For many of us, it’s a punderful life (pun: a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings) and here we present a history of the world in puns.
So here goes. Once a pun a time . . . it all started with THE BIG BANG, a theory which describes how the Universe began in a rapid expansion about 13.7 billion years ago. It is thought that all of space was created in this first moment. Expert and scientist Stephen Hawking (and who can put down his book about anti-gravity?) has even appeared in a cameo for American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Here are some space puns:
• How does the Solar System hold up its trousers? With an asteroid belt
• What kinds of music do planets sing? Neptunes
• An astronaut broke the law of gravity and earned a suspended sentence
• That was a poor joke about infinity – it didn’t have an ending
Gallery compiled by Martin Chilton
DINOSAURS supposedly ruled the earth for about 135 million years and continue to fascinate (eg Jurassic World) the humans who followed (above, the ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ exhibition at the O2 in 2009) and they are a rich source of puns:
• Let’s hope the new Jurassic World isn’t a train rex of a film
• What do you call it when a dinosaur is involved in a car accident? Tyrannasaurus wreck
• What do you call a dinosaur with a extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus
• What do you call a blind dinosaur? Adoyouthinkhesaurus
• What do you get if you cross a pig with a dinosaur? Jurassic Pork
The Dinosaurs have gone and now the main attraction is the Ancient Egyptians. The above photograph – you might call it a tomb with a view – shows a burial chamber from 3500 BC with a wall drawing of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, on board a canoe to accompany a deceased person to the great beyond. This history of punning goes back to Ancient Egypt, when HIEROGLYPHS were packed with visual puns. Images of people drinking alcohol could have a risqué second meaning, as the word “sti” could mean both “to pour” and “to impregnate”. You don’t even have to invest in a pyramid scheme for these puns:
• How did brave Egyptians write? In hero-glyphics
• Why couldn’t the mummy answer the phone? She was tied up
• Why do mummies not tell secrets? They keep everything under wraps
• What was the most popular kids’ movie in Ancient Greece? Troy Story
Need an Ark? I Noah guy. NOAH’S ARK is the vessel in Genesis (chapters 6–9) in which God saves Noah (the Biblical one, not Russell Crowe), his family and some of the world’s animals (not the unicorn) from the flood. Builders may like to know the Biblical proportions of the boat: it was specifically ordered at 300 cubits long, or approximately 450 feet (above, a traditional depiction of Noah’s Ark by the 16th-century painter Aurelio Luini). See if these puns float your boat:
• What kind of lighting did Noah have on the ark? Flood lights
• Where did Noah keep his bees? In the ark hives
The prehistoric monument of STONEHENGE, in Wiltshire, is one of Britain’s top tourist attractions (above, being logged for Google street view) and speculation about the reason it was built (and historians can’t agree on the exact date) range from human sacrifice to astronomy to the construction of an early dance venue. The site is now managed by English Heritage and is unlikely to ever go on sale because the price would be monumental. Here’s a couple of rock solid Stonehenge puns:
• What would they call a drugs festival at Stonehenge? Stonedhenge
• What would they call afternoon tea at Stonehenge? Sconehenge
Picture: Getty Images
It didn’t end too well for SOCRATES, the man credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. The Greek philosopher was sentenced to death in the form of drinking a hemlock-based liquid (above, an engraving by French painter Jacques-Louis David, 1748-1825) when he was 71.
