Wordplay is an opportunity for fun and engagement, an opening to appreciate some important things about language.
As we all well know, spoken language is not only a way of conveying information, but also a way of connecting with others and expressing ourselves. And one of the ways that spoken language can be more creative and connecting is through wordplay, puns, and jokes, forms of verbal humor that use the sounds, meanings, or structures of words to create amusing effects.
Playful manipulation of language can include the puns and spoonerisms that are the focus of this podcast, and plus anagrams, palindromes, rhymes, alliterations, and acronyms.
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The phrase “no lemon, no melon” is a palindrome, which means it is the same backwards and forwards. Wordplay can also involve using the pronunciation of words to create new and humorous uses that connect sound and spelling, such as “I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I think I need some vitamin sea” or “What do you call a fish that wears glasses? A see fish”.
Puns are such a rich environment for humor for everyday life and joyful connections between speakers of a language, which is why I wanted Josh to be my guest and share his talents with you. With puns, we use words that sound alike but have different meanings, or words that have multiple meanings, to create a humorous or witty effect. For example, “What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear” or “What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire? Frostbite”. (I’m stressing spoken language in this audio podcast, of course, but puns can also be visual, such as using images or symbols that resemble words or phrases, such as “🐝 + 🍃 = 🐝🍃 (believe)” or “👁 + 👁 = 👀 (eyes)”.)
And just to round things out, we can consider jokes: short stories or statements that are intended to make us laugh, usually by surprising us with an unexpected twist or punchline at the end. Wordplay, puns, irony, sarcasm, exaggeration, and other forms of humor can all be part of the grand effect of the joke. “How do you make an octopus laugh? With ten-tickles”. “Why couldn’t the Roman empress have a moment’s privacy? Because Julius Caesar.”
Wordplay, puns, and jokes show that spoken language is not only a system of rules and conventions, but also a playground of possibilities and expressions. They challenge us to think outside the box and appreciate the richness and diversity of spoken language. They also make us laugh and smile, which is good for our social and emotional well-being.
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Josh Daly’s bio and links
Professionally, Josh Daly works in community economic development. Unprofessionally, Josh has always been a smart-alec! (And a nerd, and a musician.) So, it should be no surprise that he created a pun competition, Pun’d-It!, hosted by his barbershop quartet, The Dad Jokes. Whether in person at local theaters and venues or virtually, Pun’d-It is a fun, engaging event that’s less about speed with puns and more about playful connection among competitors and audience members alike. Like many punsters, Josh is a lover of the diversity and creative potential of language.
Take a look at the Pun’d-It information and language play galore at Josh’s sites!
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As a certified Gallup Strengths coach, I can provide you or your organization personalized coaching to discover and build on your strengths.
I provide workshops, presentations, and talks that inspire and engage through powerful language insights, and I pair those insights with practical applications for the lives of educators, learners, businesses, and faith-centered organizations. I’d love to share ideas with your organization or group, and develop an event tailored to your objectives.
0:00:02.5 Norah Jones: To really enjoy wordplay is a great delight. I hope that those of you that are listening to this podcast have an opportunity to play with language, not just use it. Puns, jokes and wordplay in general can create such a sense of connection and joy between people. And that’s certainly been true of my guest for this podcast, who happens to be my son-in-law, Josh Daly. He actually established a pun event that is designed to be a way of a community celebration and experience of wordplay, and also a bit of competition that brings joy. I hope that you’ll enjoy this podcast with Josh Daly and think about the wordplay, jokes, puns, and enjoyment of language in your life. Well, I’m having fun with this recording today for several reasons. First of all, because I love language and puns are part of fun language. And next, I love jokes and games and my guest today is just incredible at all those different things. And then on top of it, I get the pleasure of being able to have that happen whenever I want, because this is my son-in-law, Josh Daly. Josh, welcome to the podcast.
0:01:23.9 Josh Daly: Hello. Thanks for having me.
0:01:27.9 Norah Jones: Oh, absolutely. Josh, one of the things that you are amazing at, and you are amazing at many different things, is the idea of puns. You have a great language background and you enjoy puns from a family point of view. Start with some of the aspects of that, because we do want to go to inviting people to understand the pun competition that you host, but let’s start with why it is that puns attract you.
