Jewish World Review Oct. 9, 2003 / 13 Tishrei, 5764

Richard Lederer

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Pun your way to success | Punning is a truly rewording experience. The inveterate (not invertebrate) punster believes that a good pun is like a good steak -- a rare medium well done.

Before you start beefing about my spare ribbing, remember that many a meaty pun has been cooked up as advice on how to succeed in the business of life and the life of business. "Don't be a carbon copy of someone else. Make your own impression," punned French philosopher Voltaire. "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there," advised humorist Will Rogers centuries later.

Now let's get right to wit:

  • The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
  • The difference between a champ and a chump is u.
  • Triumph is just umph added to try.
  • Don't assume. It will make an ass out of u and me.
  • Hard work is the yeast that raises the dough.
  • The best vitamin for making friends is B-1.
  • Break a bad habit -- drop it.
  • Patience is counting down without blasting off.
  • Patience requires a lot of wait.
  • Minds are like parachutes: they function only when open.
  • To keep your mind clean and healthy, change it every once in a while.
  • You can have an open mind without having a hole in your head.

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"Big shots are only little shots that keep on shooting," observed British writer Christopher Morley. Here are some more punderful maxims that merit a blue ribbin'. Sharpen your pun cells and start taking notes:

  • One thing you can give and still keep is your word.
  • A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
  • If the going gets easy, you may be going downhill.
  • If you must cry over spilled milk, please try to condense it.
  • Don't be afraid to go out on a limb, that's where the fruit is.
  • Read the Bible -- it will scare the hell out of you.
  • The ten commandments are not multiple choice.
  • Failure is the path of least persistence.
  • Life is not so much a matter of position as disposition.
  • Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try a grin.

"Many people would sooner die than think -- and usually they do," lamented British philosopher Bertrand Russell, pun in cheek. Some puns can help us to climb the ladder of success without getting rung out:

  • People who never make a mistake never make anything else.
  • When you feel yourself turning green with envy, you're ripe to be plucked.
  • A smile doesn't cost a cent, but it gains a lot of interest.
  • Success is more attitude than aptitude.
  • Having a sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
  • Learn that the bitter can lead to the better.
  • He who throws mud loses ground.
  • Hug your kids at home, but belt them in a car.
  • Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed.
  • Humans are like steel. When they lose their tempers, they are worthless.
  • Don't learn safety rules by accident. Don't be dead to rites.
  • There are two finishes for automobiles -- lacquer and liquor.
  • Learn from the nail. Its head keeps it from going too far.
  • He who laughs, lasts.

Even though it's a jungle out there, a real zoo, this collection of beastly puns may help you succeed in a workaday world that depends on survival of the fittest:

  • Frogs have it easy. They can eat what bugs them.
  • There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.
  • Birds have bills too, but they keep on singing.
  • Don't be like a lemming. Avoid following the crowd and jumping to conclusions.
  • Be like a horse with some horse sense-stable thinking and the ability to say "nay."
  • Be like a dog biting its tail. Make both ends meet.
  • Be like a giraffe. Stick your neck out and reach higher than all the others.
  • Be like a beaver. Don't get stumped; just cut things down to size.
  • Be like a lion. Live life with pride and grab the lion's share with might and main.
  • Be like an owl. Be wise but still give a hoot.
  • Be like a duck. Keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like crazy underneath.
  • Be like the woodpecker. Just keep pecking away until you finish the job. You'll succeed by using your head.

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JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. He is the host of "A Way With Words," on KPBS, San Diego Public Radio, and a regular guest on weekend "All Things Considered." He was awarded the Golden Gavel for 2002 by Toastmasters International. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2003, Richard Lederer