Page images



begun to burn our towns and murder our people. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations! You and I were long friends. You are now my enemy-and I am

[blocks in formation]

The double meaning of "yours" will be immediately perceived.

92. A Characteristic Definition.-The pun has been characteristically defined and illustrated as follows: "A pun's a word that's played upon,

And has a double sense;

But when I say a double sense,

I don't mean double cents.

"As thus: A bat about a room

Not long ago I knew

To fly; he caught a fly, and then
Flew up the chimney flue."

93. Puns suggesting two Languages.


very interesting puns are made by the combination of two languages. Words are used in the form of quotations, or as original expressions from the other language, which either sound like words in our own language that convey, in the sentence used, a ludicrous meaning, or when translated present a pun. Such instances of Paronomasia are, of course, few, but often to those who understand them are very pleasing. Thus Sheridan suggested to an ignorant and wealthy tobacconist the following motto to be blazoned on his carriage: Quid rides! In English, "Quid" (a tobacco quid) rides," in Latin it means "Why do you laugh?" So when a noted manufacturer of scales used for weighing desired to obtain a suitable motto to inscribe upon them, one suggested a quotation from the description of the leviathan in the Book of Job

"His scales are his pride!" but another more wittily suggested the following Latin motto, "Monstrat viam;" literally, "It shows the way" (weigh).

Sometimes this kind of wit is used in a familiar style to enforce thought, as in the following:

"Never waste arguments on people who do not know logic from logwood, which is the case with half the folks who like disputation. The best reply to a stolid dogmatist is to say, 'Certainly, no doubt of it, it is as clear as mud.' Let the wrangler have his way. Leave him to himself, and he will leave you."

94. Connected with Sarcasm.-Puns are frequently used to give point to repartees, apothegms, and epigrams. Thus, one Ward, a flippant Parliamentary orator who used to write out and commit to memory bombastic speeches, having severely criticised Rogers's poem entitled "Italy," the poet took his revenge in writing these few lines, which were soon widely quoted:

"Ward has no heart, they say; but I deny it:

He has a heart, and gets his speeches by it !"

Such puns are used to give pungency to the expression of thought. Thus: "England is a brilliant performer, but bad timist;" in which musical terms are used to illustrate the author's idea. of England in its treatment of other nations. Such a pun is similar to a trope.

95. Puns usually Untranslatable.-A pun, from the nature of the case, often can not be translated into another language. Witticisms are often untranslatable. This may be illustrated by the effort of Edouard Laboulaye, a French author, to relate the saying of



Franklin to his associates upon signing the Declaration of Independence. He says, as literally translated from the French, "When they began to sign, one of those who were about to affix their names turned to Franklin and said: 'Well, with this the English Government can have us all hung together!' 'Why,' said Franklin, 'we can be hung separately.'

There is neither wit nor sense in the above, showing that Laboulaye did not understand the pun. What Franklin did actually say was characteristically witty. Hancock of Massachusetts remarked: "We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together." "Yes," replied Franklin, "we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” The two meanings of hang are now very clear, and both the wit and the logic of the philosopher's remark are very evident.

96. Connected with Proverbs and Epigrams.-Many proverbs owe their force principally to this kind of wit. The following familiar versification of a common proverb by Dr. Doddridge illustrates this fact:

"Live while you live,' the epicure would say,
And seize the pleasures of the present day:
'Live while you live,' the sacred preacher cries,
And give to God each moment as it flies:
Lord, in my view let both united be:
I live to pleasure when I live to thee."



97. Wit in Thought.-WIT of the highest kind is exhibited without any play upon words, but by presenting incongruous and yet fantastically arranged thoughts.

98. Travesty.-Travesty, one species of witty productions, consists in representing something as much more valuable than it really is, and thus ironically ridiculing it.

"As Berecynthia, while her offspring vie
In homage to the mother of the sky,

Surveys around her in the blest abode

A hundred sons, and every son a god;

Not with less glory mighty Dullness crowned,

Shall take through Grub Street her accustomed round,

And her Parnassus, glancing o'er at once,

Behold her hundred sons, and each a dunce."

Travesty is generally secured by debasing comparisons, though they may not be formally made.

99. Parody. It is also presented sometimes in Parody, which is a composition similar in sound to another, and yet conveying an entirely different meaning. Parodies are not necessarily witty, though they generally are ludicrous on account of the associations connected with the production parodied.



Thus a writer, enumerating "the miseries of life," describes one as follows: "To climb into a berth in a river steam-boat knowing that, sleepy as you are, you may look forward to listening to the tramping of that crazy race on deck over your head, who look at views, within an inch or two of your nose, for the rest of the moonlight night.

"He thought, as he hollowed his narrow bed,

And punched up his meagre pillow,

How the foe and the stranger should tread o'er his head,

As he sped on his way o'er the billow.'

This verse is a parody on a stanza in that beautiful poem written on the burial of Sir John Moore:

"We thought, as we hallowed his narrow bed,

And smoothed down his lowly pillow,

That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
And we, far away o'er the billow."

100. Burlesque.—Burlesque consists in using highsounding epithets and an apparently dignified style to describe unworthy objects. Burlesque translations of the Iliad of Homer, and other celebrated compositions, have been written often with a purpose to ridicule some men or measures.

Burke, speaking of the revolutionists of his time, who made a great noise and effected but little, said:

"Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, while thousands of great cattle repose in the shade and are silent, pray do not suppose that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; or that, after all, they are other than the little meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour."

The writings of Pope present many instances of the burlesque, as the following:

« PreviousContinue »