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Pun, Pangrams, Palindromes, And More: Discover 14 Types Of Word Play

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Words are powerful, and a masterful use of words can change the world. At the same time, words have a fun side to them too. While the English language often seems to exist purely to confuse us, English also has a silly side that can make us laugh and smile. Are you skeptical? Well, we have dug deep into the English toy box to find a bunch of different ways we can play with words. Fair warning: those that have a low tolerance for dad jokes will want to leave immediately.

Puns

By definition, a pun is a humorous use of a word with multiple meanings or a funny use of a word as a substitute for a similar sounding word. The related terms punning, play on words, and paronomasia are often used to refer to the act of making puns. The term double entendre refers to a type of wordplay that also uses words with multiple meanings, albeit usually in a more risqué manner than a whimsical pun.

Examples of puns

Puns that involve words with multiple meanings:

 

  • The young monkeys went to the jungle gym for some exercise.
  • The investor in the bakery demanded a larger piece of the pie.
  • The art competition ended in a draw.
  • The maestro turned away from the orchestra as they told him the bad news; he couldn’t face the music.

Puns that involve similar sounding words:

 

  • She claimed the big cat was a tiger, but we knew she was lion.
  • When he asked me what the flowers should smell like, I told him to use common scents.
  • As it turned out, the runners themselves had rigged the race. It was an inside jog.
  • The negotiations over the birds went poorly; neither side would give a finch.

Tom Swifty

A Tom Swifty is a fun use of words that follows a quote, usually said by a fictional Tom, using a punny adverb. The term Tom Swifty was coined by writer Willard Espy and named after the Tom Swift series of books, which tended to use a lot of adverbs to describe dialogue.

Examples of Tom Swifties 

 

  • “I have frostbite,” Tom said coldly.
  • “I’m stocked on all the essentials,” Jess said needlessly.
  • “We feel really bad about what we did,” the children said shamefully.

Stinky Pinky

Stinky pinky, also known as stinky pinkie and by many other names, is a word game in which players try to guess a rhyming phrase based on a definition. The phrase “stinky pinky” itself is a possible answer when playing the game. It is unknown who invented the game or named it, but word games with the name “stinky pinky” can be traced back to at least the 1940s.

Stinky Pinky examples

 

  • Clue: “Stone timepiece”   Answer: Rock clock.
  • Clue: “Road pork”   Answer: Street meat.
  • Clue: “A young cat’s gloves”   Answer: Kitten’s mittens.

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Spoonerisms

A spoonerism is a, usually accidental, swapping of initial sounds of two words. The term spoonerism is named for Oxford lecturer William Archibald Spooner, a notoriously nervous speaker who often swapped the beginnings of words when he spoke publicly.

Spoonerism examples

 

  • It is tinner dime. (“dinner time”)
  • He used to work on a bail soat. (“sail boat”)
  • Happy dogs love to tag their wails. (“wag their tails”)

Kennings 

A kenning is a metaphorical or poetic phrase that is conventionally used in place of another term.

Kenning examples

 

  • gumshoe = a detective
  • pencil pusher = an office worker
  • tree-hugger = an environmentalist

Pig Latin

Pig Latin is a form of language, usually used by children, in which the first consonant or consonant sound is placed at the end of a word followed by the sound ā (written as “ay”).

Example: Ancay ouyay eakspay igpay atinlay? (“Can you speak pig Latin?”)

Palindromes

A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sentence that reads the same if read forward or backward.

Palindrome examples

Single words:

 

  • madam
  • eve
  • noon

Multiple words:

 

  • dog god
  • ward draw
  • live evil

Sentences:

 

  • A man, a plan, a canal. Panama!
  • Madam, I’m Adam!
  • Was it a cat I saw?

⚡️ Discover the longest single-word palindromes, as well as other facts about them here!

Anagrams

An anagram is a word, phrase, or sentence formed by rearranging the letters of another.

Anagram examples

 

  • porter is an anagram of report
  • attics is an anagram of static
  • pub toss is an anagram of bus stop

Antigrams

An antigram is an anagram that means the opposite of the original word or phrase it was formed from.

Examples 

 

  • on the sly is an antigram of honestly
  • arise late is an antigram of earliest
  • over fifty is an antigram of forty-five

Pangrams

A pangram is a phrase or sentence that includes every letter of the alphabet. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog is a famous example of a pangram. Some other fun examples of things that rely on alphabet-based challenges include lipograms, heterograms, tautograms, autograms, and kangaroo words.

Ambigrams

An ambigram is a word or visual design that reads the same or creates a new word or image when flipped upside down or reversed. For example, the word dollop is an example of an ambigram because it would still theoretically read as “dollop” even when turned upside down.

Acrostics

An acrostic is a set of lines or verses where certain letters spell out a hidden message.

Example: 

Curious
Agile
Territorial
Smart

Backronyms

A backronym is an existing word turned into an acronym by creating an appropriate phrase that it could serve as an acronym for.

Examples

 

  • Ghost is a backronym of “ghoul haunting our spooky town.”
  • Car is a backronym of “carrying all riders.”
  • Alligator is a backronym of “a large lizard is grinning at the other reptiles.”

Do you know the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?

Rhyming, alliteration, assonance, and consonance 

These four words all have to do with using words that have similar sounds. Most people are familiar with rhyming, which typically refers to using words with similar-sounding endings as in The big pig ate a fig. The word alliteration means to use words with similar-sounding beginnings or words that start with the same letter. Assonance means to use similar-sounding vowels anywhere in words when rhyming, whereas consonance means to use similar-sounding consonant sounds anywhere in words when making a rhyme.

Alliteration examples

 

  • She sells seashells by the sea shore.
  • Big bunnies bounded behind busy birds.
  • Ten tenants took twenty tents to Thailand.

Assonance examples

 

  • We see these bees.
  • Leave the cleaver for the skeevy beaver.
  • Doodle the Cool Poodle wants oodles of noodle strudel.

Consonance examples

 

  • Look! The crook took cook books!
  • Ross, toss the sauce to our boss Joss.
  • We heard the third nerdy bird’s words.

Ready to play? take the quiz

Now that you know a multitude of ways to have fun with English, keep these terms in your back pocket with our handy word list. You can take advantage of flashcards, spelling quizzes, and more. Then, put on your party hat and have some fun with our quiz on all these types of word play!

You can use word play in many places, such as in poetry! Advance your poetry skills with these terms.

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