The Pun Game

I know people who absolutely hate them. Not me, I love them, but the reaction to their appearance from those who dislike them can be extreme.  Whilst most will just sneer and whisper words of disgust, there are those for whom they are a provocation beyond bearing and I’ve witnessed individuals of a usually placid nature fly into violent outbursts and assaults in reaction to their manifestation.  So what is it that provokes such intolerance?  I’m not talking here about some oppressed minority or extreme political organisation.  I’m not even referencing opinions about sport, politics or religion.  No, the thing that causes this tempestuous intolerance, which, even more than Marmite, is a thing which you either love or hate, is the pun.

Yes, the pun, that word or phrase which suggests more than one meaning and which (for some) brings unbridled mirth in that ambiguity, is also capable of inducing more moans than a rampant rabbit demonstration at an Ann Summers party.  As I said, I love them and I’m actually inclined to believe that a good pun is something almost everybody enjoys (my response to any who disagree being fork-andles and billhooks) and I guess that’s why they’ve become increasingly common when naming things.

Shops have done it for years.  Lots of us will at sometime or other have bought chips from ‘The Right Plaice’ or maybe even ‘The Codfather’, although it was probably the fact that we were hungry rather than the name which attracted us onto the premises.  But names can make a difference.  It’s probably my age but I have to admit that I felt compelled to stop and buy a butty at a snack van I passed recently called ‘Brimful of Rasher,’ (it was parked on a corner too which made it even better).   The sarnie was brim-full too and so, in all likelihood, I’ll stop again next time I’m up that way.  Would I have stopped if the name over the door was Joe’s Snack Wagon?  Probably not and so that pun worked on me.  But a metal-head mate of mine simply grunted a “oh yeah, right,” when I told him and so he would undoubtedly have driven straight past – unless he fancied a snack bursting with saturated fats, which, in fairness, he often does.

Over the last few years it seems the entertainment business has got in on the pun game.  Tribute bands in particular seem to love to riff on the pun:  Noasis are well known but apparently out there somewhere is a Jimi Breadstix and better still Rage Against the Sardine.  And two bands I really like, Hayseed Dixie and The Dandy Warhols, have puns as names so it can work if you’re careful.

Theatrical shows are also not adverse to a decent pun and a great one turns up this month at the Norwich Playhouse.  Graeme of Thrones promises to be a wacky and wicked parody of the Seven Kingdoms in which a superfan – the eponymous Graeme – simply wants to recreate his favourite fantasy saga on stage, aided by his best mate and the girl he used to fancy at school.  Of course he doesn’t have the budget, the talent or even permission but as he believes George RR Martin would approve what can possibly go wrong?  I have to admit here that I may be the only male in the developed world never to have seen an episode of Game of Thrones but the reviews for this show and the fact that it’s coming to the Norwich Playhouse on the back of a sold out London run mean that this should be a gut-cleaving, nipple-armour ripping hoot…according to writer Jon Brittain.

“Graeme of Thrones is a parody/farce/show-within-a-show/loving homage.  It’s nice to be in a room where being an anally-retentive fanboy is actually a good thing! The team are having a lovely time geeking out and discussing how ridiculous Ser Jorah and Littlefinger’s voices are, how Daenerys really should have doubled checked there was a no-nudity clause in her contract, and how Jon Snow really is incredibly boring – but so pretty.”

Doubtless that means a whole lot more to fans of the show who, regardless of the tenaciousness of their posteriors, will surely be willing to trade their best broadsword to be at the Playhouse on the 9th June.  Tickets are £18 and there is an age restriction of 14+.  Available online via the Playhouse box office at