Why do some puns only make sense when you say them out loud?

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Why do some puns only make sense when you say them out loud?

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Puns are just exploiting the strangeness of language. Sometimes it’s playing with the fact that words can have multiple meanings. “Did you hear that the tv repairman got married? The reception was great.” But it can also have to do with words that sound the same but have different meanings. “What do you call a veterinarian with laryngitis? A hoarse doctor.” If you’re interested, Vsauce did a really interesting video on [homonyms](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTKeB8BnzPY&app=desktop) that goes into more detail about why English is friggin’ weird.

Phonetics. The way things sound. Like how the phrase “you say tomato, I say tomato” doesn’t really work in text format.

Because English is not a Phonic language. Phonic languages are the ones in which the spelling very closely represents the pronunciation. The letters (which are text), have a fixed relationship with the pronunciation (which is sound).

For example, in Spanish, which is a phonic language, “agua” will be pronounced as agua, exactly like how each sound is supposed to be pronounced. But in English, which is not a phonic language, say, a word “nature” is pronounced as nechar, but “mature” is not mechar but machyor. This means that often, spellings do not correspond to how the word is pronounced.

Two of interesting phenomena related to non-phonic languages are:

1. Homophones = words which sound the same, but have different spellings. Example, HERE and HEAR.

2. Homonyms = words which have the same spellings, but sound different. Example, present tense of the verb READ and its past tense.

Puns in the English language rely on these two phenomena heavily. Some puns rely on using similar pronunciation for words which have different spellings. These are the ones which work when read aloud.

Not a pun but a joke which relies on homophony. The doctor says to the patient, “The situation is dire for you. Mercury is in Uranus.” The patient says, “Doc, I don’t believe in this astrology BS”. The doctor says, “Neither do I. The rectal thermometer just broke inside your rectum”.