• Who was Socrates’ worst student? Mediocrities
• Who was Socrates’ busiest student? The one with a lot on his Plato
• What do you call a fliratatious philosopher: A Socratease
• What relative did Socrates need after his trial? An Aunty dote
Picture: Archive Photos
William Shakespeare makes a pun in his play about JULIUS CAESAR, with a joke about a cobbler being a mender of bad soles. The Roman emperor Caesar (above, played by John Gielgud in the 1970 film, with Jason Robards as Marcus Junius Brutus), who was later honoured with the name of a salad, suffered a terrible end. Before he was assassinated by Roman senators – led by Brutus – he is warned that something bad will happen on the Ides of March (March 15), 44 BC. Caesar ignored the warning and was stabbed to death. Kenneth Williams’s Carry On pun – “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!” – from the 1964 film Carry on Cleo was voted the funniest film one-liner. Here are some Roman puns:
• What did Romans use to cut string? A pair of Caesars
• When Brutus asked Caesar how many oranges he had eaten, he replied: “Et two, Brute”
• What did Caesar say to Cleopatra? Toga-ther we can rule the world
• Why did the Romans build straight roads? So their soldiers didn’t go around the bend
• Which famous Roman suffered from hayfever? Julius Sneezer
• Who refereed the tennis match between Caesar and Mark Anthony? A Roman Umpire
• Why did Julius Caesar buy crayons? He wanted to mark Antony
• Why was Shakespeare denied a drink at a pub? He was Bard
Picture: Alamy/Ronald Grant
I would have imagined that JESUS was born in the year nought but religious scholars seem to disagree about his date of birth and list 7-2 BC. Jesus himself was a prodigious punster. His declaration that “upon this rock I will build my church” famously played on the way Peter’s name echoed the Ancient Greek word for rock, “petra”. He had his own cross to bear, of course (above, here played by Robert Powell in the 1977 ITV series Jesus of Nazareth) and even made puns about camels. Here are a few about the man from Nazareth and religion.
• Atheism is a non-prophet organisation
• Jesus saves . . . but Keegan scores the rebound (famous football banner from the Seventies)
• Jesus said to Peter, “Come forth and I will give you eternal glory.” Peter came fifth and won a toaster
Picture: Rex Features
The most famous volcanic eruption in history was near Naples, Italy, when MOUNT VESUVIUS blew its top in 79 AD, an ecological catastrophe that led to the destruction and burying of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. A cloud of stones, ash smoke and molten rock killed an estimated 16,000 people (above a Renaissance handbook called The Book of Miracles dates the eruption to 1482 – almost precisely 1400 years out). Rock on with these puns:
• What’s a volcano’s favourite historical document? The Magma Carte
• What does a volcano do when it wants food for a party? Orders a cratering company
• What did the boy volcano say to the girl volcano? I Lava You
Where do you find HADRIAN’S WALL? No, not at the bottom of his garden; it actually stretches across the north of England. Hadrian’s Wall (above, a sunset at Cuddy’s Crags near Bardon Mill, Northumberland) was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain, begun in 122 AD during the rule of Emperor Hadrian. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and still inspires puns:
• I used to have a fear of Hadrian’s Wall but I got over it
The image of KING ARTHUR as a triumphant fifth-century warrior, leading Britons into battle against Saxon invaders, has so far proved impossible for historians to confirm, but we do know for certain he existed in the Monty Python-inspired Spamalot at the Palace Theatre, with Tim Curry as King Arthur.
• What was King Arthur’s favourite game? Knights and crosses
• What was Camelot? A place where people parked their camels
• The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi
Picture: Alastair Muir/Telegraph
The facebook of its day . . . The Bayeux Tapestry depicts poor old King Harold killed by the forces of William the Conqueror at THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS during the Norman Invasion of 1066. There used to be a ready mix firm near Battle, in East Sussex, the site of the armed struggle won by Duke William II of Normandy, called William the Concreter. In the spirit of that, here are a few Battle of Hastings puns:
• The pun is mightier than the sword
• What did Harold say when he was hit by an arrow. “I’m all aquiver”
• The Normans won because they were better at arrow dynamics
• What phrase in battle did William hate? “Fire at will”
• What happens to deposed kings? They get throne away
THE BLACK DEATH is grim stuff indeed, a rampage of death across Europe unprecedented in recorded history. By the time the epidemic played itself out, some three years later, anywhere between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of Europe’s population had died of the disease (Source: The Red Cross, with no plague-iarism involved). The most common form was the bubonic variant, which derived its name from the swellings or buboes that appeared on a victim’s neck, armpits or groin. These tumors could be as large as a cooking apple. Infected fleas attached themselves to rats and then to humans and then spread this bubonic strain of the plague. There was also pneumonic plague and the septicemic version, which attacked the blood system (above, people praying for relief from the bubonic plague, circa 1350, in an original Artwork designed by E Corbould, lithograph by F Howard). In February 2015, it was claimed that black rats may not have been to blame for numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague across Europe. Professor Nils Christian Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the plague was in fact down to gerbils from Asia. “If we’re right, we’ll have to rewrite that part of history,” he said. The gerbils passed fleas on to camels who then passed them on to humans, apparently.
