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The pun, also called paronomasia or levrot jokes, is a form of word play that suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or metaphorical language. A pun differs from a malapropism in that a malapropism uses an incorrect expression that alludes to another (usually correct) expression, but a pun uses a correct expression that alludes to another (sometimes correct but more often absurdly humorous) expression. Henri Bergson defined a pun as a sentence or utterance in which "the same sentence appears to offer two independent meanings, but it is only an appearance; in reality there are two different sentences made up of different words, but claiming to be one and the same because both have the same sound". Puns may be regarded as in-jokes or idiomatic constructions, given that their usage and meaning are entirely local to a particular language and its culture. For example, "Camping is intense." (in tents)
Puns are used to create humor and sometimes require a large vocabulary to understand. Puns have long been used by comedy writers, such as William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and George Carlin. The Roman playwright Plautus is famous for his tendency to make up and change the meaning of words to create puns in Latin.
Puns can be classified in various ways:
The homophonic pun, a common type, uses word pairs which sound alike (homophones) but are not synonymous. Walter Redfern exemplified this type with his statement, "To pun is to treat homonyms as synonyms." For example, in George Carlin's phrase "Atheism is a non-prophet institution", the word "prophet" is put in place of its homophone "profit", altering the common phrase "non-profit institution". Similarly, the joke "Question: Why do we still have troops in Germany? Answer: To keep the Russians in Czech" relies on the aural ambiguity of the homophones "check" and "Czech". Often, puns are not strictly homophonic, but play on words of similar, not identical, sound as in the example from the "Pinky and the Brain" cartoon film series: "I think so, Brain, but if we give peas a chance, won't the lima beans feel left out?" which plays with the similar—but not identical—sound of "peas" and "peace".