The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 8/The Art of Punning











"Ex ambigua dicta vel argutissima putantur; sed non semper in joco, sæpe etiam in gravitate versantur. — Ingeniosi enim videtur, vim verbi in aliud atque cæteri accipiant, posse ducere."Cicero, de Oratore, lib. ii, § 61, 2.

"The seeds of Punning are in the minds of all men."
Addison, Spect. N° 61.

This Treatise, first published at Dublin in 1719, was immediately reprinted at London; where it passed through five editions[1] at least, and was then pretty generally ascribed to Dr. Swift; and is called his in the Catalogue of the Library of Anthony Collins, esq.[2] It appears, however, that, in this instance, the Dean was only an assistant. The piece was written by Dr. Sheridan; and received several corrections and improvements from Dr. Swift[3], Dr. Delany, and Mr. Rochfort. See the Second Preface to this Tract.

To the Right Honourable Sir John Scrub, Bart. and Merchant, this Dedication is humbly presented by the Author.

YOUR Honour's character is too well known in the world to stand in need of a dedication; but I can tell you, that my fortune is not so well settled but I stand in need of a patron. And therefore, since I am to write a dedication, I must, for decency, proceed in the usual method.

First, I then proclaim to the world your high and illustrious birth: that you are, by the father's side, descended from the most ancient and celebrated family of Rome, the Cascas; by the mother's, from earl Percy. Some indeed have been so malicious as to say, your grandmother kill'd-her-kin: But, I think, if the authors of the report were found out, they ought to be hampered. I will allow that the world exclaims deservedly against your mother, because she is no friend to the bottle; otherwise they would deserve a firkin, as having no grounds for what they say. However, I do not think it can sully your fine and bright reputation: for the credit you gained at the battle of Hogshed, against the duke of Burgundy, who felt no sham-pain, when you forced him to sink beneath your power, and gave his whole army a brush, may in time turn to your account; for, to my knowledge, it put his highness much upon the fret. This indeed was no less racking to the king his master, who found himself gross-lee mistaken, in catching a tartar. For the whole world allowed, that you brought him a peg lower, by giving him the parting-blow, and making all his rogues in buckram to run. Not to mention your great a-gillity, though you are past your prim-age; and may you never lack-age, with a sparkling wit, and brisk imagination! May your honour also wear long, beyond the common scant-ling of human life, and constantly proceed in your musical diversions of pipe and sack-but, hunting with tarriers, &c. and may your good humour in saying, "I am-phor-a-bottle," never be lost, to the joy of all them that drink your wine for nothing, and especially of,

Your most humble servant,





Hæc nos, ab imis Pun-icorum annalibus
Prolata, longo tempore edidimus tibi.Fest.

I've rak'd the ashes of the dead, to show
Puns were in vogue five thousand years ago.


THE great and singular advantages of Punning, and the lustre it gives to conversation, are commonly so little known in the world, that scarce one man of learning in fifty, to their shame be it spoken, appears to have the least tincture of it in his discourse. This I can impute to nothing, but that it has not been reduced to a science; and indeed Cicero seemed long ago to wish for it, as we may gather from his second book De Oratore[4], where he has this remarkable passage: "Suavis autem est et vehementer sæpe utilis jocus et facetiæ cum ambiguitate—in quibus tu longè aliis meâ sententiâ, Cæsar, excellis: quo magis mihi etiam testis esse potes, aut nullam esse artem salis, aut, si qua est, eam nos tu potissimum docebis." "Punning is extremely delightful, and oftentimes very profitable; in which, as far as I can judge, Cæsar, you excel all mankind; for which reason you may inform me, whether there be any Art of Punning; or, if there be, I beseech you, above all things, to instruct me in it." So much was this great man affected with the art, and such a noble idea did he conceive of it, that he gave Cæsar the preference to all mankind, only on account of that accomplishment!

