Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics” as Want to Read:
The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,176 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
Some people may dismiss puns as the lowest form of humor. But this attitude is a relatively recent development in the sweep of history. In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack — a former Presidential Speechwriter for Bill Clinton, and winner of the world pun championship — explains how punning revolutionized language and made possible the rise of modern civilization. Integrati ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Gotham (first published April 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pun Also Rises, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Pun Also Rises

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: Bird Brian
What can I say? This is vindication for punsters everywhere.

Bird Brian's review was what got me interested in this, and since it's hard to top, I won't even try. The book had some engaging anecdotes, lots of historical facts and quotations, and even some lessons in brain physiology. And of course lots of wordplay.

All for pun, and pun for all!
Dan Bruno
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lots of stuff going on here. There were historical anecdotes about punning through the ages, and its varying cultural import; some pop science tidbits about how the brain processes language generally and puns specifically; a few miscellaneous personal stories (the best is the one about the pun competition at the beginning); and a ton of shameless, unapologetic, wholly gratuitous, thoroughly amazing puns. (My favorite, from a passage about the alphabet: "Yes, the Romans would later modify the Gre ...more
Zohar -
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Please excuse the puns below.

"The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics" by John Pollack is a non-fiction book, in which the author tells his-story of puns. Even though this book is short in pages, it is long in content.

John Pollack loves words and one could tell from the book. He is a former World Pun Champion and speech writer for President Bill Clinton. In the book Mr. Pollack explains the significance of the might
Jason Edwards
Dec 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I’m going to start this review with some self-indulgence, which is really par for the course when it comes to my style of reviewing. I’m just a tiny bit drunk, and I could swear I've already written a review for this book. But I can’t find that review anywhere. I have a phrase in my head, that I feel I must have written already, something about how John Pollack peppers The Pun Also Rises with puns, which is to be expected. But I can’t for the life of me find on any of my several hard drives and ...more
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Puntiful. Punlicious. Punderful. Puntastic. Punetrating. All describe this punny book. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near as punny as John Pollack. Considering his belief that punning is a sign of intelligence, I suppose that he would doubt mine. However, as clever as puns can be, not everyone has punability. Pollack says Noam Chomsky doesn't pun and whatever you may blame Chomsky for, stupidity isn't one of his flaws.

Pollack puns his way through this surprisingly scholarly examination of the socio
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I was very excited to read this book when I ran across the title on a blog recently. It was fine, a nice little overview of how and why we may have come to pun. Neither obsessive and terribly thorough history nor simple humor writing, the book occupies for me a weird spot that falls short of rigorous scholarship (which would have been interesting) but goes beyond the simply light-hearted treatment. I sort of found myself wishing Pollack had picked one extreme or the other. It's a quick and prett ...more
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
My father loved to pun, and he promoted such fun, zany good times punning together as a family. We were silly, true, but it was often smart humor, that made us think on our feet. Once my sister, father, and I tried to see how long we could keep a balloon up in the air, hitting it upward each time we made another pun. If you failed to make a pun when you hit the balloon, you were out. We kept it up for over an hour. The mental gynmastics it required to think like that are akin to speaking a forei ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I was very disappointed. What little history Pollack could scape together was mostly used to set up unimpressive puns. The writing was mostly dull and the author seemed much more impressed with himself than I was. The best part was his account of the national punning competition at the beginning of the book. An entire volume dedicated to that event would have been a much better read.
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting and FUNNY. Well, punny. Sometimes I was distracted from the academics by the puns. Who knew that a lesson on language could be so entertaining? Fun subject, playfully done. Very enjoyable!
Barbara Ardinger
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Terrific book! The pun is not the lowest form of humor. It's one of the highest forms because you have to be smart to recognize a pun. I've always loved puns. In graduate school, I put at least one pun in every term paper I wrote. A comparison of modern plays about Oedipus--"Complex Oedipus." My book Finding New Goddesses is filled with puns. These Found Goddesses are goddesses I made up. Here's my favorite:

Verbena: Goddess of Wordplay and Really Awful Verse
“I don’t get no respect,” Verbena com
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title just about says it all. Who knew that people have been punning since ancient Greece and Biblical times? Or that early Hawaiian natives used punning was a sort of dueling? Or that England’s coffee house wordplay other humor became so frowned upon in Victorian times that any laughter and even smiling were considered uncouth? There is plenty of history here, as well as physiological analysis of how we make puns, and how puns fog the clarity of language but keep minds alert for novel inter ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Trisha by: TLC Book tours
The idea of linguistic history titillates me intellectually, but I must admit to not having a lot of luck with it in practice. My linguistics courses in general while in college were universally boring. But deep down inside, I knew that linguistics could be absolutely fascinating if put in the right hands. This book definitely proves that. A historical and cultural look at the role of puns, The Pun Also Rises informed, entertained, and challenged me.

