An English friend invites you to join her and her family for a weekend away: camping, perhaps, or in a remote cottage. You are a bit apprehensive about 'keeping up' in English, and also about what there will be to do; your friend appears to assure you 'there are usually plenty of bored games'. What is the meaning of this?
  • They traditionally play various games to help pass the time, but people tend to get bored and fall asleep / drop out.
  • They play various quite strenuous physical games involving a plank of wood ('board').
  • There are games that people traditionally play when they are staying overnight away from home (like 'boarders' in a 'boarding school').
  • These are games where people sit round a board (e.g. Scrabble, Monopoly) and join in turn-by-turn. (What the French rather charmingly refer to as 'jeux de societe' : games played within a group of people [though one might further ask: 'what game isn't'?]).
(This Question is to be regarded only as a 'Christmas-cracker style joke', and not as a guide to psychiatric or medical illness, nor treatment of these!) 'What is the simplest cure for water on the brain?'
  • Major interventional surgery.
  • A sharp blow.
  • A tap on the head.
  • A drain in the ear.
'Knock, knock!' 'Who's there?' 'Fred.' 'Fred who?' ... ...
  • 'Fred's come off my jacket button.'
  • 'Fred I'm not allowed to tell you that until you open the door.'
  • 'Fred Basset.'
  • 'Fred the Shred.'
As you travel along a road you see a large sign warning of HEAVY PLANT CROSSING. What does this mean?
  • A large tree is about to be moved across the road.
  • They have developed 'walking trees' (like the Triffids in John Wyndham's 1960s science-fiction classic), and these may now decide to wander across the street without any reference or deference to human road-users.
  • Large items of earthmoving equipment (bulldozers, etc) are working locally and may need to cross the road at short notice between sections of the building site, interrupting normal traffic as and when they do.
  • Genetic botanists are 'crossing' (i.e. 'mating') different trees within the landscape, which may involve dangerous falling branches landing on the roadway.
You pay a return visit to some old friends and notice that their clock, which used to chime, is still in its position but not actually running. One of your hosts says, 'Oh yes, we reckon something went wrong back in the spring.' How might you best respond to this?
  • You want to open the back of the case of the clock, to see what the matter is with the mainspring inside.
  • You understand that the clock stopped running several months ago, and they are not at all urgently worried about having it mended.
  • Something inside the clock has been bouncing about, and it would be better not to go prying into it in case there were further damage.
  • They have booked the clock in for mending sometime early next year.
During your stay in Britain you need to see a doctor. There is a medical centre not far from where you are staying, with the names of the doctors listed on a signboard outside. Which doctor would you be most likely to prefer to see, if you are allowed any choice in the matter?
  • Dr. Flew
  • Dr. Green
  • Dr. Payne
  • Dr. Shipman
You are watching a news programme when a report comes on about European Union farming directives ~ bear in mind that many British people have strong and conflicting views about 'Brussels interfering' with the British way of life and landscape. In this case it seems that 'Brussels' has declared that all healthy newborn farm mammals should not only be fitted with an ID tag as soon as it is safe (medically etc.) to do so, but that the ID information should be machine-readable with a hand-held scanner, i.e. that 'the animal's unique reference number should appear in the form of a bar-code'. At this point, a close-up picture is shown of a little newborn lamb, and your host begins roaring with laughter; why so?
  • He thinks the people who made up this new rule have had too much to drink (at a bar in Brussels, presumably).
  • The word 'bar' sounds pretty much the same as 'baa' (the English word representing the noise that sheep make), so the little sheep's own natural mother would already be used to calling ~ and identifying ~ her lamb by making this sound.
  • Farmers using a traditional sheepdog to help control this flock might develop a 'bark-code' as well.
  • He thinks that the idea of coding animals almost from their moment of birth is ridiculous.
Another fertile field for English puns involves names of people (a bit as with the 'knock, knock!' jokes, but more so). Where a woman marries and changes her surname in the traditional manner, she may end up with an awkward and/or unfortunate name such as Chris Cross, Sally Forth (not much harm in that one actually: look it up) or Mona Lott ( = 'moan a lot' ). Only ONE of these names appears to be clear of any such other meaning: which one?
  • Claudia Day
  • Carol Singer
  • Barbara Knight
  • Holly Berry
A further eye- and ear-catching arena for puns is in the creation and advertising of trade names (for businesses such as shops, that wish to be remembered when customers are looking for such a service). Which is the only business listed below that does NOT use, or happen to incorporate, a pun in its name?
  • Reade and Wright (stationers)
  • Lorna's Laundry
  • Kerr's Garage and Motor Repairs
  • Cookham Bakery
On the television news you catch a report about a high-profile rock group, who have (so you believe you hear) 'been detained at Heathrow Airport, on return from a sell-out European tour, for being in suspected possession of a range of band substances.' An English friend who was watching the bulletin with you comments, a little wryly: 'Well, they would, wouldn't they?'. What is going on here, at the linguistic level?
  • Your friend finds it utterly unsurprising that a band of musicians should have items in their luggage that are to do with the band itself.
  • At least one of you has misheard 'band' instead of 'banned', i.e. the musicians had quantities of something with them that they legally weren't allowed to bring in (probably drugs of some kind).
  • Your friend thinks there is nothing particularly newsworthy about a pop group being 'done for drugs'.
  • The police are looking to confiscate the band's souvenirs and memorabilia.
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