0:01:58.5 Josh Daly: It’s funny, talking about being funny is not always funny. But I think puns are just, as early as I learned them, and you learn them early as the first jokes that you learn are almost always puns. But when I realized that you could do that, I’ve always been a bit of a smart alec and I like playing games and I’ve always enjoyed language and reading and talking and so it kind of grew with me. I kind of got into it from very young age. My family, our families are lovers of language and books and the written word and spoken word and performance and all those things. So it was just a natural thing that I gravitated towards very early.
0:02:48.1 Josh Daly: But then I think I got, if you can say, I got serious about it. So I started singing in a barbershop quartet in high school. And I mean, the barbershop style is great music and a lot of fun to sing. But it’s also like very much married to puns and wordplay and that type of humor. So then I started performing in ways that involved puns, and that’s just always fun. Yeah, I think that was the initial draw. I mean, even our first connections had puns all over them.
0:03:27.2 Norah Jones: Oh, absolutely. My father, the immigrant English learner, decided that language play was among the most fun things on the planet. So it’s been a joy from the very beginning to have had the opportunity to expand exponentially the pun, joke and wordplay of our family. So I always have thanked you for that. And I even have, although this is an audio podcast, I have a pun sweatshirt on this evening with musical notes that are in various time signatures that are unusual and it lists down below: These are difficult times. So in honor of our conversation, I have worn a t-shirt that I thought Josh would enjoy as well. And Josh, I’m going to come back to barbershop quartet and some of the things you mentioned about that. But let’s go ahead and dive into you have made a special event for your community in Rhode Island around puns. Would you describe what it is and who participates and what happens and why you have it?
0:04:42.5 Josh Daly: I dreamed up a pun competition event. I can’t remember where the germ of the idea came from, but again, just enjoying games and wordplay and music. And so it felt like we should have fun and try out a pun competition and a pun game. And so I think I pitched that to local community theater here as an idea here in Rhode Island called The Contemporary Theater. And they said that sounds like a lot of fun. And we are interested in that. So then we’re off to the races and I basically, I’ve always loved games and I love play and I love like, just and language play obviously is among the most fun among that. So I pitched that idea and I had come up with these different games that were basically just prompts for people to pun off of. Right?
0:05:45.9 Josh Daly: That’s one of the amazing things about puns. It’s just so easy and natural. As soon as we learn language, we have the ability to learn that we can make funny sounds, that words and sounds combine in interesting ways that words sound alike and different things sound alike, but mean different things. And that just opens up the door for all of this kind of joking, and so you don’t need anything other than people talking and it’s just a natural fun thing. So I created some games and wrote some songs for the Barbershop Quartet and we held our first Pun’d-It event at the Contemporary Theater here in town. And it was a ton of fun. So yeah.
0:06:38.9 Norah Jones: How many years have you had the Pun’d-It now?
0:06:42.4 Josh Daly: It’s been several years now. We’ve done a few of them. I wouldn’t say exactly an annual thing, but we run it for a few years now.
0:06:51.5 Norah Jones: Now you have fun with it, but you also have a bit of a competition with this. Is that true?
0:07:00.3 Josh Daly: Yeah, there are very serious pun competitions, if you could say such a thing out there. There’s one the O. Henry Pun competition is like the granddaddy of it all. And a lot of those are around like speed of like, you go one-on-one against someone and you have to like, in a certain quick fire way, just pun on a topic and it’s who can outlast the other person. So I wanted to create something that wasn’t quite as high stakes as that, and was a little more just playful and allowed people to enter in the way that they wanted to and didn’t feel like, it felt like people could get up and be at a community theater and feel like everybody was having fun.
0:07:49.4 Josh Daly: So I created it in such a way that it wasn’t like a one-on-one who can pun faster type of a game? One of the games, for instance, is called Used To Date. And so it’s based off of a series like a running joke that my aunt and uncle and their family have, which is I used to date and then you say a punny name, and then you riff off the punny name, right? So that’s the prompts of the game. I used to date clarinet, we had a honking good time. She was… All these things, right? And so like, and so you just start with the prompts. You get people up onto the stage in community theater and start with the prompts and people just jump in and it’s just a lot of fun.
