As any reader of this blog will know, I like puns. (Have no fear, there are none in this post!) One of the reasons I enjoy a good pun is the way they shift your expectation or understanding of what a sentence means.
This shift in expectation is the core of a lot of humour, and often also a feature of good drama:
- In romances, the love interest is on face value a bad man, but then the protagonist and reader find out he’s not bad at all.
- In thrillers and sometimes in crime stories, your understanding of who is good and who is bad often has to flip to the opposite.
When done skillfully, it’s a joy to read stories that usurp your expectation without leaving you feeling cheated or led astray. I admire authors who pull it off.
And why am I thinking about this? Blame the following joke:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services.
He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?”
The operator says: “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”
There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: “OK, now what?”