Headbloom Blog

Playing With Words

One difficult aspect of learning a second language is adapting to the humor. The following puns constitute various plays on words. See how many of these clever wordplays are funny to you. Explanations are given at the bottom so you can check your understanding.

Two notes to help you: 1) There are hundreds of jokes that begin, “A ___ walks into a bar.” All native speakers know that this line is the introduction to a joke. 2) Jokes in English are often told in the present tense, even though the “story” has already happened.

1. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, “I’ll serve you, but don’t start anything.”
2. Two peanuts walk into a bar; one was a salted.
3. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
4. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says: “A beer please, and one for the road.”
5. A termite walks into a bar and asks, “Where is the bar tender?”
6. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. Their kids were nothing to look at either.
7. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: “Does this taste funny to you?”
8. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn’t find any.
9. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love, and got married. The ceremony wasn’t much, but the reception was excellent.
10. The importance of nonverbal communication goes without saying.
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Explanations:

1. A jumper cable (sometimes called a booster cable) is used to connect the dead battery of one car to the running battery of another in order to jump-start the first car. The expression “don’t start anything” is a warning not to cause trouble.
2. Bars are sometimes places of violence. To “be assaulted” means to be attacked. Peanuts come in many varieties, including plain and salted.
3. Dyslexia is a disability making it difficult to read the letters of words in the correct order. The word “bra” (brassiere) is a transpositioning of the letters for “bar.”
4. Asphalt is a common material for building roads. To order a drink “for the road” means one last drink before leaving (or “hitting the road” ).
5. A termite is an insect that eats wood, the material of which most bars are constructed. The tender spot of the bar is the softest or—for a termite—the most delicious.
6. The expression “nothing to look at” means not very attractive.
7. A cannibal is a person who eats human flesh. If something tastes strange (or possibly spoiled), a person might say it “tastes funny.”
8. Hunters wear camouflage clothing so they blend in with the environment and the animals cannot see them.
9. The purpose of an antenna is to improve reception of broadcast signals. The celebration after a wedding ceremony is called the reception. (Guests are received by the hosts.)
10. Something which “goes without saying” is obvious and doesn’t need to be spoken.

If you understood a few of these puns, you should pat yourself on the back. If you understood most of them, congratulations! You are making good progress in understanding the layers of English that will make you a fuller participant in your work and social circles. If this list of puns was hard for you, do not despair. Just keep working at learning new expressions every day. It WILL get easier as time goes on. And when you do understand a joke in your second language, it will be even funnier to you. Happy punning!



Alan Headbloom