0:08:41.7 Josh Daly: And we’ve even created the environment where people in the audience will joke around as they’re the peanut gallery, and after people on stage are done punning around, people in the audience are yelling out puns too. So everybody is getting involved and it’s even, it’s just better because of that, right? There’s this feeling of like, everybody can riff off of it. And then we… It’s a competition still. So what we do is audience judging, and we use something we call the sighs-mographs, sighs of course being S-I-G-H-S. So the sighs-mograph is how we measure…
0:09:25.9 Norah Jones: Oh.
0:09:27.8 Josh Daly: Exactly, yes. The Groan-O-Meter it could be called. But yes. And that’s how we judge how who wins around and then tally up the points and all of that kind of stuff.
0:09:38.5 Norah Jones: I’m going to definitely have to send the transcript to you when the folks attempt to transcribe this podcast, because that goes on my website and I suspect that this will be quite an adventure for them attempting to work with some of these. What are some of the other prompts and options that you have that you’ve enjoyed over these times?
0:10:02.2 Josh Daly: Yeah, so I mentioned the Used To Date, which is a fun one. And then we do another one, I think it’s called, You’re Fired. And it’s basically the prompts are and we’d riff off of one of the guys in the quartet keeps losing his job and he lost his job as this, he lost his job as a lumberjack, and then you have to pun off of why he lost his job as a lumberjack. He couldn’t cut it, he got the ax, he was dead wood to them, all the things that you would think of for those things, right? And then it’s just that, it’s here’s a lumberjack working at the orange juice factory all the things that…
0:10:39.8 Norah Jones: He couldn’t concentrate is the idea.
0:10:43.5 Josh Daly: Exactly.
0:10:43.6 Norah Jones: Okay. Yes.
0:10:44.8 Josh Daly: They caught him beating the pulp out of some guy, so he just peeled right out of there. So yeah, that’s another one.
0:10:51.4 Norah Jones: Once you get started, you can’t stop. There you go.
0:10:53.4 Josh Daly: That’s the great thing. That’s the great thing. And then everybody gets in on it, right? And then it’s suddenly, it’s people are groaning and laughing and just having a great time with it. So that’s one of the other games. And then we do another one that’s just, it’s a little more challenging, but we just call it Sunday Pun day, because it’s one that we play on our social media accounts and just post prompts on Sundays, Sunday Pun day. And it’s just take two unrelated words, put them together and see who can come up with a pun that connects the two words. It’s one of the more difficult ones to, to play because it takes a little more time to think through the puns that connect two words. I usually actually, the way that I often do it, I’m going to be a magician who reveals his secrets but basically when I find a pun, I like, I just dissect it and figure out, oh, what is it punning on? And then I use the two things that it’s usually punning on, and that’s what I give is the prompt for the next Sunday Pun day.
0:12:00.3 Norah Jones: Well, and one of the items that’s on my website that I’m going to invite people to go to and take a look at is your, The Dad Jokes site where you have various places where you put dad jokes and also looking at the Pun’d-It competition itself. What kinds of things you have this Sunday Pun day, what other types of things do you provide then when you are inviting people to take a look at this this spot?
0:12:32.8 Josh Daly: So we’re most active on Facebook. We have a lot of followers there, and we have a group on Facebook as well. And the cool thing is to see that folks have followed us from all over the world because people have enjoyed terrible puns from all over the world. And so we just post memes regularly, just funny pictures with puns all over them and/or bad dad jokes on them and then share them around. And we’ve invited people to join the Pun’d-It community on Facebook as well which I’m realizing we need to link in our main link, our link tree. So yeah, we post regularly on puns and have people riff off of them. And it usually in the comments, you got a ton of people who are punning off of it.
0:13:30.8 Josh Daly: As I said, the one of the cool things is it’s gotten some traction and we have folks from all around the world. And so, there’s mostly in English speaking because I’m posting stuff in English, but I see folks commenting and asking questions in languages from around the world. And one of the things that you realize in that too, is that puns are one of the best ways to learn some of the nuances and complexity of the English language, right? I mean, it’s true of other languages too, but in particular I think English, because it has so many tricky homophones and other things like that if you can get a pun, if you can get a joke in another language, you really get the language, right?
