Musical Puns
[ Issue 18 ]

Musical Puns keeps Emily Bronto occupied for hours

Bikwil salutes Musical Puns

Musical Puns

Whether we like it or not, Harlish Goop loves puns.

Especially musical puns — wholesome or scatalogical.

Hundreds of puns in all their ghastly splendour, including lots for frivolous children and plenty of ripe examples for the dirty-minded

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A Word in Your Pink Shell-like — Harlish Goop

Copyright


I, for one, was more than pleased to read in Bikwil Issue 4 (November 1997) this Quintessential Quirky Quote of English musician/broadcaster Steve Race:

In order to enjoy an ingenious pun one has only to stop groaning like a schoolboy and enjoy the thing like a man.

This is a line from Race’s My Music, a rollicking book also quoted from by E. Roy Strong in Bikwil’s mammoth Wagner issue (No. 10, November 1998). Most of the puns in Race’s book are of course by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, who extended the device into an art form, not only in the radio show My Music, but in its forerunner and model My Word.

Fizzgig (Issue 5, January 1998) has quoted from Frank Muir, too, from his Oxford Book of Humorous Prose, which I commend to you for some audacious (and atrocious) Muir and Norden word plays. Muir also lists a few (quite genuine) punning food-store and restaurant names in America, like “Barnum and Bagel”, “Jonathan Livingstone Seafood”, and my favourite (a pie shop) “3.14159”.

One more from Muir’s book, this time a headline from The Tatler about singer Tina Turner:

Don’t Thigh for Me, Ardent Tina.

Not that the above Steve Race line has been the only punster's delight in Bikwil, the best of which was undoubtedly Dorothy Parker's marvellous “horticulture” pun in QQQ No. 3. Hopefully there'll be many more equally horrendous.

If you like puns as much as I do, you will be interested in a diminutive yet thorough volume on the subject (and an Aussie one to boot) which I recently picked up for five dollars in a bookshop remainder sale. It's Paul Clarke and Joan Sauers' Pundemonium: The Step-by-Schlep Guide to Humour's Lowest Form; its ISBN is 0 85561 694 6. Two hundred and sixty pages, quite scholarly in places, devoted to the history and use of and attitudes to the pun in everyday life and literature.

(Literature includes everything from Shakespeare to the Marx Brothers to James Joyce to Mel Brooks to Noam Chomsky to the Carry On gang to Victor Hugo to Spike Milligan to Carl Jung to Alan Alda to Cicero to Roy Rene.)

And bloody funny too, of course: hundreds of puns in all their ghastly splendour, including lots for frivolous children and plenty of ripe examples for the dirty-minded. Dare I risk a few, or will this ruin a future QQQ page? No, the world's full of puns, and there are plenty to go round.

(Note how cleverly I avoided saying “All the world's a stooge.”)

Completely at random, then, this Pundemonium handful:

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Bad cooking: the pot thickens

Cool people are scene and not herd

A critic is a man who pans for gold

Dead men don’t get laid

Flabbery will get you no wear

The masochist cowered when he saw the domantrix's whip, and she told him, "That's the leash of your worries"

Occasionally gymnasts fall on deft ears

One of the advantages of nuclear war is that all men are cremated equal

A sycophant is a person who stoops to concur.

So you see, far from being a despicable form of humour, a pun — or a least a good one — has a certain mellifluous dignity of its own. This form of improvisatorial mucking about with words, indeed, is loved and practised regularly by musicians worldwide (even if they're not also broadcasters). The reason, of course, isn't hard to find: musos have good ears. Theme and variations and all that.

An example of this musician's delight occurred early in the movie Brassed Off, where at rehearsal the brass-band conductor played by Pete Postlethwaite introduces Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez as “The Concerto de Orange Juice”.

When I heard that fruity jewel, my mind went back to my Uni days. A jazz group I followed was once requested (after many up-tempo numbers) to “play something pastoral”, and the pianist immediately called out, “Ok fellers, There'll Never Be Another Ewe”.

Below you’ll find a few wordplays for your delectation, all relating to titles of musical compositions in various styles. Most are pretty self-evident, so no explanation is provided.

Now, I’ve heard that quite a few Bikwil readers are musicians, amateur or pro, so I'm optimistic that this list will soon get expanded. Ok you trombonists, don't let things slide. And all you fiddlers — you should be able to scrape up a few puns. Nor you bassoon players (I almost fagott you).

Hold that wailing a bit longer!

Just remember this. In addition to the clever puns created by the famous writers mentioned above, some really great men of letters have penned loving words about this form of humour, so if it was good enough for them it’s good enough for Bikwil.

Edgar Allan Poe, for instance, who had the bravery to assert, “The goodness of your true pun is in direct ratio of its intolerability”.

And Charles Lamb, who so beautifully wrote, “[A pun] . . . is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect”.

Even the great H.W. Fowler had some affection for a decent pun:

Puns are good, bad, and indifferent, and only those who lack the wit to make them are unaware of the fact.

Anyway, here are our puns on musical composition titles:

Balaclava Creek

Bill Jazzer’s Fist

The Blight of the Humble Fee

Butcher Arms around Me Honey, Hold Me — I’m Tight

Buy Me Mr Sheen

Clear the Saloon

Eugene One Gin

Every Baby Loves My Body

Freezer

The Girl with the Lines of a Horse

Stompin’ on the Saveloy

Shake My Gland — I’ve Got Strange-looking Parasites

The Unfurnished Symphony (in One Flat).

Incidentally, Pundemonium has a page devoted to musical puns, too (page 152, to be exact). Here's a couple of real moan provokers:

When the string section rose up and strangled the brass section for being out of tune, they called it wanton act of violins.

When a movie scorer is told to make it funnier, he has to farce the music.

By way of a bonus, here’s a music-oriented pair from elsewhere in the same book:

Compulsive sound recordist: I never met a man I didn’t mike

When musicians do it, it’s called band on the pun.

Ok. Ok. I’ll go.

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