When I was in the eleventh grade I ran for the head of the student council using 45 food themed leadership puns. (Vote Anneke—Just for the Halibut; There’s a lot at steak! Anneke’s Raisin the bar! She’s RAD(ish)! Etc.)
Of course I lost.
I don’t fully blame puns for my political failures. After all, I did lose to the captain of the most popular team at my high school (the debating captain—my school was unconditionally non-athletic). But the puns certainly didn’t help.
Punning isn’t a decision, nor is it a lifestyle. Like misaligned teeth, type-one diabetes, or a sense of rhythm, it is innate. All of these things (except regrettably the sense of rhythm, as eight fruitless years of hip hop dance classes have proven) can be nurtured or left to wither. It is the choice of the individual to embrace the pun, or reject word play for more socially validated forms of humor. Sure, people actually laugh at a well-timed sex joke or relevant entertainment industry reference, but I have learned to live for the groan that follows a pun. My standards for success are “the more terrible the better,” as for some reason the most clever and distinctive puns are deemed “the worst.” I am often asked, how do I pun so frequently, and so efficiently?! The truth is I didn’t choose the pun life, the pun life chose me.
I find it impossible to diagnose when I became so addicted to puns. In the seventh grade I bought a bracelet that said “peas on earth” with the image of legumes holding hands around a globe. I wore this religiously until my mother removed it without consent (though in retrospect I recognize it was for my own reputational and hygienic good). Even younger, in the third grade I sported my Northern Gettaway “Backstreet Cats” and “Spice Mice” t-shirts with gusto. Oddly enough, a love of Northern Gettaway was surprisingly normalized, so attributing my loyalty to these t-shirts to wittiness may be misguided.
I’ve tried in vain to hide my love, to leave the puns behind. Moving into university I swore I’d go pun-less, cold turkey, with no success. At the start of every job, group project, or extracurricular club, I try again. Inevitably about a week into knowing someone I hear the same pain-soaked words, “So you’re like…really into puns, hey?”
As a psychology student I can assure you the puns have not been the result of positive peer reinforcement. I have been told that puns made a peer “literally want to kill himself.” Aside from what I can only hope is a misuse of the term “literally,” I can also assure you we are no longer close friends. The number of twitter followers I lose daily from particularly painful puns makes me worry I’ll soon be in the negative (eg. These running puns just sneak up on me, not sure what jogged my memory of them!) Thank heavens for my mother, who will Twitter-follow me and Canadian singer/songwriter Jann Arden without fail, and supports of all my pun-related endeavors.
Pun life does come with considerable anxiety. I have had, for about six years now, the genuine irrational fear that I will run out of puns. Jacques Cartier, upon discovering Newfoundland in 1534, thought there was enough cod to feed England until the end of time. But overfishing has cod up with us, and now there are hardly enough fish to sustain a healthy cod population. Like poor, misguided Jacques, I used to assume that with almost 175000 words in the English language, pun possibilities were boundless. But with each passing pun there is one less opportunity. And some words seem so hopeless, whether they are too obscure to pun, or too offensive. How can one make a pun from the word “jaundice” for example?! My fear of punning out lives on.
I may never fully understand why I became the pun-nisher I am today. But with each passing day I learn to embrace the puns of my life, and to seek puns in everything I do. After all, life can be pun-derful if you let it.