0:14:17.4 Norah Jones: Absolutely. I know world language educators have always said that, that one of the hardest things to do or even to remember to do with students is to bring some humor in and the moment they begin to get it, because it’s also cultural. As a matter of fact, Josh, let’s go back to that just a little bit. When you say it’s a very helpful thing, you’ve had a very positive spin on that. I can imagine that some of my listeners are thinking puns would be really hard, maybe even discouraging. What do you experience when you interact with the folks that are looking at this and learning things from it? What are some of the stories you can tell or things you can share about it?
0:15:04.4 Josh Daly: I wish I could think of just one in particular where it’s happened, but it’s happened a number of times where we’ll post something and then somebody in the comments is asking for an explanation. And so I’m always quick to be happy to explain what’s going on in the joke, both because that obviously makes the joke much funnier but also because it is this great opportunity for learning. And they’re always appreciative of that too. So I can’t think of a particular moment, but I can think of multiple occasions where folks have, or I see folks sharing it and making comments in other languages as well. So I know people are taking that in.
0:15:49.0 Josh Daly: Now, I have to say, I’ve never been formally a teacher as such as a profession, but I did teach adult literacy and GED preparation when I was a college student in New Orleans. And one of my favorite memories of that was I was working with a guy, an older gentleman who was working towards his GED and we were doing a lesson and a section on homonyms and which he was finding really challenging. And so I brought in a kid’s joke book because as we said, like so many kids’ jokes and puns and dad jokes are based off of that kind of wordplay. And so it was trying to get these things sound the same, but they mean something different, right?
0:16:49.3 Josh Daly: And so that’s like a hard concept to wrap your mind around until we kept doing these jokes, right? And I’m over there cracking up and it’s not hitting for him until it finally does, and then it hit for him and it was like he belly laughed, you know? And it’s like you know that experience when you’re a teacher of like, when your student gets it, when they haven’t been getting it, like the satisfaction of that and to have the satisfaction of that be a literal punchline with like a belly laugh was just so satisfying.
0:17:18.0 Norah Jones: That’s phenomenal. And what an encouragement, because again, going back to, are we confusing people? And you brought in something that then brought that awareness, brought that illumination through kids jokes in this way, which is I think, really not very intimidating then, is it? They’re very simple, but that profound understanding that took over there, that’s awesome. Have you ever come across somebody that you have worked with directly or maybe stories about someone since you’re connected with so many people with regard to these jokes and puns that never did get a pun or doesn’t really understand them?
0:18:07.7 Josh Daly: You get folks who don’t get them for sure. And some people don’t get it and then you let them in. Again, I like to do it playfully and gently, and so I keep the puns going until there’s like a, Oh, that was that. So usually it takes a little time, but that’s… Another thing I love about puns, this isn’t always the case. You could use them in malicious or snide ways, but generally a dad joke and a pun is at no one’s expense. It’s not a sarcastic type of humor. And so because of that too, it has a playfulness and welcoming to folks. So I love that about it. And yeah, it’s any moment, it is… My teachers throughout the years would certainly say I was a bit of a smart aleck and probably pretty disruptive, but tried to be good natured about it. But that’s what puns are. They’re good natured disruptions. They’re sort of let’s play with this. Let’s play with what we’re talking about and have some fun.
0:19:22.3 Norah Jones: Speaking of disruptions, you told a story once in a family gathering about the fact that your family would, as it were, disrupt people’s names and take your names down some interesting pathways depending on how the words suggested themselves. Can you illustrate that here verbally for us so that people can understand what it is that your family did? And we’ll see if some listeners have the same kind of experience in their family or not.
0:19:54.0 Josh Daly: Yeah, it’s right along the same lines that it’s just sort of playing with words and playing with sounds and then, you know you have tons of examples. I know of names that stick because they are playing with sounds, Pada and whoever. But in our family, I can’t even count the number of nicknames that I have, I’m like baby of the family, and so you get even more nicknames because of that. But my sister Liz was always playful in that way… Has always been playful in that way with me, but she was that way with her friends too, and so her friends, I think gave her the name, so she went from Liz to Lizard to Zard, Lizard and then Zard and then Zardine and then Zardinski. Like just playful things that keep going. It kept going all the way till it got to Dinski and Ski, so it’s just sort of… And I have, I don’t know how many different names, nicknames that are similar type of playfulness, it’s just let’s play around with the sounds and the letters. And it’s just…
0:21:07.3 Norah Jones: And enjoy that. And you still had a very positive approach with it, it wasn’t that there were… You did not, given a single example there with regard to your sister, with one that would have been considered to be insulting. It was always a wordplay that was designed to be fun. Now you have family members, you have children, and working with the children as they’ve been growing up, what do you think has been the most fun about this wordplay joy that you have, watching them enter into it. Where have the successes come from and perhaps some of the biggest groans.
