O Henry… That was great. I’m so glad I came. The 2012 O. Henry Pun Off World Championships in Austin last weekend was an occasion for the mother tongue to be flexed in unnatural ways, thrust and parried by the quick- witted masters and mistresses thereof. They do it jest for pun, or as they say, jest for a wordy cause.
The only spot for this fan of wordplay was on the metal folding chairs baking in the sun in the middle of the yard. Shorts had seemed like a good idea at home. About fifteen minutes into the line-up though, I began to poach. My thighs were slithering over that sweat-soaked seat, like chicken fillets in wine sauce. We didn’t mind the heat though, me and the studded girl with sea green hair next to me. We chicks in the middle, and those darn early birds in the shade, we all tittered when the puns were clever and groaned when they were terrible, loving all of it.
One of the things I had been looking forward to when I moved here was the Texan appreciation for fine repartee, for the phrase that lassos your conversation partner, bringing him to his knees, dumb as dirt. So, it seemed natural that Austin should host the Pun Off Championships. It was also fitting that the event should take place in the back yard of the O. Henry Museum. How could I resist?
You probably remember O. Henry’s short story,”Gift of the Magi“from your American Lit class, the one where the husband and wife have an unfortunate miscommunication over Christmas gifts. Age old problem, I guess. What you may not know is that O. Henry wrote and mismanaged a weekly magazine called The Rolling Stone. That’s your trivial gift from me.
In fact, some bloggers will particularly appreciate that he could not earn his living writing, but earned a fine reputation for his wit and warmth. Age old problem, I guess.
The winners, not the Punners Up (groan), were from all around the country. The winner, Jerzy Gwiazdowski from Queens New York, was relentlessly spot on with his piece on the theme of American states.(“Does this seem Austin, Tejas to you?”). From Austin, Gracie Deegan in second place told her version of the Euro crisis (“how come the Deutsche bags get left holding the bag?) Benjamin Ziek’s “cheesy” love song to his girlfriend Brie (“Havarti think we can go?) came in third.
The afternoon ended with Punslinging. This is Texas after all, home of stories where one hero walks away from the rest at the end. Dav Wallace, of Round Rock, you probably don’t wanna duke it out with him.
If, like me, you think mastery of the English language is sexy, check out the website and plan on coming next year. Gary “PunMeister” Hallocksays, “URL welcome.”
* this piece was originally posted in May 2012/