Away With Words
by Joe Berkowitz
Harper Perennial

A great pun “is its own reword”. A mediocre one is just “awkword”. You have to be in the mood for Away With Words, which mixes dad jokes with the try-hard and the exceptional. Joe Berkowitz introduces readers to competitions such as the O. Henry Pun Off and Punderdome, where contes­tants are judged by audience applause, and demon­strates English’s range of puns. We hear of people such as Atilla the Pun and Groan Up, and panic with the author as he attempts to extemporise on the category of medicine. “I kind of lipo-suck at puns,” he offers, attracting chortles. To some, however, punning is no laughing matter, and there’s even a German word (witzelsucht, “addiction to wise­cracking”) to describe a punning disease that can afflict victims of stroke or some other kind of brain damage. Others, including linguists, see wordplay as a sign of intelligence.