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

This is a punning comparison, like He lies like a rug, He'll fold faster than a lawn chair. We still use them in English, but they were considerably more common in previous centuries. There's ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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34 votes
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What is the pun in Kipling's poem "The Three-Decker"?

These are puns on the names of tourist agencies and operators. Ways no gaze could follow has the double meaning: routes that go beyond the horizon (or otherwise out of sight); routes that are not ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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34 votes
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Limerick involves a pregnant Scottish woman and anagrams

Sweet Molly MacDougal, in labour, Warned her sister, "It hurts like a sabre. Sin bears a high price, So a girl should think twice What she bares on the braes for a neighbour." Found in ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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32 votes

Is Casanunda a reference in "Witches Abroad"?

Casanunda is a pun on Casanova, changing "over" to "under" (because he's short): [Casanova] has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
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30 votes
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What is Asimov's joke in "Death of a Foy"?

It took me a second to get it; you have to say it out loud. When you do, you might hear a bit of a familiar melody come to mind. He's playing off the lyrics to George M. Cohan's "Give My Regards to ...
Peter's user avatar
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28 votes
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"My father declared he should invent a slip button"

The Kentucky Age for 10th February 1857 contains a short story which opens as follows: A celebrated wit once said he had found out a patent “slip button,” so that when a bore laid hold of him, and ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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22 votes
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No mayonnaise in Ireland?

The phrase comes from a story by humorist Will Stanton that appeared in the May 1971 issue of Reader's Digest. The narrator claims that he is subject to "a kind of slip-of-the-ear," leading ...
verbose's user avatar
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20 votes
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What does "Maybe it's a Big Horse I'm Morporkian" mean?

It is a pun on ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’, a song written to boost morale during World War II, by Hubert Gregg, but made famous by Flanagan and Allan as an expression of pride in London. The ...
Spagirl's user avatar
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18 votes

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

This is called a feghoot: a story that builds up to a pun for its punchline. Asimov seems to have had a fondness for feghoots, as he did this in several stories: "Loint of Paw", about a ...
SQB's user avatar
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17 votes

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

It was a 'knock-knock' joke in the 1960s, when everyone knew the song. Person 1: Knock knock. Person 2: Who's there? Person 1: M.A.B. is a big horse. Person 2: M.A.B. is a big horse who? Person 1: [...
Old Brixtonian's user avatar
14 votes

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

Ploughed is British slang for drunk, documented as far back as Dickens, and still in local usage on both sides of the pond. Drunken university students, especially young ones, are not uncommon and ...
Josh King's user avatar
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13 votes
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How does the old norse kenning 'nausta blakks hlé-mána gífrs drífu gim-slöngvir' break down into 'warrior'

It unpacks as follows: nausta blakks ‘steed of boathouses’ = ship hlémána ‘protecting moon’ of the ship = shield gífr ‘terror’ of the shield = sword drífa ‘storm’ of the sword = battle gim ‘fire’ of ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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12 votes
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Shakespeare King Henry IV Part 1: What is the "money joke" in these lines?

The joke relies on knowledge of old English coinage. A Noble was worth six shillings and eight pence, or eighty pence, which was 1/3 of a pound sterling (£), the pound being at that time worth 240 ...
Spagirl's user avatar
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11 votes
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What does "The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go she went" mean?

The "she" who went is the cook, who was also a woman. I think this is your misunderstanding. It's the cook herself who went, not the Woman (the main character of the story, referred to with ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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10 votes
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Who are The Sixteen Sexophonists in Brave New World?

Possibly the more important word play is the part of the band name which you missed out. The full name is 'Calvin Stopes and his Sixteen Sexophonists'. In 1918 and 1919 Marie Stopes published two ...
Spagirl's user avatar
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8 votes
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What is meant by the word "cumfarting" in the 1742 English novel "Joseph Andrews"?

This is not an obscenity about "climaxing" or "passing gas." It's a phonetic rendering of what was then spoken English. For instance, the sexual meaning of "come" is a ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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8 votes
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What does 'diope' mean in the poem 'Pediatric Reflection' by Ogden Nash?

Ogden Nash was fond of the humorous effect created by employing a rhyme that only works if you distort the pronunciation of one of the words, an effect that he signalled by a deliberate mis-spelling. ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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8 votes

What is the pun in Fowles' The Magus?

It's a double pun on immaculate conception and general. The Roman Catholic dogma of immaculate conception says that Mary is free from original sin right from the moment of her conception. The narrator ...
verbose's user avatar
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5 votes
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Where is the yellow in "pasqualines" from Finnegans Wake?

I think you are correct when you identify the Pasqualina. On this site we read (in Google assisted translation, that perhaps the only element that truly defines this Genoese savory cake is the whole ...
Spagirl's user avatar
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5 votes

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

One possibility: daffodils are called paasbloemen (Easter flowers) or paaslelies (Easter lilies) in Dutch. This is a fairly roundabout connection, but it's possible that this is Joyce's connection of ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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5 votes

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

tl;dr More's wordplay both creates a world and undercuts it. It allows More to tell an entirely plausible story with a straight face while simultaneously signaling that the story is false. It forms ...
verbose's user avatar
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5 votes

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

It's entirely possible that Thomas Nashe wrote this passage, which would account for its dated references. Hunting deer was a sport for the upper class in Shakespeare's England, with its own ...
Ralph Crown's user avatar
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4 votes

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

In my own multiple (and recent) readings of the complete novels and stories of Sherlock Holmes, I see Holmes noted for a direct, rather dry style of verbal delivery. Watson, the narrator in this ...
Vekzhivi's user avatar
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4 votes
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In Lord Byron's "Don Juan," what was the lead character "half-smother'd" by?

This is a joke, a double entendre. die, v. I.6.e. 1600– intransitive. To experience sexual orgasm. Now somewhat archaic. Oxford English Dictionary. In the plain reading of the stanzas, Juan “nearly ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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3 votes

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

"Sore" also means "deer". From "Sport on Dartmoor", 1895, reprinted in Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art: The Fallow-deer, ...
Joshua Engel's user avatar
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3 votes

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

There's definitely an argument made that you can interpret it that way, and I think there's good reason too. From the lyrics, there seems to be an emphasis of "my way or the highway" sort of ...
North Læraðr's user avatar
3 votes
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Where is the wordplay in the names Zhao Guiweng and Gu Jiu?

INTRODUCTION TO THE CHINESE NAME The American-Based StackExchange Network ranks below Quora in Alexa. Quora receives a lot of traffic, including traffic from native Chinese speakers with professional ...
Double U's user avatar
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3 votes
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Explaining a pun or nick-name from a Manning Coles thriller

I don't see any immediate allusions that come to mind, Samuel being a common name, and Quint being somewhat uncommon but not unknown surname. In the game of piquet, the terms is sometimes used to ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
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2 votes

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

"The needle sure revs in the red" is almost certainly an allusion to an engine RPM counter. It has a needle, it counts "revs", and it has a red zone - the area where the engine is ...
DJClayworth's user avatar
2 votes

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

Given that MacDonald was a proud Scotsman and that he often used the Scots language/dialect in his books, a perusal of a dictionary may prove useful. Here is part of what The Dictionary of the Scots ...
ferjsoto42yahoocom's user avatar

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