What is a pun? A pun is the humorous use of a word to suggest another that sounds the same.
Speaker A: ‘Aren’t those plane trees over there?
Speaker B: ‘Why, Their bark looks quite patterned to me’ (said with a big grin).
We often use puns to make our conversations humorous and to demonstrate our skills at wordplay to either to raise our perceived social standing or less kindly to put someone down.
That we frequently use puns or come across puns or use puns in our conversations is a given. What I would like to contest is that is bi-lingual/tri-lingual speakers etc are more literally creative than mono-lingual speakers in some way because the can they can create bi-lingual puns.
I heard two university professors at a Indian university claim this and heard the pity in their voices for mono-lingual speakers. They claim that usage of bi-lingual puns require the speaker to know the word in both languages which is fair enough. However having a matchings words doesn’t in itself make a good pun. There must be clever humour behind it. This is highly valued my native British english speakers.
Here are three puns that are guaranteed to make a native english speaker smile.
1) Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
2) Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
3) Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
Here is a bi-lingual pun that educated Indians find very funny.
Speaker A: When would Mickey Mouse write the Ramayana?
Speaker B: When he was a Valmiki.
Valmiki was the Hindu sage who wrote Raymana and so here the allusion that Mickey Mouse is a Valmiki whenever his poster is on the wall etc.
Bi-lingual Indians apparently find this very funny. Sorry guys, I just do not find it funny. I am sure forethought went into it to make the connection between Wall Mickey and the Valmiki but you have to stretch the words to much especially since one is pronounced with a ‘v’ sound and the other with a ‘w’. And it just got worse the more of them I listened to.
I am not convinced that bi-lingual Hindi-English puns are in anyway superior to mono-lingual British english puns. In fact I would argue the other way as English puns have to be delivered with grammatical and perfect pronunciation to work.
On a closing note, maybe Samuel Lee Jackson was right when he said that a pun is the lowest form of humour.