Paronomasia: Very punny

Paronomasia: Very punny

From Elements of Rhetoric by James de Mille; The Outlines of Rhetoric for Schools and Colleges, by Joseph Henry Gilmore; Paronomasia and Kindred Phenomena in the New Testament, by Elbert Russell; Rhetoric, by Erastus Otis Haven.

Paronomasia (Greek, ‘to alter slightly in naming’) is a figure in which words used in close connection are similar in sound, but not in sense:
“A fratricidal struggle will be waged between those members who have taken their back pay and those members who have sent their pay back. The Nation

I. Words as playthings

Through the ages people have used words as playthings, like rattles and tin pans, to make rhythmical noises or, like blocks, to build fantastic sound structures. This delight in sound combinations lingers and permeates mature language.
Fortune foretuned the dying notes of Rome,Till I thy consul sole consoled thy doom. — Dryden
Paronomasia adds to the literary effectiveness of a passage in a variety of ways:

A. Alliteration

Paronomasia may give variety and liveliness through alliteration or irregular rhyme.
“To begirt the Almighty's throne,
Beseeching or besieging.”

B. Resemblance

Paronomasia may add a gnomic effect through the striking resemblance of neighboring words.
“My Lord, I have remembrances of yours,
Which I have longed long to re-deliver.”
—Shakespeare in 
“A little more than kin, and less than kind… Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun… —Shakespeare in 

C. Paradox  

Paronomasia may give the effect of paradox through sound-similarities of different words or through different meanings of the same word.
“Shame soiled thy song, and song assoiled thy shame.” —Swinburne

D. Antithesis  

Paronomasia may be used to enhance an antithesis.
Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends.—attributed to Francis Bacon or Tom Waits

II. Pun

A. Pointed language

Pun is a kind of paronomasia that is associated with wit and pointed language. The pun consists in the use of a word in a double sense. It is regarded as a species of paronomasia, but it differs from it in this respect, that the play of thought turns more exclusively on the sense, while in the paronomasia the similarity in sound is the prominent characteristic. An example of paronomasia as pun:
“His death, which happened in his berth,
At forty odd befell;
They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton toll’d the bell.”
Thomas Hood
One of the best puns of this character in the language is seen in a letter addressed by Benjamin Franklin in July, 1775, to a member of the British Parliament who opposed the Americans. It was not intended to excite laughter, or the emotion of the ludicrous, but in a respectful, and yet severe way, to express opinions, and may be regarded as illustrating sarcasm, which is a species of wit. It was as follows:
mr. Sthahan,—You are a member of Parliament, and one of the majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun to burn oar 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
Yours, B. Franklin.
The double meaning of “yours” is immediately perceived.

B. Wit

Puns abound in all languages. Many persons obtain a great reputation for wits, founded only on the frequent use of them. For example, one day William Henry Curran was walking with a friend who was punctilious in the use of language. Hearing a person say ‘curosity’ for ‘curiosity,’ he exclaimed,
“How that man murders the language!”
“Not quite murders,
replied Curran, “he only knocks an i (eye) out.”
The two meanings of the word pronounced “i,” and the fanciful connection of knocking an eye out with murder, constituted the expression a kind of double pun, and made the reply truly witty.

Previous                                                                                                                          Next
#rhetoric  #writing  #composition   #English   #ESL   #englishasasecondlanguage   #languagearts  #education  #homeschool    #teachingenglish   #figurativelanguage   #figuresofspeech   #literarydevices   #paronomasia    #pun  #alliteration  #antithesis
Pin It button on image hover