• What version of the Black Death would hit an alcoholic? The bourbonic plague
• What did the plague victim say when his skin turned black? I feel like I’ve dyed a little inside
• What games do gerbils like playing? Hide and squeak
Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
German blacksmith Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum GUTENBERG made his mark on history. He introduced printing to Europe, allowing the spread of learning to the masses with his movable type printing (above, an undated engraving of Johannes Gutenberg in his workshop, showing his first proof sheet). We owe him the start of the technology that helped bring later generations such literary works as Hemingway’s The Pun Also Rises. Then again, we also owe him the jammed printer tray.
• The fine print is usually a clause for suspicion
• Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare? Hamlet’s killers, because they did murder most foul
• Harper Lee wrote an alcoholic version of her bestseller called Tequila Mockingbird
“America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up,” quipped Oscar Wilde. The Italian explorer CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS was the right man to oversea an expedition of three ships from Spain – the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria – in search of the riches of gold, pearls and spices in the Indias. Instead, he found the land of the Super Bowl and the corn dog. Columbus boasted that he was the first man who ever got nineteen hundred miles to a galleon (above, playing the great explorer in Ridley Scott’s 1992 epic 1492: Conquest of Paradise is the Frenchman Gerard Depardieu).
• Where did Columbus first land in America? On his feet
• What vegetable did Christopher Columbus not want on his ship? A leek
David is a masterpiece of RENAISSANCE sculpture, which was created between 1501 and 1504, by Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet Michelangelo. The artist can still draw a crowd and here in January 2015 are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, during a press conference in front of David.
• Michelangelo’s David is superior to postmodern sculpture – it’s an artifact
• David was carved out of a large rock. It was the hardest thing Michelangelo ever made
When the Duke of Medina Sidonia decided not to use the SPANISH ARMADA to attack the English fleet at Plymouth, he really missed the boat. The English fleet later attacked the 130 Spanish ships and won a historic sea battle. Indeed, Francis Drake sent Queen Elizabeth I notice of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by enclosing one Latin word as a pun: cantharides. It was the name of an aphrodisiac better known as “Spanish fly”. Luckily, Elizabeth understood what the pun meant and didn’t just dismiss it as rudder nonsense:
• Navel puns, really? Isn’t that a bit shallow?
• Sea captains don’t like crew cuts
• Sinking the Armada caused Spanish sailors a whole raft of problems
The joke goes that Guy Fawkes was one of the few honest men ever to enter Parliament. In November 1605, the infamous GUNPOWDER PLOT (seen above in a 19th-century wood engraving) took place. A group of Catholics,including Guy Fawkes, plotted to blow up James I, the first of the Stuart kings of England. The Gunpowder Plot failed so maybe Guy just didn’t have a flare for it. Guys are still burned in a celebration known as Bonfire Night each November.
• What happened to the boy falsely accused of stealing fireworks? He was let off
• What do you get when you cross a dinosaur with fireworks? A Dinomite
• What do you call a duck who likes watching fireworks? A firequacker
Picture: Rex Features/Universal History Archive
Apart from Guy Fawkes, of course, we all know not to play with matches. One of the worst fires in history was in London (above, an illustration from 1815 called ‘Fleeing THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON‘) which is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of London’s 80,000 inhabitants at the time.
• My friend’s bakery burned down in the Great Fire. Now his business is toast
• What’s fruity and burns? The Grape Fire of London
Picture: Getty Images/Hulton Archive
THE ACTS OF UNION, passed by the English and Scottish Parliaments in 1707, led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 May of that year. The UK Parliament met for the first time in October 1707. In a referendum in 2014, the Scottish people voted not to leave the Union.
• She was only a Scottish whisky maker, but he loved her still.