First, the challenging part. I have always tho
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this while I was on a plane to Austin, and, oddly enough, the first chapter details the author's trip to the Pun Off that happens there! His plane almost crashes; luckily, mine didn't. My students bought this for me as an end of the year present, and as I'm constantly impressing upon them all sorts of linguistic concepts, this book was quite appropriate.

The history of the pun isn't as groan inducing as actual puns can be. Pollock details what happens in the brain when a pun is constructe
Sarah (Workaday Reads)
Jun 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I love puns. The cornier, the better. With that in mind, I was interested to learn a bit of history about puns. I didn’t realize how old the pun is, or how varied they can be. I also didn’t know that must puns are not meant to be funny, and that at various points in history, they were used quite seriously.

The book itself was at times humourous and entertaining, and at other times dry and slightly boring. When the focus was on ancedotal stories, the book was great. Both entertaining and education
Julianne General
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, literary
This book will probably only be interesting to those obsessed with language, or maybe history, but it was definitely an *extremely* well-written account of the history of puns (which is more complex and genuinely entertaining than you might think). Pollack was a presidential speech-writer, and an award-winning pun-nist (I don't know the official term), so if you're NOT into language/history, just read the introduction. You might be blown away! All in all, the book has tons of fun anecdotes and i ...more
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My personal view is that puns fall into two categories: those whose wit and cleverness you appreciate slowly because they are based on some piece of esoteric knowledge - a Classical quote, a modern foreign language word play, scientific jargon - or they're sheer impudence takes you by surprise and causes you to burst out laughing even while realising that it's an awful pun. This is not to say that the pun "is the lowest form of wit", but some of the examples were groan-worthy.

I found the history
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Skip the intro. Get right on to his well-researched, informative discussion of the history of puns in other languages and its biography over the last 300 years in the english language. It's interesting and had a lot of historical and semantic information I'd never considered.
Then you can go back and read the intro.
The issue is: a good pun fits into the conversation. A bad pun changes the conversation to fit the pun. The intro is mostly an example of the latter.
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
"Human beings love uniting things that seem disparate. We love finding significance in what appears to be swirling data."

And so, anyone who considers themselves a punthusiast will be interested in this book filled with the history and science of wordplay. Detailed — and occasionally far too detailed — The Pun Also Rises is still a worthwhile read for wordsmiths. Not to mention, it's given me a new life ambition: compete in the O. Henry Pun-Off in Austin.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Many people I know were not surprised when I got this book as a gift for Father's day. While I expected this book to be interesting, I was surprised to find that the book covered topics spanning history, cognitive science, linguistics, evolution, and anthropology. And that there were a number of puns tossed in both as illustrations, and in context was a bonus. An enjoyable, entertaining read that explains the rise, fall, and rise of the pun as a form.
Emma Probst
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Pollack offers a funny, approachable, and informative history of puns in this book. But ultimately, the heart of this book is about the beauty of language itself, along with all of the ambiguity and double-meanings that come along with it. A very enjoyable read for anyone interested in puns, humor, or language.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: words
Three and a half stars. A short book, fun and interesting. Definitely focuses on the development of language in relation to puns. It's not at all a collection of puns, though it's fun to find the author's puns slipped in throughout the book.
Jan 01, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: language-related
I'm not sure I actually want to read the book, but I enjoyed Bird Brian's review:
Genine Franklin-Clark
More scholarly, less fun than I expected. My fault, not that of the book.
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fun read. Nice anecdotes of the pun's perceived social standing throughout history. Legitimized my penchant for word play – though it hardly needed legitimizing in the first place.
Kevin Topolovec
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I should make all of my pun-hating friends read this, to show them true punishment.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: linguistics
Who says dates aren't good for you?! A phonemonal coffee date with a linguist ended in this gem of a book recommendation and even though I'm no longer seeing him, I have no regrets!

