Pray for me for I am about to step into controversial territory here. No, this one isn’t another tome about immigration or gun control. I’m talking about puns.
Newspapers have a long, storied history of being punny. Often it plays out in the headline department. We have a “Moron terror” when a would-be terrorist does something stupid and all manner of sexual innuendo. (I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to this compendium of pun stuff.)
Folks either love these things or hate them. I lean toward the former camp, because why can’t we wordsmiths have a bit of fun now and then? The trick is to make these writing misdemeanors victimless crimes. That means some stories just don’t lend themselves to yucking it up. Still others are on the edge. If you endeavor to pun you have to recognize the lines.
Jon Johnson of the Eastern Arizona Courier walked that thin line recently with a story about a love triangle that included a spurned softball coach kicking the car of her rival. His lede is artful and worthy of a gallery, in my opinion:
SAFFORD – An assistant softball coach for Eastern Arizona College found herself in a pickle Tuesday after allegedly instigating an altercation with her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.
See? Isn’t that fun? Pickle … softball… I sorta love it!
It works because the wordplay works but also because no one really got hurt. It ended in a criminal damage citation. I would not have had fun with the lede if the culprit had actually injured the victim. Of course, the combatants won’t think this is funny. After a thief took some goats from a farm in California, I wrote that “thieves finally got the owner’s goat.” She didn’t think it was funny.
On balance, however, I think puns can work as long as no one gets hurt.
This is fairly advanced stuff, actually. If you are confused on the point, it’s probably best to stay out of the pun house. If you have a good one, run it up the flagpole. Ask others in the room whether they are offended or just don’t get it.
It can be fun to pun. And one of the problems with newspapers today is that they aren’t very fun very often.