Ah, the pun (and punster), usually written off as verbal dross in an age of visual dazzle, is in the midst of a mild revival in the United States.
"You see puns used more and more these days in newspaper headlines, in magazines and advertising," says Bob Aitchison, an editor of the quarterly American Pun Review and co-founder of the nonprofit Pun American Club based in Deerfield, Ill. He cites dozens of recent examples in publications from Time magazine to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
"We had to double the size of our postal box last year," says John Crosbie of Toronto, Canada, the "chairman of the bored" of The International Save the Pun Foundation. He says members in the nonprofit organization now number in the "thousands," and come from "every socioeconomic level." He is the author of "Crosbie's Dictionary of Puns." Here's a sample:
In ancient Rome when workers in a popular deli were told they could eat anything they wanted during lunch hour -- anything, that is, except the expensive smoked salmon -- they created the world's first anti-lox breaks.
Each year on April 1, the International Save the Pun Foundation has a dinner in Chicago to name Punster of the Year and trade fast puns. More than 200 punsters have made reservations so far for this year.
Mr. Crosbie, a retired advertising executive, says, "People who like word play are more playful and mentally agile [than nonpunsters]."
What is the essence of a good pun?
"It has to be clever and witty," he says, "and the best ones are spontaneous. It has to be something that can be laughed over with someone, not against someone."