0:21:49.5 Josh Daly: Well, they are called dad jokes for a reason. Although, I should say that the moms I know and certainly mom in our family is as big a pun-stress as dad is. I love it because the girls… Our girls get into it, right? They groan. They definitely groan, but they also enjoy it and they get into it, and one of the coolest things has been seeing that as they get a little bit older, they’re reading and they’re taking in the language and they’re learning, and they’ve gotten to the ages now where they pun. And they’ll tell me puns and they’ll make up puns. And I love that. That’s like the coolest thing ever. Like when they make a pun I am like floored and I laugh so hard, and I love it. So they definitely groan when I pun. I’ve read…
0:22:44.5 Norah Jones: But they’re giving it right back to you now.
0:22:47.0 Josh Daly: They’re giving it right back to me. Yeah, exactly. My eldest said she even said this for like a school project or something, she wrote about how she likes dad jokes, but not when her dad makes them or something like that.
0:23:01.4 Norah Jones: Well, that would be a young teen.
0:23:04.5 Josh Daly: Yes, that’s on brand.
0:23:09.2 Norah Jones: Josh, going back for just a sec now to the opening aspect that you made about the barbershop quartet. I don’t know if those that are not deeply engaged in barbershop quartet realize the linguistic aspect of that particular art. Can you tell us more about it? What brought that into such a close connection there?
0:23:31.9 Josh Daly: That’s a good… I haven’t done deep historical study of this, so this will be a little bit of my sense of how these things are connected. Barbershop music is a fun style music, it’s acapella, no instruments, all voices, four part harmony, it’s sort of heyday and the music that you’re singing is from turn of the 20th century kind of stuff, so it’s these old, Let me call you sweetheart and Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby, and all that kind of stuff. So it’s great fun music, and a lot of it… Some of it is croony and sweet ballads and stuff like that, but an awful lot of it is silly and playful, and so the music itself already lends itself to a little bit of… It came out of, as I understand it, the history of it came out of vaudeville, and so it always has this sort of element of the playful stage comedic elements to it. And I think we got into it when I was in high school, our quartet, it was just a natural thing to add to our shows of like, well, we’re a barbershop quartet, so of course, we’re going to fill in the time between the songs with horrible puns [laughter] and it just adds to the enjoyment of it and now I’ve even…
0:25:01.4 Josh Daly: I think it’s actually, it’s hard to write lyrics, musical lyrics with wordplay and jokes, right? Cole Porter, amazing jazz writer, composer, lyricist, was a master at it. But it’s fun, and I’ve written some stuff that’s punny as well. I wrote the theme song for our Pun’d-It competition and both theme music and then a theme song. It’s based on that, that has a bunch of puns in it.
0:25:41.5 Norah Jones: Give yourself a pitch and sing it for us, please.
0:25:44.7 Josh Daly: [Singing] Some say puns are lowbrow, and verily they groan along. But bet you’ll raise an eyebrow as we sing our little song. So then it’s the tale of Lester the Jester. [Singing] Lester the Jester was on a mission, brought ten puns to a pun competition. Hoped he’d hook a laugh by the time that it ended, but oh, what a gaff, no pun intended.
0:26:24.4 Norah Jones: There you go.
0:26:24.5 Josh Daly: [Singing] Oh, how we love wordplay. So play on words, play on.
0:26:31.0 Norah Jones: All right, thanks for doing that. That was great. Exactly, and not everybody knows how to pun really well. And they can certainly be exposed to it, maybe through the things that they’ll pick up from this podcast and from my website from it. What ways would you say that folks can get engaged in learning more about and enjoying punning and wordplay?
0:27:02.6 Josh Daly: Well, I think it can be confounding to folks, I know that it takes a certain type of thinking. One of the things I love about it too, is that it’s playful in this way, and if you think about it like in a technical sense, it’s very much about divergent thinking, that’s why it’s so creative, it’s like thinking of things that are unrelated to one another and going off in disparate directions. So that can be really hard for some folks, that’s not like a natural… For other folks, it’s a very natural thing, they’re doing it all the time. And those are the folks who are cutting up during all of your meetings and conversations and whatever.
