Syme, The Man Who Was Thursday (original)
“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church.”
“A change of policy saved me from the police.”
Stefan Trofimovich, The Devils (Translation)
The Prince and you sit apun the battlements, gazing across the lush fields below.
"When I first started punning," he says, slowly, "when I set the world alight and the mouths of schoolchildren a-titter with my greatest quip, concerning country matters-"
"Puntry matters," you add quickly, and laugh a little too heartily at your own joke.
"Quite," grunts the Prince, pundling the greyhound at his side. "Quite."
"But the pun," he sighes, "has gone quite out of fashion. You put it in your Christmas crackers simply to make pun of it, to mock its inadequacies as a joke, to groan."
"I quite disagree with your opinpun," you tell him, firmly.
A waiter brings you both pun collins.
"You see, dear Prince," you continue, taking a sip, "too often the pun is placed as a punchline, over-stated, signposted, when in fact it must be covert, fast, and deadly. Just imagine if I'd written, 'Too often the pun is placed as a PUNchline.' You'd groan, wouldn't you?"
"I am groaning," the Prince says. But he seems to genuinely punder the matter.
“What about the fact,” you reply skipping an instance of punctuation, “that the most widespread use of literary punning in our time is in punnography? In such cases, the pun gets away with being deeply lame simply because it’s extreme, and absurd. You’d have to have a punny-bone of steel not to smile at classic pieces of idiocy such as ‘The Witches Of Breastwick’, ‘Risque Business’, ‘Shagnet’ or ‘Honey, We Blew Up Your Pussy 2’. Okay…maybe not the last one. It’s not even a pun, really.”
The Prince’s punis rises, very slightly, in his tights.
"Tim Vine," you puntinue, "one of our most popular stand-up comedipuns, and pun of the very few who doesn't rely on having a specific shtick, a thing, a persona, relies almost entirely on them. There’s a reason every critic talks about how hilarious Rushdie is, but almost nobody can recall one of his jokes – he uses puns above all. The pun is the poisoned umbrella of wit. As a concealed weapun, it's brilliant - and you've struck the deadly blow before your oppunent even realises it - but you'd feel very silly waving it around self-consciously if you wanted to raid a bank."
"Oh, you misunderstand me," the Prince insists. "I quite punpur." But, you suspect, he just wants you to stop talking.
"Or punsider again," you continue, "the recent revival, as the loathspun Piers Morgpun's got his own television progpun, of Stepun Fry's description of 'countryside' on 'Sorry, I Haven't A Clue' as 'the killing of Piers Morgpun.'".
The Prince's mouth is opun.
"That bastard pundit stole my joke!" he snaps.
"Shakespeare's joke, as it happuns," you reply, looking smug. "Or should it have been, 'puntryside'?"
The Prince shakes his head grimly and punbles,
"You've already pun that one."
"But on the other hand," you puntinue, "while many jokes are temporary because they reference current affairs, puns are slightly more durable - yet still barely able to last more than a few pundred years, since they rely upun language and the distortion of language. And in an inter-connected, globalised envirpunment, the pun is partially bound to go out of vogue, since celebrity-related quips, like those Ricky Gervais spouted at the Goldpun Globes, can actually cross internachpunal language boundaries more easily than wordplay. (Pace Asterix, and its translators who do such a good job of transferring every witty name into equivalently funny English) I mean, for every classic that endures like 'country matters', how many pundreds of Shakespeare's puns have to be broken down and explained based on a word that no longer exists?"
“So what you’re saying,” says the Prince, “is that the pun is currently ill-used in our literature, but that literary history itself mainly justifies that neglect?”
“Punderful,” you murmur. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“Punk!” Hamlet shouts.
He punches you out.