Have you ever heard someone tell a joke and then say “No pun intended”?
In this article, I want to look at some situations where people might say it, why puns are so great, and whether you should say it.
At the end of this article, you’ll know what people mean when they say “no pun intended”.
What does “No pun intended” mean?
“No pun intended” means something like “I didn’t mean to make that pun”. However, what “No pun intended” can sometimes mean is “I noticed nobody found that funny, so I will act as if I didn’t mean to make a joke”. There will also be times when “No pun intended” means “I 100% did mean to make that pun, but I want act as though I didn’t”.
What is a pun?
Let’s take a look at what a pun is. Of course, a pun is a type of joke. However, it’s not something that you could often hear a stand-up comedian say. The pun does not rely on voice, and much of the time can be written rather than said.
Most jokes told in this scenario tend to be funny stories or “it’s funny because it’s true” kind of jokes.
A pun is a play on words, you can either blend words into one or get homophones mixed up. Many of the jokes we would tell one another when we were young would have been puns.
Examples of when the pun IS intended
Let’s take a look at some puns and explore what they do with the English language?
“What do you call it when a cat wins a dog show? A cat-has-trophy”.
This one is very clever because it takes the word “catastrophe” and realises it sounds like “cat has trophy”.
“A brickie said to his boss ‘We have a problem’. To which his boss says “Lay it down”.
Here, the joke teller has realised that “Lay it down” can be talking about something physical (like a brick), or something mental, like information”.
Other examples are “What happened when the god of thunder hit himself whilst hammering in a nail? A Thor thumb”.
“I want to use more herbs. But I haven’t the Thyme”.
My defence of puns
As grown-ups, when many of us hear or read a pun, we tend to roll our eyes and think of the teller and immature and childish. But I want to take this chance to defend puns.
To make a pun, your grasp of the English language needs to be strong. You will need to understand what words sound similar to other words, how phrases can mean two things and have a clear idea of homophones.
Puns link two things that sound similar but are entirely different. But at the end of the day, jokes are always fun, even if they can be a bit rubbish sometimes.
4 examples of how to use “No pun intended” in a sentence
Let’s take a look at 4 examples of how someone might say “No pun intended”, and how it can mean different things.
Example #1- When a pun is made by accident.
Our first example is an extract from a news article that I just made up.
“After a bitter election during the Covid pandemic, Joe Biden trumped his opponent- no pun intended”.
The pun here is that Biden’s opponent’s name was Trump, but “trumped” can also mean “beat”. We can assume that the joke teller is trying to make the topic of politics slightly less dull.
Example #2- When the joke flops.
For our next example, let’s take a look at someone saying it as a way of hiding the fact their pun didn’t go as successfully as the speaker had hoped.
“‘Do you think he’ll win the boxing match tomorrow?’
‘I reckon he’s got a fighting chance’.
He looked around the room and saw that nobody was laughing.
‘No pun intended’.”
A “fighting chance” means you can do it, but only if you work very hard. But “fighting” can also refer to a physical altercation, which happens during a boxing match.
Example #3- When a pun is intended, but the writer wants to seem like it wasn’t
“Ever since Chris Wink left, Matt Goldman has been feeling kinda blue- no pun intended”.
Chris Wink and Matt Goldman are both members of a band called the “Blue Man group”. They are three men who wear blue and perform music. However, to be “feeling blue” means feeling sad, as blue is often associated with sadness.
In the example, the band member is feeling sad because his bandmate has left. However, because the band members are blue, it makes sense to link it with another phrase related to the word “blue”.
Just to be clear, the blue man group is still together, I just used this phrase as an example.
In our final example, I want to look at an annoyed resident of a town who wants her council to collect her bins.
“My bins haven’t been collected in a month. Our council is rubbish! No pun intended”.
She is complaining that her council isn’t collecting her rubbish. “Rubbish” can also mean not very good. She is saying her council is not very good because it’s not collecting her garbage.
Due to the serious nature of the conversation, it’s safe to assume she did not mean to make a pun.
Should you say “No pun intended”?
Some people would argue that you shouldn’t say the phrase “no pun intended”, because even if you don’t mean to make a joke, there is nothing wrong with bringing a lighter mood to people’s day.
There might even be a few people who would argue that by saying “no pun intended” you’re running the joke. It’ll be nice to think that people make jokes on purpose because they want to make others happy. At the end of the day, life doesn’t have to be serious all the time, and the odd pun here and there can be things better.
And if you intentionally make a pun people don’t find funny, it’s their problem, not yours!
No pun intended is usually said either when people make a pun but don’t mean to or make a pun that people don’t find funny.
Even though puns are often thought of as childish jokes, they are a great way of showing how well you understand the English language and how many words you know. Next time you crack a pun by mistake you might want to say “no pun intended” or you might decide you’re better off allowing people to laugh and acting as though the pun was on purpose.