The Pun Also Rises is engaging from the first page to the last. Essentially, it is the history of the pun, an analysis of the conditions in which it flourished, its changing reputation over time....there's even a chapter devoted to the brain processes involved in punning (which is a complex form of wordplay that invo
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This quick read about the history and philosophy of puns provides insight on the foresight of punsters. The main chapter of the book details the history of puns as it relates to world events of the time. The times when punning was considered dull or even criminal, interlaced with puns as a form of protest demonstrate the development of wordplay through the ages. Perhaps the most interesting section is how puns tie into the modern world: from their use in advertising food to the distaste that som ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting, witty history of the pun. Quite often I laughed aloud, and certainly while describing the whole history of the pun, the author slipped in quite a few of his own groaners.

It answers all manner of questions about puns, from where the term came from to why people hate puns (and why they're wrong). It was very fun to read, although not terribly long; the book wound up being about 154 pages long, not including the end notes, but the selected bibliography is HUGE and the author ap
Lisa Cobb Sabatini
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author, John Pollack, can't help himself as he uses puns to drive home points in his book, The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics.
Pollack not only provides the reader with an insight to the development of the pun through language, but also enlightens the reader to the many puns found in ancient and modern art. Puns throughout history, unique to culture, and in our everyday lives are also explored. A great gift
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Other optional titles 1 3 Jan 06, 2016 06:09AM  
  • You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity
  • The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English
  • Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory
  • In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language
  • What Language Is: And What It Isn't and What It Could Be
  • Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages
  • Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language
  • Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language
  • The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of "Proper" English, from Shakespeare to South Park
  • Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World
  • Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything
  • Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language
  • Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language
  • Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms
  • Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean
  • Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling
  • I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World
  • Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People behind Everyday Words

Nonfiction Deals

  • A Guide to the Present Moment
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Breaks of the Game
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You
    $9.99 $1.99
  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Dry
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Measure of a Man
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    $13.99 $2.99
  • 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
    $17.48 $1.99
  • The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
    $12.49 $1.99
  • The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Scar Tissue
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Running with Scissors
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    $9.99 $2.99
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini
    $22.95 $1.99
  • Facing Your Giants: The God Who Made a Miracle Out of David Stands Ready to Make One Out of You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Egg and I
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Just Another Kid
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Second World War
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
    $11.24 $1.99
  • I Am Not Myself These Days (P.S.)
    $13.24 $1.99
  • In the Beginning...Was the Command Line
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Toltec Art of Life and Death
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It
    $9.49 $2.99
  • The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top
    $17.99 $2.99
  • A Brief History of Time
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Penguin Lessons
    $12.99 $1.99
  • What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011
    $12.99 $2.99
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About God
    $11.49 $2.99
  • Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started theLongest War in American History
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power
    $16.99 $3.99
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Settle for More
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Water is Wide
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Yes Please
    $12.49 $2.99
  • Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath
    $15.99 $3.99
  • Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
    $17.99 $1.99
  • French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters
    $12.49 $2.99
  • When the Game Was Ours
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Tomorrowland: Our Staggering Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Power
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Through My Eyes
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley
    $13.99 $1.99
  • A Brief History of Everything
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The World's Religions, Revised and Updated (Plus)
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Leonardo's Notebooks
    $11.99 $2.99
  • An American Childhood
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Making Toast
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN
    $11.99 $2.99
  • 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love
    $2.99 $1.49
  • Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey
    $10.24 $1.99
  • Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That's When My Nightmare Began
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom
    $5.99 $1.99
“Language, be it remembered, is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea. It permeates us all, the past as well as the present, and is the grandest triumph of the human intellect. —Walt Whitman” 4 likes
“As the late neurologist Max Levin theorized: "If play were not pleasurable, kittens would never chase each other's tails, and so would lack practice in the motor skills needed for survival. If there were no pleasure in the appreciation of the absurd, if there were no fun in playing with ideas, putting them together in various combinations and seeing what makes sense or nonsense -- in brief, if there were not such a thing as humor -- children would lack practice in the art of thinking, the most complex and most powerful survival tool of all.” 1 likes
More quotes…