Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Unfunny Punning

You can see the trend yourself.
Everyday, flip open the Straits Times and you will be promised to see a few puns being used as headlines.
Today's Life says:"Faces to Watch". A headline about watches, and watch face.
Others: "A Day in the Sun", a headline introducing Stephanie Sun; "Loos talk" (to pun with "loose talk") to talk about toilet; "HANGing in HANGzhou"... These were the headlines in Life on 8 Nov 2005.
Need more evidence? 7 Nov 2005 Life says: "No Silly Billy", talking about Dongfang Billy; "Four-bulous" about Stephanie Sun and JJ Lin winning four awards each at Singapore Hit Award. 6 Oct 2005 Life says: "Can you foot his bill?" about a barefoot artist selling his work for millions of dollars; "Steeling beauty" (To pun with "Stealing") about an artist's sculptures of steel.
Ok. I do know what is a pun, and I do know that some of them are not puns, but borrowing of phrases, or alliteration, or rhyming, whatever they are called.
They are basically a play with words.
Serve to capture readers' attention.
But not when they get too many, with no quality control.
When they appear occasionally, they inject humour to the paper. When they begin to flood the page, they become boring. Especially when the puns exist for the sake of punning. When the pun does not convey any deeper meaning than its superficial meaning.
Please. Pun is effectively humorous only when they are in minute quantity with high quality, not when they bounce up every second and minute. (Ok, I know that some of you are gonna say this, "Speak for yourself Wan Xin!" For the sake of argument, the author's speaking style shall not be discussed here. :p) And you can get quite sick with the constant effort required to decode the puns. Are the content so dry that you need a play with words to keep the readers going? If you are, then most probably you shouldn't even publish the piece of information. If the information is too important that it must get into the readers' brain, then please, don't distract us with the meaningless puns.
I don't deny that these figurative language adopted do beautify the language, and bring the usage of English to a higher level, where you can have fun with the words while still carry your ideas across. When the journalists dare to use them in the national newspaper read by millions, it does say something about the level of English of the countrymen. But but but, please, use them judiciously. Allow us to stumble upon surprises, not dulled with sure-come-true prediction.
And let's just hope that the readers are wise enough to understand that these are just informal use of phrases, not to be used in formal writing.


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