Word play is a well-known literary technique, but this modest crop, harvested by me from the British press, betrays no traces of any conscious intellectual effort on the part of the perpetrators to employ this technique. It just came out like this … I hope these exhibits will raise a smile – or two.
“We arrested a boy for burglary, and the property was on him, but he couldn’t give us a decent explanation why.” (The Croydon Post)
Well, who would expect decency from a burglar?
“Figures to be presented to the conference will show just how the problem of excessive weight has grown in recent years.” (From my local newspaper, which shall remain nameless)
A weighty problem indeed.
“Gillian Shepherd, the education secretary, created a cabinet row when she said she favoured the return of caning, a suggestion slapped down by John Major.” (The Sunday Times)
He could have hardly used a cane, could he?
“ITC will be asked to look particularly hard at screen violence.” (The Daily Telegraph)
I should hope so.
“I feel some students who are already there [i.e. at university] would get a degree of benefit from an apprenticeship instead.” (The Independent)
Better than a Mickey Mouse degree, wouldn’t you say?
“Only three per cent of research funds for cancer in Britain go to the lung.” (The Independent)
Too right: lungs are best left unclogged.
“The heads of 25 nations stood shoulder to shoulder …” (The Sunday Times)
And with feet wide apart, by any chance? Although the last two quotes don’t involve word play, I have found them irresistible.
“Nelson Mandela, 84, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after 27 years in prison. He lives in Johannesburg and is married to Graca Machel, his third wife. He has four children. By Marcelle Katz. (A headline in The Sunday Times)
All four by Marcelle?
“Reuse of graves makes them better places for everyone.” (The Sunday Times)
Does it really?