• A kebab shop in Glasgow is called MacDoners
What happened at the BOSTON TEA PARTY? I don’t know, I wasn’t invited. The history books tell us that colonists dressed as Mohawk warriors dumped tea into the harbour (seen above in a lithograph by Nathaniel Currier from 1846 and with a photograph of one of the chests that washed up a year after the famous riot). It is estimated that around 130 men dumped 342 chests of tea from the East India Company into the water. The Americans who remained stirred up enough to start the War of Independence three years later.
• What did they wear at the Boston Tea Party? T-shirts
• What were the rioters doing? Getting their anger at the British Empire off their chests
“Citizens, do you want a revolution without a revolution?” said French revolutionary, Robespierre (Maximilien Marie Isidore de Robespierre, 1758-1794), the man commonly agreed to have been behind the Reign of Terror that followed THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. It ended abrubtly for him (above, an illustration of Robespierre being put to the guillotine in July 1794, in the Place de la Révolution). His death took the form of the cutting edge technology of the day.
• What happens when a guillotine operator is fired? He collects severance pay
Picture: Getty Images
THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO (around 10 miles south of Brussels) was between Napoleon Bonaparte’s French forces and the Allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington, supported by General Blücher from Prussia. The French defeat at Waterloo drew to a close 23 years of war, beginning with the French Revolutionary wars in 1792 and continuing with the Napoleonic Wars from 1803 (Above, a piece of body armour worn by French cavalry soldier Antoine Fauveau, who was killed at Waterloo when a British cannonball smashed through his chest, plus one of the 60,000 medals given to some of the soldiers who fought for Britain). We’ve all heard the joke about “Where did Napoleon keep his armies? Up his sleevies”, but here are some other puns
• Can Napoleon return to his place of birth? Of Corsican
• What do you get if you throw a grenade into Napoleon’s kitchen? Linoleum Blownapart
Now let me get my train of thought. Well, this was the most advanced locomotive of its day, which set in train a series of events that would ultmately lead to announcements about delays because of leaves on the line, STEPHENSON’S ROCKET was an early steam locomotive of 0-2-2 wheel arrangement, designed by Robert Stephenson. It was built for and won the Rainhill Trials held by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1829 to choose the best design to power the railway (above, Norman St John Stevas visits an exact replica in 1984). Here’s a few puns before we run out of steam:
• He stole a train but told the judge he had a good loco-motive
• The railway had a safety problem, but tried to cover its tracks
• What do you call a train that sneezes? Achoo-choo train
• What do you call a train that eats toffee? A chew, chew train
• I used to be a train driver but I got sidetracked
Picture: Anthony Marshall/Telegraph
Most of us know the lines “There’s gold in them thar hills” but it wasn’t uttered by Charlie Chaplin’s famous Lone Prospector (above) in his 1925 silent movie classic THE GOLD RUSH. The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma. In the next four years 300,000 people flocked to California in search of gold (above right, coins made from gold found during that period).
• What did the greedy golddigger say? That’s all mine, mine, mine
• Why was silver more popular than gold? Everyone dug the silver, but panned the gold
• Why couldn’t the miner ever find gold? He looked and looked, but searched in vein
• What do you call the diggers with no clothes on? Strip miners
Picture: Rex Features/Reuters
The book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life is usually just shortened to THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. Charles Darwin’s great theory, published on November 24, 1859, is regarded as the foundation of evolutionary biology (above, Darwin was mocked by the London Sketch Book).
• Why was Darwin a bad man? Because he was an Evilutionist
• With the spread of science can we finally say that Dar-wins over the evolutionists?
Picture: Rex Features/AP
A 19th-century illustration ‘ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT A LINCOLN‘, showing, from left to right, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry Rathbone, President Abraham Lincoln, and his murderer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was killed on April 14, 1865 (a Good Friday, although not for him obviously) and died a day later, becoming the first American president to be assassinated. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War and in doing so, he preserved the Union and abolished slavery. Lincoln, incidentally, was a fan of wordplay, joking once: “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
• What would you get if you crossed a gorilla with the sixteenth US president? Ape Lincoln
• Abe Lincoln’s famous speech to commemorate the opening of the first McDonald’s in 1863 was known as the Get-cheeseburger Address.