0:27:42.9 Josh Daly: What I think if I were to give sort of like a, “Hey, so you want to be a punster too,” if I were writing my How To. I think looking at those kids joke books, stuff like that, just sort of what you probably start to notice is that you’re playing with sounds, so one of the easy ways to start doing punning is just rhyming. So rhyming just like opens itself up to replace a word with a word that rhymes with it, and now you’ve just done an initial, a basic pun. Or, there’s different… If you want to get technical about it. There’s different types of puns, like a spoonerism where you swap out the first letters of two words. That’s a lot harder.
0:28:34.7 Norah Jones: Beeping Sleauty kind of thing instead of Sleeping Beauty.
0:28:41.0 Josh Daly: Exactly. That kind of thing. Right, exactly. Although one of… So, a little juvenile, but in the pun song that I wrote, one of the verses is about spoonerisms.
0:28:54.2 Norah Jones: I’m sorry. You’ve got to share it with us. That’s why we’re here today. Go for it.
0:28:56.7 Josh Daly: As I said, a little juvenile. So it’s Lester the Jester and the next verse is, [Singing] Lester, he weren’t a real smart feller and he weren’t a real good speller. And he’s met a girl in the last verse, so [Singing] she was as good a tutor as a spoonerism teller. Look out Lester, or you’ll be a fart smeller. So it starts out with a smart feller and then fart smeller and she was a good tutor, so it’s just puns on multiple…
0:29:30.3 Norah Jones: Yes, this is why it’s so much fun being around the dinner table. Absolutely.
0:29:32.7 Josh Daly: With some apologies for the juvenile humor, but it’s only a bit fun.
0:29:39.4 Norah Jones: We enjoyed that thoroughly. I assure you. Yeah, so in other words, playing around with just goofing around with words, goofing around with the change of sounds, with things that are rhyming and so forth, it’s a good way to get started with it. And how about people that… Let’s go back to the people that are learning English again. How soon, do you think, I guess it depends on the person that’s learning, whether or not they are comfortable with starting something fairly early, because I guess it could confuse folks. Can you comment on that just a little bit?
0:30:12.9 Josh Daly: Well, you are certainly much more well-versed in education and thinking thoughtfully about the classroom. I am a mere punster of an amateur variety, but I would say, I’m a big fan of introducing at all times whenever there’s an opportunity, I think there’s a place you can meet folks with humor, wherever they are. And like I said that the joke books that I was working on with the gentleman that I talked about the Adult literacy GED, books were kids books, vocabulary was not all that advanced and really it was about can you get the joke?
0:31:01.9 Josh Daly: And to get the joke, you have to get what a pun is, you have to get what it is to play around with those words and sounds in that way. So I think there’s this opportunity to use jokes. I always love, if you can use play and humor in any learning environment, I think it’s naturally conducive to being engaging and connecting and social, like it’s a natural… I could go on about how much I love puns for so many different reasons, but this is the other thing, they’re playful, they’re naturally social. Language is naturally social. It’s meant to connect us, and so games and play are like the ways that we want to learn the most. It’s the most natural way that we learn. Kids do it without you ever telling them to do it, they naturally play with whatever is in front of them, so they play first with, as they’re babies with sounds through the little emotions and whatever else. And then once they start learning words is, bi bi di, bi bi di bi… It’s playing with sounds and whatever else. So we’re just naturally playful, and I think if you can tap into that at any stage in the learning journey you’re… You just have opened up something that’s really generative and yeah, and just a lot of fun.
0:32:30.1 Norah Jones: It reminds me of two things. One is that our youngest grandchild currently is one that is very, very verbal and would, I funnily started as I would drive him from place to place counting exactly how many times he would say the same thing, usually it was 75, 100, 120 times, which I thought was extraordinary even for a kid practicing language, and as he got a little older, his sentences became funnier and had more goofy sounds, which clearly he was enjoying himself thoroughly with. He’d start switching the sounds around, and that play is such an important part of the manipulation of the sounds of the language from words. Another thing that reminds me of Josh is that you’ve just brought up such an important point, sometimes we get, I think, a very practical, transactional almost experience of language, we’re learning language so that we can, well, so we can make friends, but also so we can get a better job, or so we can pass this class and bringing out that language is fun, language is designed for play, probably need more of that in even our formal settings, what do you think?
