Pun and Satire

This week, my example of satire comes from my favorite website of all time, The Onion:

Government To Confiscate One Person’s Guns Just To Make Rest Of Them Squirm

In this post, The Onion ridicules the NRA-esque protest that the government is out to “take away your guns” and that President Obama wants to “end the Second Amendment” (not that he used to be a professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University or anything….). By casting the gun confiscation argument in a satirical light, The Onion is able to delegitimize the discussion entirely, pointing to how absurd and impractical such an undertaking would be. “In a massive, highly coordinated raid, 50 armed agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will reportedly storm the home of a randomly selected law-abiding gun owner in the dead of night and seize every weapon on the premises. According to sources, the surprise operation has been several months in the planning stages and is being conducted entirely for the sake of watching the individual gun owner—and subsequently, the nation’s gun-rights activists as a whole—completely freak out over it.”

Though English may not be as beautiful a language as Italian or Spanish, it certainly does have its shining moments. My favorite pun I have encountered in my recent reading comes from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. In chapter 13, following a lengthy discussion of the importance of soul food in the black identity through a street vendor selling yams, the narrator famously declares, “I am what I am.” Immediately when I read that line, I laughed out loud–I was on a plane, sitting by a stranger, so it was a little awkward, but the genius play on words deserved it. Not just because I understood the original context of the famous Popeye quote, but because it interjected humor into an otherwise philosophical discussion of identity and race.

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