The pun has for centuries not commanded much respect, laments the BBC’s Sally Davies.
At one point though, pre-Enlightenment, puns may not have been derided as uncontrollable, irritating tics that elicit more groans than laughs. Instead, the Roman orators Cicero and Quintilian believed that punning was a sign of intellectual suppleness and rhetorical skill. For that matter, Jesus himself liked to turn a good pun or two.
Moreover, puns may play an important role in our psyches, such as by displaying our adaptive tendency toward competitiveness. On the other hand, Sigmund Freud thought of puns as “psychic release-valves” that alleviated the stress of repressing distasteful truths.
Davies would like to see the pun make a comeback, and she thinks the web could restore the pun’s reputation. “The efflorescence of punnery on social networking sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit, which bulge with the fruits of meme generators, suggests that puns have become acceptable as part of the online conversation,” Davies writes. “It may be only a matter of time until the pun rises once again.”