Cat Got Your Tongue?

Beware o' the CatJunie B. Jones is a clever and friendly five- or six-year old girl featured as the main character in a series of children’s books. They are very entertaining and playful. While reading  Junie B. Jone and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying  to my daughter the other night, Junie’s grandma asks Junie if the cat’s got her tongue. The phrase, typically posed as a question, is a way of asking “Why aren’t you answering? Why are you speaking?” in calling out the suspiciousness of someone’s silence. As a kindergartner, Junie does not understand what this idiom means. Of course, it caused me to ask where the expression came from. Read the rest of this entry »

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Games People Play

Tic Tac ToePlaying games is a big activity for my family as I imagine it is for most that have younger children. The other day, we were at a restaurant that used large sheets of white butcher paper for tablecloths and provided crayons for your coloring pleasure. Those set-ups usually call for at least a few rounds of Tic Tac Toe, and this time was no exception. It made me wonder if there was a story behind this fun-to-say  name. Read the rest of this entry »

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I Salute You With My Starboard Hand

ShipwreckBack on the Fourth of July, my family spent a good part of the day with friends on Coronado Island, which is really a peninsula attached to San Diego. The dad of the family we visit there is a retired Navy SEAL captain. As we were getting ready to head home, I suggested to my son that he salute the captain. This got us talking about the origin of the modern salute. There are various thoughts about this, with one suggesting dating back to late Roman times. Assassinations were all too common, so Read the rest of this entry »

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Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana*

Bunch o' Fruit

Why is an orange called an “orange” when a banana isn’t called a “yellow”?

My 6-year-old boy/girl twins are a great source for “why” questions. The other night, I was reading my daughter “Amelia Bedilia’s First Apple Pie,” by Herman Parish. It’s a charming book, and right up my alley as it’s filled with silly word play. For example, rather than go to the supermarket for apples, Granddad tells Amelia they’re going to the farmers’ market to which Amelia asks, “What? Do we need to buy a farmer?” While they are baking, Grandma asks Amelia to get her a little flour. From the little plant on the windowsill, Amelia picks a small bloom.

Anyway, the variety of apple Grandma wants for the pie is Granny Smith. My daughter asked why they named them Granny Smith. I didn’t know the reason, but promised to find out. The answer: the cultivar originated in Australia in 1868 and is named after the woman who propagated it, Maria Ann “Granny” Smith.

That got me thinking about the names of fruit in general. For example, why is an apple called an apple? Read the rest of this entry »

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Welcome to Pun With Words

DictionaryI’ve started this blog as part of a class I’m taking — Marketing Via New Media — at UCSD. What you will find here is a discussion of all sorts of things relating to words.

Out of everything in this world I could write about, why this topic? I have always loved playing with words, whether it was sharing riddles and puns when I was a kid, finding out why something is called what it is, learning the origin of words and idioms, or discovering the meaning of a person’s name.

As a marketing communications professional, I am always intrigued by what’s behind a brand or product name choice and I have an especially deep appreciation for the potential impact of a single word choice.

And I am sure it will not surprise you to learn that crossword puzzles and other word games rank among my favorite passtimes.

So these are the very types of things I plan to bring to you here. I hope that you will learn something interesting along the way, but most of all, I hope that you will have some fun.

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