Is Marx’s tomb a communist plot? The body of KARL MARX, who died on March 4, 1883, aged 64, is buried in London’s Highgate Cemetary. Marx was a German philosopher and revolutionary socialist whose books The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867) formed the theoretical base for modern international communism.
• Why did Karl Marx like herbal tea? Because all proper tea is theft
• Why did the communist fail at school? He got bad Marx
VINCENT VAN GOGH, who had a major influence on 20th-century art, died aged 37 from a gunshot wound in 1890 (above, The Sower, Arles, November, 1888). Van Gogh, who was drawn to art from an early age, cut off his own ear when he was in a bad frame of mind. Details of the incident remain sketchy.
• A dying artist painted himself into a coroner
• I ear there’s a new Van Gogh been discovered
• Van Gogh’s favorite swimming technique was the brushstroke
• Why did you the artist become an Impressionist? He did it for the Monet
The first ever event of the modern OLYMPIC GAMES was the initial heat of the 100 metres race, held on April 6, 1896, in Athens, Greece (above). The athletes ran in grass lanes, separated only by ropes, and the heat was won by American Thomas Burke, who went on to become the first Olympic champion in the 100m and 400m races. He won the 100m in 12 seconds. The current men’s world record is 9.58 seconds, set by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.
• What’s a banker’s favourite Olympic event? The vault
• Old Olympic skiers never die. They just go downhill
• I love the Olympics. I’m carrying quite a torch for them
• It’s always a leap year for high jumpers
Just as a new century was about to dawn, psychoanalyst SIGMUND FREUD published The Interpretation of Dreams, which introduces Freud’s theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation, and also first discusses what would later become the theory of the Oedipus complex. Freud was interested in the idea of the pun and often repeated the tale of a poet friend who had sat next to Baron Rothschild at a dinner and told Freud that the banker had “treated me quite famillionairely”, an amusing phrase that softened the blow of being condescended to, according to Freud. He later said that a pun was “a victorious assertion of the ego’s invulnerability”.
• How did the psychoanalyst injure himself on a skiiing holiday? He had a Freudian slip
• A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but you mean your mother
• Two egotists meet. It’s an I for and I
• If you get a fruit basket from your psychiatrist it will probably be shrink-wrapped
• What fast food do psychiatrists like? Kentucky Freud Chicken
• A patient ran into his analyst’s office screaming “I’m a teepee! I’m a wigwam!” and was told: “Relax, you’re two tents”
• Talking of psychology, does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
It’s not hard to imagine the words “We are not amused” coming from the grumpy face above, is it? But QUEEN VICTORIA was a jolly thing when young, apparently. She died in 1901 although her crowning achievement was having the longest reign of any English monarch.
• Victoria was caught gambling. She had a royal flush
THE FORD MODEL T produced by Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company (above) brought the automobile to the masses by being made in assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting. By 1927, 15 million of them had rolled off the factory floor. They would not have appreciated being included in this gallery. In 1914, the company ran an advertising copy competition for cash prizes but warned: “Please keep in mind that we do not care for ‘puns’”. Wonder what made them so T’d off?
• A guy who crashed his model T Ford was a T totaller
• Why did the car cross the river with the boat? It was a Ford escort
• I couldn’t work out how to fasten my seatbelt. Then it clicked
• My dog failed his driving test – he can’t parallel bark
Picture: Getty Images
The dead of the FIRST WORLD WAR were commemorated in 2014, the centenary of the war, with a moving tribute of ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London. During the war, puns were popular with civilians and soldiers possibly because of a forlorn attempt to keep up morale despite the savagery of battle. Punch magazine frequently used puns with their black-cut illustrations, and a popular war song was built on a pun about Gilbert the Filbert the Colonel of the Knuts. That humour survived in the Eighties TV comedy series Blackadder and in the season about the Great War, with episode titles such as Corporal Punishment.