0:33:46.8 Josh Daly: Well, we definitely do, I don’t do this… I do it for the fun of it, but I also do it because I’m serious about play, and I think we should bring play and creativity into more places. I brought games and play and creativity into my day job sort of stuff too. I work in economic development and entrepreneurship kind of stuff, and it’s all sorts of creativity and play opportunities there as well. Yeah, I absolutely think it’s not as though the serious business world or the serious world of academia should be all buttoned up and play is this thing that we do over here, it’s the naughty little kid in the corner. It’s like, no, actually play. And if you think about… I mean, if you’re serious about literature or whatever plays or whatever, wordplay is everywhere, it’s everywhere. If it’s good enough for Shakespeare and James Joyce and everyone else, then it’s good enough for me.
0:34:45.7 Norah Jones: Yeah, absolutely right. I think we should bring that one on. You have taken languages other than English in your time, is that correct?
0:34:55.3 Josh Daly: I have. I have to admit that I have not mastered them, but I have taken other languages, yes.
0:35:00.4 Norah Jones: When you were taking them, was there ever an opportunity… Did you ever come across someone that was enjoying wordplay or that encouraged wordplay in that new language in any way?
0:35:14.4 Josh Daly: Not in the formal studies, as I can recall it. Although I wish there were more opportunities for that. But finding things, we lived in Canada and I was learning French a bit and we found some silly videos that were playing with sounds in French-Canadian dialect you know and the… [laughter] And all of these things. So yeah, not that I… I probably would have gravitated more towards it if it was more playful, but yeah.
0:35:49.0 Norah Jones: Good point, perhaps that’s something that could attract students in world language classes to this day if there were more wordplay and humor in it and absolutely right, absolutely right. And that’s another thing about encouraging people. So I’m encouraging people to take a look at my website to be able to find your @TheDadJokes site in these very considerations. And to get familiar with the Pun’d-It competition and others like it. What are some other suggestions that you might send folks to learn more about this or to enjoy themselves or to come across something that will delight them, that they don’t necessarily have to learn something important from but they can just plain old enjoy including barbershop quartets that might be especially good in the linguistic direction or just because they’re really good?
0:36:47.3 Josh Daly: Well definitely, so anyone… We do tend towards Facebook on our dad jokes, barbershop quartet content. So folks, if they’re on that site can get engaged with our page, from follower page and join our Pun’d-It group there. We’ve done some virtual pun competitions, Pun’d-It versions, where people can watch. We’ve done live streams where people can watch and comment in. So wherever you are, you could potentially join in the next time we do a Pun’d-It competition. I think you could go down the rabbit hole of barbershop quartets. I think there’s a very funny barbershop quartet, contemporary one called The NewFangled Four who I like a lot. But yeah, I think those are places to check out some good humor and punning going on.
0:37:50.5 Norah Jones: Great. Well and your own too and I’m delighted to be able to provide information about your barbershop quartet, so people can enjoy what you are doing specifically as well. What is it that you would be like… Before we stop, I really want to make sure that people hear this about just wordplay, puns, jokes, anything having to do with what we’ve talked about or something that was on your mind that I didn’t ask about but you would love for people to hear from you before we end the podcast today.
0:38:28.7 Josh Daly: I would just encourage folks to think about wordplay as not this frivolous sort of thing, but as this opportunity for fun and engagement in play in a way that’s not less serious because it’s playful and not less serious because it’s this opportunity to… But actually is this opening for people to appreciate some things that are important about language. I think about debates people get into about language, and I think most punsters probably are of the language enthusiast variety loving all of its diversity and whatever people bring to it. And I think that’s the beauty, again, another beauty of puns is it allows… If we can’t play with language, we can’t make it our own, and so playing with it is part of being able to make it our own, and giving… If you’re working in an educational context or you’re working in whatever context you’re working in, there’s always an opportunity for this kind of play with words.
