but never knew what they were, or the conscious act of creating them. But three writers made me understand the art form of the pun. This series of posts will talk about the books of these authors, my relationship with their books, and their influence on my punful nature.

Spider Robinson (image from the author's website) is an American-born Canadian science-fiction author. He has won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (1974), three Hugo awards (1977, 1978, and 1983), a Nebula Award (1977) and the Robert A. Heinlein Award for Lifetime Achievement (2008). So he's not just a chump. I came across his writings through a Robert A. Heinlein book, in which he did a cover blurb for a new printing. So, being a massive bibliophile, I picked up one of his books. Thus did I discover "The Callahan Chronicals."

Now, a little background. The Callahan Chronicals isn't a single book, it's a collection of three. And each book isn't even a single story, it's a collection of short stories. But they all center around Callahan's Place, a bar located somewhere in New York. The bar is tended my a jolly Irishman named Mike Callahan ... who has a bit of a secret. And the bar isn't your standard fare. Imagine Cheers mixed with the Mos Eisley Cantina.

People gravitate to there, who need to be there. Usually, they aren't your normal bar patrons, though, One is a herald to an intergalactic race of planet eaters. One is an alien shapeshifter whose people have guided humanity to act as cattle. He took the guise of an Austrian named Adolph Hitler (he wasn't asked to stay). There is a talking dog and his mute human. It's a ... motley crew.

One of the traditions of Callahan's is a contest called Punday Night. The winner has his entire tab erased, so tradition holds that heavy drinking is necessary (and, of course, alcohol makes the punning more bearable). And these puns, both good and bad, began my sordid affair with paronomasia. Some examples, you say? Sure! The following have been collected from numerous Callahan books, not just the three in The Callahan Chronicals. Enjoy (or beware).

 --  Far away in the tropical waters of the Caribbean, there are two prawns, one named Justin and the other named Christian. The prawns are constantly being threatened by sharks.
One day Justin says to Christian, "I wish I was a shark, then I wouldn't have any worries about being eaten." A mysterious cod then appears, and says, "Your wish is granted."
Lo and behold, Justin turns into a shark. Horrified, Christian immediately swims away, afraid of being eaten by his old friend. In time, Justin the shark finds himself becoming bored and lonely. All his old friends swim away whenever he comes close to them, afraid of his menacing appearance.
     One day, Justin sees the mysterious cod again and begs to be changed back into a prawn. His wish is granted. Justin swims back to his old friends and buys them all a cocktail. He searches in vain for Christian, and is told that his old pal is at home, distraught that his best friend has gone over to the enemy and become a shark.
     So Justin sets off for Christian's house. He opens the coral gate and, banging on the door, calls, "It's me. It's Justin, your old friend. Come out and see me again."
Christian replies, "No way, man. You'll eat me. You're a shark, the enemy, and I'll not be tricked."
     Justin cries back, "No I'm not. That was the old me. I've changed. I've found cod. I'm a prawn again, Christian."

 --  The symphony orchestra was performing Beethoven's Ninth. In the piece, there's a long passage, about 20 minutes, during which the bass violinists have nothing to do.
Rather than sit around that whole time looking stupid, some bassists decided to sneak offstage and go to the tavern next door for a quick one.
     After slamming several beers in quick succession, one of them looked at his watch and said, "Hey! We need to get back!"
     "No need to panic," said a fellow bassist. "I thought we might need some extra time, so I tied the last few pages of the conductor's score together with string. It'll take him a few minutes to get it untangled."
     A few moments later they staggered back to the concert hall and took their places in the orchestra. About this time, a member of the audience noticed the conductor seemed a bit edgy and said as much to her companion.
     "Well, of course," said her companion. "Don't you see? It's the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded."

 --  A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them is adopted by a family in Egypt and is named "Amal." The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him "Juan."
     Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his mom. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Amal.
     Her husband responds, "But they are twins - if you've seen Juan, you've seen Amal!"

 --  A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. The frog sees from the name plate that the teller's name is Paddy Whack. So the frog says, "Mr. Whack, I'd like a loan to buy a boat."
     Paddy Whack looks at the frog in disbelief and asks how much he wants to borrow. The frog says 30,000 dollars. The teller asks his name and the frog says his name is Kermit Jagger and that he knows the bank's manager.
     Paddy explains that 30,000 dollars is a lot of money, that the frog must secure some collateral against the loan and asks if he has any collateral. The frog says, "Sure. I have this" and the frog produces a tiny pink elephant, about half an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.
     Confused, Paddy explains that he must consult with the manager and disappears into a back office. Whack finds the manager and says, "There's a frog out front named "Kermit Jagger" who says he know you and wants to borrow 30 grand. And he wants to use this as collateral." Whack holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what is this?"
     The bank manager replies, "It's a knick-knack, Paddy Whack! Give the frog a loan! His old man's a Rolling Stone!"

 --  There were three Medieval kingdoms on the shores of a lake. There was an island in the middle of the lake, which the kingdoms had been fighting over for years. Finally, the three kings decided that they would send their knights out to do battle, and the winner would take the island.
     The night before the battle, the knights and their squires pitched camp and readied themselves for the fight.
     The first kingdom had 12 knights, and each knight had 5 squires, all of whom were busily polishing armor, brushing horses, and cooking food.
     The second kingdom had 20 knights, and each knight had 10 squires. Everyone at that camp was also busy preparing for battle.
     At the camp of the third kingdom, there was only one knight, with his squire. This squire took a large pot and hung it from a looped rope in a tall tree. He busied himself preparing the meal, while the knight polished his own armor.
     When the hour of the battle came, the three knights sent their squires out to fight (this was too trivial a matter for the knights to join in). The battle raged, and when the dust cleared, the only person left was the lone squire from the third kingdom, having defeated the squires from the other two kingdoms.
     This just proved that the squire of the high pot and noose is equal to the sum of the squires of the other two sides.

And so on, and so forth. So, not only are puns funny, but they can be smart, too.

So that's how I got bit by the Spider. And you can too!

Search for Spider Robinson on Amazon and focus on the Callahan books. There are quite a few of them. In fact, just to show you how nice a guy I am, I'll give you the quick rundown. Callahan and Company: The Compleat Chronicles of the Crosstime Saloon

  1. The Callahan Chronicals (Collecting Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, Time Traverlers Strictly Cash, and Callahan's Secret)
  2. Callahan's Lady (Think Callahan's Bar, except a brothel)
  3. Lady Slings the Booze
  4. The Callahan Touch
  5. Callahan's Legacy
  6. Callahan's Key
  7. Callahan's Con

If you like humanistic science fiction, I can't recommend these books enough to you. They may be a bit hard to find, as some have gone in and out of print through the years, but it's worth it.

And who knows, you might begin to find me funny!

See ya next Punday!

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