• World War One battle report: We’re Verdun and dusted
• Trench warfare should always be a last ditch effort
• The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran
Picture: Geoff Pugh/Telegraph
1917 was the most momentous year in Russian history. The Emperor was forced to abdicate and eventually the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin (above, addressing a crowd in Moscow) overthrew the Provisional Government in Petrograd and took control in the RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
• What fish did Lenin hate? Czardines
• What John Green novel is about the Russian Revolution? The Fault in Our Czars
Picture: Popperfoto/Getty Images
The Roaring Twenties came to a spectacular end in 1929 with THE WALL STREET CRASH, which triggered the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western world (above, a man tries to sell his car in the street at the beginning of the Great Depression) which lasted nearly five years. By 1933, some 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed.
• Why do bankers never get the blame? They always pass the buck
• I had an account with a bank in the North Pole but they froze all my assets
• I used to be a banker but I lost interest
• If money talks, why do we need bank tellers?
Picture: Rex Features
Even in the midst of the horrors of the SECOND WORLD WAR and the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan, puns were still popular (especially in the naming of German bombs). The term blitzed became popular as slang for being drunk and jokes and puns about Adolf Hitler abounded (“What do Nazis eat for breakfast? Luftwaffles”). One thing that Winston Churchill had up his sleeve for Britain was the colussus computer at Bletchley Park (seen above in 1943, with two women at the controls). In honour of them, here is a code-breaking pun:
• What did the ancestors of the Bletchley Park women do? They helped cracked the Viking’s Norse code
Every school child has to learn ALBERT EINSTEIN’S mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (above, Einstein seems to have got his famous equation wrong) and in 1955 the man who made some of the most momentous discoveries of the 20th century died. In 1905, Einstein had worked on the theory of the wave-particle duality of light and also come up with the special theory of relativity. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the photoelectric effect, a pivotal step in the evolution of quantum theory.
• Einstein developed a theory about space, and it was about time too
• Never trust atoms, they make up everything
• The nuclear physicist took a holiday for a fission trip
• A hydrogen atom walks into a bar and says I’ve lost my electron. “Are you sure?” asks the bartender. “Yes, I’m positive”
Following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to Fidel Castro’s request to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. The decision sparked the CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS, a 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union (above, President John F Kennedy delivers a televised speech to the nation about the crisis, a year before he was assassinated). The stand-off, which hogged world headlines, ended peacefully following a period in which the world sailed close to nuclear conflict.
• How did Castro find out about the Bay of Pigs? Someone squealed
• If you swallow uranium you will probably get atomic ache
• When a Cuban atom bomb operator and Russian nuclear technician got married, she was radiant and he was glowing
Picture: Getty Images
Where would 007 be without his gun . . . or his pun. Ian Fleming, the man who created JAMES BOND, was a big fan of puns (including crude ones, such as the character Pussy Galore). Sean Connery was the first man to play James Bond (above, with Maggie Nolan in Goldfinger, which in 1964 became the first Bond film to win an Oscar, for best sound effects editing). The craze for puns in 007 films reached its height/nadir (depending on your taste threshold) with Roger Moore, who starred in seven Bond films. Two examples?
• When an enemy in Live and Let Die called Kananga inflates like a balloon and explodes, Bond replies, “Oh, he always did have an inflated opinion of himself”
• In Moonraker, Hugo Drax asks Bond: “Why did you break up the encounter with my pet python?” and he replies: “I discovered it had a crush on me”
Picture: Rex Features
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong when he became the first man to set foot on the MOON on July 21, 1969. He described the surface as being like powdered charcoal. In total, 12 humans have walked on the moon, the last being in 1972. When Armstrong wrote his memoir, it was double spaced.
• Why didn’t people like the restaurant on the Moon? Because there was no atmosphere
• What holds the moon up? Moonbeams
• How did Neil Armstrong get a haircut on the moon? Eclipsed it
• The star asked the sun why the moon was always up so late. The sun replied that it was just a phase
• A blood-sucking arachnid from the moon would be a Luna tick
On August 9, 1974, RICHARD NIXON became the only US President ever to resign office following the Watergate scandal. His successor, Gerald Ford, ended the Vietnam War a year later.
• How did Nixon get over the bridge? He double-crossed it
• The president can’t pass the bill because it’s still incongruous
In 1976, CHAIRMAN MAO ZEDONG died at the age of 82, having ruled China from 1949-1976 (above, a gold statue of Mao in his home province of Shaoshan). Mao certainly earned his place in 20th century history. He was a poet, military strategist and the man known as the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. He also allegedly ranks as the top perpetrator of democide in human history, responsible for an estimated 40 to 70 million deaths through starvation, forced labour and executions.
