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VOL. 126 | NO. 18 | Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vic Fleming

Use Puns, Name Change, Win Books


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Words are the toys of a civilized world. Playing with them often results in good will and better friendships.

Consider, for instance, the pun, a tool no lawyer, or other problem-solver, should ever be without.

Negative reputation to the contrary notwithstanding, the use of puns is considered clever.

Problem-solvers need to be clever. In a positive way. Puns can help.

Someone about whom I have written before was voted Punster of the Year in 1989. By the International Save the Pun Foundation, who else?

In a book the ’89 Punster of the Year wrote, he cited John Dennis as the source of the saying “A pun is the lowest form of wit.”

Dennis lived over 300 years ago and was a critic and playwright (but did he review his own work?).

Some time later, Henry Erskine said that if Dennis was right, then the pun is “the foundation of all wit.” Lowest, foundation, get it?!

Oscar Levant, at some point in history, chimed in, “A pun is the lowest form of humor – when you don’t think of it first.” How true is that?!

The ’89 Punster of the Year has analogized a good pun to a popular entree.

I shan’t reveal the entire quote, as I’ve made a puzzle of it and sent it to Will Shortz at the New York Times.

If it’s accepted, I’ll write of it later. If it’s rejected, it may wind up in this periodical. And at the Web site cited hereinafter. Site, cite, get it?

Shortz, as you may know, has a law degree, though he has worked in puzzles for his entire career.

Some lawyers might say the same of themselves, speaking figuratively. Shortz loves a good pun.

Trying to instruct someone on how to make good puns is difficult, but doable, I’m convinced. The key is to think before you speak.

In a group that I was a party to recently, two young women, both CPAs, were discussing the fact that they would soon be house-hunting.

One of them owned a beagle named Deacon, who was more interested in smelling the lawn than in the conversation taking place near the fence.

The prospect of these young women going on HGTV’s “Property Virgins” was unavoidable.

(Don’t get me started on the phenomenon of HGTV or its seeming omnipresence on the airwaves!)

As others in the group were saying the first things that popped into their heads about how perfect these two cute accountants would be on the show, someone else quietly marinated an idea.

And then he deadpanned: “Take Deacon with you on the show. They can pitch it as ‘Two Young Foxes and a Hound’.” LOL was heard, especially from the foxes.

Name the change.

By the way, I have implemented a certain change in the column this year. Be reminded, that goes back a few weeks.

If you read I Swear AND solve the I Swear Crossword, and if you can ferret out what that change is, then you could be a winner.

OK, so you’re already a winner! You could claim a prize!

For those of you reading the column online, the link to the crossword is www.fleetingimage.com/wij/xyzzy/10-dr.html.

Stay tuned for more details.

For now, suffice it to say that through the first 10 weeks of the year, I’ll keep e-mails from readers who correctly identify the change.

On or about the Ides of March, I’ll draw a name at random from the pool of winners. This lucky reader-solver will receive copies of volumes 3-8 of Random House Casual Crosswords – a $60 value before autographs, a 60-cent value thereafter.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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