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Questions tagged [wordplay]

Questions related to wordplay in works of literature, i.e. a clever use of words, typically for the purpose of amusement. Examples include puns, phonetic mix-ups, obscure words and meanings, and double entendres,

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3 votes
1 answer
218 views

In Lord Byron's "Don Juan," what was the lead character "half-smother'd" by?

This would be the character's first adventure. Julia, a married woman, became his mistress. Her husband, Don Alfonso, was told that she was cheating on him and ran into the bedroom, accompanied by ...
21 votes
2 answers
5k views

What is Asimov's joke in "Death of a Foy"?

I recently came upon a short story, Death of a Foy (1980), in the compendium The Winds of Change (1983). In the intro, Asimov states that he was "hardly able to stop laughing", but I just can't seem ...
25 votes
2 answers
7k views

Meaning of "the field was found to be plowed as thoroughly as any young man at Oxford" in 'The Book of Dragons'

E. Nesbit, in The Book of Dragons, toward the end of the chapter titled 'The Island of the Nine Whirlpools', wrote: The nine rubies were used afterwards in agriculture. You had only to throw them out ...
15 votes
1 answer
3k views

Limerick involves a pregnant Scottish woman and anagrams

Somewhere in the 1993-2000 time period, I had a hardback book of various linguistic oddities, I think with a red slip cover with white lettering. One of the items included was a limerick along the ...
8 votes
1 answer
485 views

What is the pun in Fowles' The Magus?

Google has not helped me figure this out. This is from the first or second page of the book (I'm not sure exactly since my electronic copy of the book doesn't seem to have page numbers): I saw very ...
1 vote
1 answer
83 views

Meaning of "needle sure revs in the red" from "Rest"

From Alanis Morissette's song "Rest": All these relief-givers The needle sure revs in the red Alanis is known for tinkering with structure and meaning. What does this sentence mean? My ...
4 votes
0 answers
87 views

What is the full wordplay that Joyce employs in "siparioramoci" in Finnegans Wake?

What is the full wordplay that Joyce employs in "Siparioramoci" from Finnegans Wake Part III Chapter 2 [468.20]. It arises in the following short paragraph quoted in full. A long winded Jaun/...
5 votes
2 answers
315 views

Where is the yellow in "pasqualines" from Finnegans Wake?

Can we see the color yellow in the word "pasqualines" from Finnegans Wake chapter III.2? Shaun as Jaun is lecturing to his sister Issy and her 28 rainbow girls. [432.30] Is it rubrics, ...
12 votes
1 answer
408 views

What is meant by the word "cumfarting" in the 1742 English novel "Joseph Andrews"?

Yes I know it sounds like a superslang portmanteau of modern obscenities (and indeed it is), which is why I was surprised to see it in a 1742 book, and why I'm asking. Toward the beginning of Book 4, ...
3 votes
1 answer
81 views

Explaining a pun or nick-name from a Manning Coles thriller

Recently I have read, or re-read, a number of the old thrillers by Manning Coles. In the book With Intent to Deceive (1947—published in the United States as A Brother for Hugh), I ran into this bit of ...
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

What does "The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go she went" mean?

In Reginald on Besetting Sins: The Woman Who Told The Truth, Saki writes And at last the dreadful thing came, as the Woman had foreseen all along that it must; it was one of those paltry little ...
8 votes
1 answer
394 views

What does 'diope' mean in the poem 'Pediatric Reflection' by Ogden Nash?

"Pediatric Reflection" by Ogden Nash Many an infant that screams like a calliope Could be soothed by a little attention to its diope. What does "diope" mean here?
14 votes
1 answer
990 views

How does the old norse kenning 'nausta blakks hlé-mána gífrs drífu gim-slöngvir' break down into 'warrior'

The 11th century icelandic skald Þórðr Sjáreksson wrote this kenning, quoted from wikipedia: nausta blakks hlé-mána gífrs drífu gim-slöngvir "fire-brandisher of blizzard of ogress of protection-...
15 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "Maybe it's a Big Horse I'm Morporkian" mean?

In Terry Pratchett's book Raising Steam, there is an explanation of the phrase "Have seen the big horse" where the author uses the sentence "Maybe it's a Big Horse I'm Morporkian". ...
6 votes
1 answer
2k views

Who are The Sixteen Sexophonists in Brave New World?

In Brave New World, sky-signs feature the name of a band (?) called The Sixteen Sexophonists. Is the word Sexophonists a play on words by the author, and if so, what is the joke?
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Shakespeare King Henry IV Part 1: What is the "money joke" in these lines?

In Act 2 Scene 4, Prince Hal takes interest in a noble man as a "joke about money". My text (Cambridge) explains that a noble was worth one third of £1 sterling and a royal worth half of £1. ...
12 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is Casanunda a reference in "Witches Abroad"?

In Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett, the witches meet a dwarf named Casanunda who claims to be the "greatest lover in the world": ''Allo, foxy lady,' said a voice behind her. She looked ...
7 votes
2 answers
294 views

What is the significance of the name "Kopy-Keck" in The Light Princess?

In "The Light Princess" by George MacDonald, the king consults "two very wise Chinese philosophers" about the princess's condition.1 The philosophers are named "Hum-Drum" and "Kopy-Keck." The story is ...
19 votes
1 answer
9k views

No mayonnaise in Ireland?

Apparently there is some kind of running joke about John Donne's famous line "No man is an island", prose sometimes quoted as poetry, being misquoted as "No mayonnaise in Ireland". ...
5 votes
1 answer
994 views

Is "and if I'm flying solo" a pun in "Defying Gravity"?

In the song "Defying Gravity", part of the musical Wicked, there's this section: So if you care to find me Look to the western sky As someone told me lately "Everyone deserves the ...
15 votes
1 answer
4k views

"My father declared he should invent a slip button"

From Lady Saba Holland's memoir of her father the Rev. Sydney Smith, published circa 1855: The reigning bore at this time in Edinburgh was ——; his favourite subject, the North Pole. It mattered not ...
6 votes
3 answers
468 views

What does Holofernes deer epitaph from Love's Labour's Lost mean?

I find it a bit hard to understand this epitaph of the deer in Act 4, scene 2 in Love's Labour's Lost: The preyful princess pierced and prick'd a pretty pleasing pricket; Some say a sore; but not a ...
5 votes
2 answers
294 views

Was the pun on the word 'reading' intentional in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"?

In the beginning of "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", while Holmes and Watson are on the train, we see this line: We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of papers which Holmes had ...
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

What does Thomas More try to do with Greek puns in Utopia?

Thomas More uses Greek puns such as Hythloday that means speaker of nonsense, etc. What is he trying to do? What difference would it make for Greek readers and non-Greek readers?
3 votes
1 answer
303 views

Where is the wordplay in the names Zhao Guiweng and Gu Jiu?

In the Wikisource version (in both Chinese and English) of Lu Xun's short story "A Madman's Diary" from his collection Call to Arms, the following footnotes are made about character names: Zhao ...
31 votes
1 answer
3k views

What is the pun in Kipling's poem "The Three-Decker"?

In the poem The Three-Decker, by Rudyard Kipling, there is one line where the meter is slightly different from all the other lines. I Googled that line, not expecting to find anything, and Google ...