• What did the cat say to Zedong? MAOeow
• Mao left a huge estate when he died. It was the great will of China
• There is some Confucion about the oldest religion in China
THE BERLIN WALL, constructed by the German Democratic Republic, was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. On November 9, 1989, at midnight, East Germany’s Communist rulers gave permission for gates along the Wall to be opened as a result of days of mass protest (above, people celebrate the opening of the inner-German border with sparklers) and its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990.
• Why did the Berlin Wall fall? it wanted to go down in history
In 1997, there was a huge ethical debate about cloning. On February 22, 1997, scientists in Scotland announced the birth of the world’s first successfully cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep (above right, Dolly stands in her pen at Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute with Polly another CLONED SHEEP). Poor Dolly – named after country singer Dolly Parton – was plagued by health problems and suffered from premature arthritis. She was put down in 2003. In 2014, Jeffrey Kahn, the Levi Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, was asked: “How far up the ladder have we climbed with cloning?” and replied: “We’re effectively as far up the ladder of using animal models as one can go. Oregon Health & Science University has cloned nonhuman primates. That leaves only humans . . .I think someone will try to do it.”
• Why did scientist clone Dolly? They wanted some sheep thrills
• I’m writing a new novel called The Cloneliness of The Long-distance Punner
• Why was Dolly special? She was ewe-nique
Oh what a tangled web we weave in the modern world. Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, is credited with the original proposal for what would eventually become the World Wide Web and the first website was up and running in 1990. The major search engine for the world is GOOGLE, which was incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998. And what a net profit they have made.
• I tried to look up impotence on the Internet but nothing came up
Picture: AFP/Getty Images
FOOTBALL is the world’s most popular sport in both numbers of participants and spectators. Once you love football, you’ll never kick the habit. The beautiful game ended the 20th century on a moment of unbeatable drama, when Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored an injury time winner to help Manchester United beat Bayern Munich 2-1 at the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona and win the European Cup Final 2-1. “Football . . . bloody hell,” said United manager Alex Ferguson afterwards. The sports journalism industry runs on pun headlines but most 5-a-side team and fantasy teams are also built on puns. Here are a few to cheer up any football followers:
• A3 Milan
• 50 Shades of O’Shea
• Cesc and the City
• The Neville wears Prada
• Nice to Michu
• Tea and Busquets
• Phantom of the Chopra
One a scale of one to ten, it seems that the world is about nine and three quarters obsessed with Harry Potter. Released globally in 93 countries, JK Rowling’s final novel in the HARRY POTTER series, 2007′s Deathly Hallows, broke sales records as the fastest-selling book ever.
• What do you call a jockey who likes JK Rowling’s books? Harry Trotter.
• Voldemort: Why so sirius?
• Why did Harry Potter need ointment? He had a quid-itch
• Did you hear the one about the tall wizard who couldn’t cast any spells because he was short staffed?
• The haughty magician had illusions of grandeur
• I went to Hogwarts but I could only manage a short spell there
Picture: Telegraph/Warner Brothers
A decade that included the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, ended with hope for some Americans when BARACK OBAMA was elected President of the United States (above, Obama takes the oath as the 44th president of the United States at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C on January 20 2009, as wife Michelle holds Abraham Lincoln’s bible, and with daughters Malia and Sasha looking on). It was among the most-observed events ever by the global audience. Obama is a fan of puns and made one at a White House dinner, saying: “Nick Chute is here today with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough.”
• What Jackson 5 song does Obama like singing? Ba-rocking Robin
YOUTUBE was launched on Valentine’s Day 2005. The most viewed video on the planet is Gangnam Style, featuring South Korean rapper Psy, which was first aired on July 15, 2012 and by February 10 2015 had been viewed 2,237,435,273 times (above, Psy performs on NBC’s Today show in September 2012).
• What does Psy use to compose in bed? Sheet music
• Some music stores are in a CD part of town
• How did the rapper know Gangnam Style would be popular? He was Psy-chic