0:39:38.4 Norah Jones: Beautifully said, and it does remind me that I didn’t mention in your presence or ask you about the connection of wordplay and say, poetry. I think perhaps one of the reasons why Amanda Gorman, for example, had such an impact on folks was the rhythm and the play of words in her spoken poetry. Am I connecting some dots there that you think of as being appropriate to do?
0:40:13.5 Josh Daly: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s a natural sort of thing. Poetry is this distillation of words and sounds and where each word and sound has to stand for so much more because it’s sort of distilled in this way, and so I think it’s natural for that playfulness with words to come out in poetry. And you think about Amanda Gorman has done it beautifully. There’s obviously in hip-hop and rap music, there’s this playfulness with sounds and rhymes and inner rhymes and all sorts of things like that, and as I said in Shakespeare, there’s all sorts of punning, in so many different great creators. I mentioned certainly lyricists like Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim does it all the time in Broadway. And that sort of wit is so satisfying as a craft, as part of the craft of language because it goes back to that same sort of natural thing, of we love, there’s something enjoyable and satisfying about wordplay itself, the way that the words themselves lend the sounds, that cadence, the rhyme, the rhythm. It has a pleasure in and of itself beyond the meaning of the word that even just the feeling of the words has a pleasure in and of itself, and I think that’s what puns are definitely about, that sort of pleasure with just the playfulness.
0:42:00.8 Josh Daly: I think about it too. I thought you were going to go in the philosophy or theology direction too, and we kind of have leaned towards that, but one of the philosophers and theologians who I really enjoyed, have enjoyed reading and learning about, and since my graduate studies was a French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur. And Paul Ricoeur was a philosopher who talks a lot about phenomenology and hermeneutics and all sorts of fancy things like that, about language, and is talking about, one of the phrases that he has that I think is so interesting is the plurality of meaning, that language in some way in its nature has this inherent plurality of meaning and this unfolding and re-folding and this sort of like because of the many different meanings that are implicit and latent and in language itself, that’s also what sort of wordplay opens up, is this plurality of meaning and therefore a diversity of expression. And that sort of freedom to do that. I think that’s also philosophical about wordplay and puns.
0:43:23.0 Norah Jones: You see, you have three degrees, Music Composition, Theology and Business Administration, and wordplay is in every single one of those. I’m so glad you brought the theological part up as well, because it is in its own way very strong. That’s an important philosopher to know and an important direction in which people can go that unfolding and re-folding of items. What do you think is your very, very favorite example of something, do you come back to something over and over again, be it a joke, or a pun, or a thought or an insight? You’ve shared so many of them, let’s just see, is there something else that you’re just like, “Oh, and I just… This is my favorite.”
0:44:11.0 Josh Daly: I just love them all. It’s the latest one that I’ve heard in left that is usually my favorite. But I do enjoy… I’ll give you a good pun that I enjoy quite a bit. “I was going for surgery recently, and so I had to have a meeting with the anesthesiologist before the surgery to prepare for it. And she told me that the gas, they could put me under with the gas, like they do, or they could try this new experimental method, which was that they just whack you upside the head with a paddle, and I said, Geez, that’s a really difficult ether / or situation.”
0:45:00.9 Norah Jones: Oh, yeah. It’s…
0:45:03.7 Josh Daly: It’s so bad.
0:45:06.1 Norah Jones: It is. I was looking for nothing less out of you, Josh Daly. Thank you. And folks, when you listen to this, I encourage you to go and find the next thing that Josh Daly finds it is the most groan-worthy of jokes right there in the either/or… Yes, thank you so much, Josh. Josh, it’s been a pleasure. I’ve had so much fun, as I always do. Thank you for sharing these skill sets of yours and this joy, and it’s been fun to encourage people to think about the role of wordplay in lives, and that adds so much, so thank you again and keep enjoying that fun, and I hope that the listeners will join in as well.
0:45:48.1 Josh Daly: Thank you, thank you.
0:45:50.1 Norah Jones: Well. I sure hope that you enjoyed this podcast, and maybe you were thinking of some of your favorite jokes and puns and groaners as you were listening to Josh give some examples, especially I hope that you will continue to remember the joy that is in language, the fun that is in language, the play that is in language. Go on my website fluency.consulting. Take a look at some of the links that Josh has provided, including to those events and opportunities that he provides in his love of and expertise of wordplay and fun. Until next time.Become a Sponsor