Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Grab Bag of Wordplay

The little guy is juuuuuust about to the point where he can comprehend jokes that depend upon dual meanings, homophones, and other forms of wordplay. E.g., my wife recently did a little preliminary spring cleaning and found a pair of pajamas that a relative had bought the little guy a while ago, at which time they were way too big for him. Now, however, they fit pretty well, and they are hilariously modeled to look like old fashioned long johns, complete with a buttoned flap in the posterior section, which has a cartoon picture of a black bear and the words "BEAR BOTTOM" printed on it. The little guy decided he wanted to wear those pajamas for a few nights, and this of course led to a certain amount of discussion about why (always why) they printed what they did on the flap. Little does he know the lifetime of putting up with puns and double entendres he has ahead of him, growing up in this extended family.


Case in point! When things were starting to go wobbly in Ukraine a week and a half ago, I happened to be home with the kids for a sick day, which afforded me the opportunity to take part in an extended e-mail conversation that devolved into a punning contest between me and my buddy Clutch inspired by the crisis. It started as an invitation for people to come over to his house and play the card game Nuclear War in honor of the turmoil which, in case that wasn't a tasteless enough joke, someone followed up with some scatological humor, which prompted a complaint from Clutch, which I responded to with "Oh, Crimea a river". Terrible, I know, but Clutch returned serve and I volleyed back again and it was pretty much downhill from there.

This went on for quite a while, during which the observation was made that all of these keywords in our e-mail traffic were no doubt causing server crawlers to put us all on watchlists, because of course spies have no sense of humor. I then mused thusly: "If someone goes to the head of the CIA and asks Simferopol, I bet at least some of the agents would respond that they find this amusing."

Despite the torturous set-up, that pretty much locked up a victory for me in the pun-off. But it didn't really sit well with me because of course that sentence should be in the subjunctive! "If someone were to go ... and ask" would be more correct, but it had to be "asks" to blend smoothly into "Simferopol", so I bit the bullet and mangled the grammar. But I'm not proud of it.


Speaking of being a stickler for grammar and word usage, can I say one more thing about Frozen? Last bit for a while, I swear! OK, in one of the online thinkpieces I read about the movie, someone referred to a first act plot development as "Hans and Anna's shotgun wedding plans." And all I could think was, dude, that is not what that means. It's not, "Wow, those two got married really fast, like as fast as buckshot flies out the barrel of a shotgun!" It's "Those two got married really fast because the boy knocked up the girl and the girl's father marched the two of them down the aisle with the boy at gunpoint so the baby wouldn't be born out of wedlock." The threat of violent murder may no longer be a socially acceptable parenting tool, but at the very least I thought "shotgun wedding" still referred to an unplanned pregnancy necessitating a much-abridged courtship and dash to the altar, and not simply love-at-first-sight recklessness. For all Frozen's modernity and subversiveness, I assure any of you who haven't seen it that Anna does not get teen-pregnant at the coronation ball.


OK, back to wordplay. This week I read William Shakespeare's Star Wars, which is a very silly book that takes the plot of Episode IV: A New Hope and re-tells it in the format of a five-act play in a style fairly reminiscent of The Bard's. It is of course right up my alley, although I would certainly understand anyone who would react by finding the high concept amusing enough as a concept but not really care to wade through 160 pages of pseudo-Elizabethan dialogue. Still, if you happen to run across a copy you should at least flip through it for the woodcut illustrations alone:

I mean, come on.

There's some decent verbal humor throughout, though picking my favorite instance is tough. It comes down to, on the one hand, something which isn't even part of the text of the play but a bit of promotion on the inner flap of the dust jacket: MAY THE VERSE BE WITH YOU. I would wear that on a t-shirt. On the other hand, there's this line: "This situation here doth give me pause." It's an iambic pentameter rendering of my favorite recurring line from the trilogies, "I've got a bad feeling about this." And I may very well have to start working it into conversation, because there's no denying that I am totally that guy who would.

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