Let criticks say what they will, I will venture to affirm, that Punning, of all arts and sciences, is the most extraordinary: for all others are circumscribed by certain bounds; but this alone is found to have no limits, because to excel therein requires a more extensive knowledge of all things. A punner must be a man of the greatest natural abilities, and of the best accomplishments: his wit must be poignant and fruitful, his understanding clear and distinct, his imagination delicate and cheerful; he must have an extraordinary elevation of soul, far above all mean and low conceptions: and these must be sustained with a vivacity fit to express his ideas, with that grace and beauty, that strength and sweetness, which become sentiments so truly noble and sublime.

And now, lest I should be suspected of imposing upon my reader, I must entreat him to consider how high Plato has carried his sentiments of this art (and Plato is allowed by all men to have seen farther into Heaven than any heathen either before or since). Does not he say positively, in his Cratylus, "Jocos et Dii amant," the gods themselves love punning? Which I am apt to believe, from Homer's ἄσϐεςος γέλως unextinguished laughter; because there is no other motive could cause such continued merriment among the gods.

As to the antiquity of this art, Buxtorf proves it to be very early among the Chaldeans; which any one may see at large, who will read what he says upon the word צירן Pun, "Vocula est Chaldæis familiarissima, &c." "It is a word that is most frequently in use among the Chaldæans; who were first instructed in the methods of punning by their magi, and gained such reputation, that Ptolemæus Philopunnæus sent for six of those learned priests, to propagate their doctrine of puns in six of his principal cities; which they did with such success, that his majesty ordered, by publick edict, to have a full collection of all the puns made within his dominions for three years past; and this collection filled one large apartment of his library, having this following remarkable inscription over the door Ίατϱεῖον ψυχῆς, 'The shop of the soul's physick[5]."

Some authors, but upon what grounds is uncertain, will have Pan, who in the Æolic dialect, is called Pun, to be the author of puns, because they say, Pan being the god of universal nature, and punning free of all languages, it is highly probable that it owes its first origin, as well as name, to this god: others again attribute it to Janus, and for this reason — Janus had two faces; and of consequence they conjectured every word he spoke had a double meaning. But, however, I give little credit to these opinions, which I am apt to believe were broached in the dark and fabulous ages of the world; for I doubt, before the first Olympiad, there can be no great dependance upon profane history.

I am much more inclined to give credit to Buxtorf; nor is it improbable that Pythagoras, who spent twenty-eight years at Ægypt in his studies, brought this art, together with some arcana of philosophy, into Greece; the reason for which might be, that philosophy and punning were a mutual assistance to each other: "for, says he, puns are like so many torchlights in the head, that give the soul a very distinct view of those images, which she before seemed to grope after as if she had been imprisoned in a dungeon." From whence he looked upon puns to be so sacred, and had such a regard to them, that he left a precept to his disciples, forbidding them to eat beans, because they were called in Greek ϖύννοι. "Let not," says he, "one grain of the seed of beans be lost; but preserve and scatter them over all Greece, that both our gardens and our fields may flourish with a vegetable, which, on account of its name, not only brings an honour to our country, but, as it disperses its effluvia in the air, may also by a secret impulse prepare the soul for punning, which I esteem the first and great felicity of life."

This art being so very well recommended by so great a man, it was not long before it spread through all Greece, and at last was looked upon to be such a necessary accomplishment, that no person was admitted to a feast who was not first examined; and if he were found ignorant of Punning he was dimissed with Έϰὰς ἔςε, βέϐηλοι, "Hence, ye prophane."

If any one doubts the truth of what I say, let him consult the apophthegms of Plutarch, who, after he had passed several encomiums upon this art, gives some account of persons eminent in it; among which (to shorten my preface), I choose one of the most illustrious examples, and will entertain the courteous reader wiih the following story: "King Philip had his collar-bone broken in a battle; and his physician expecting money of him every visit, the king reproved him with a pun, saying, he had the key in his own hands." For the word ϰλέεις, in the original, signifies both a key and collar-bone[6].

We have also several puns recorded in Diogenes Laertius's "Lives of the Philosophers," and those made by the wisest and gravest men among them, even by Diogenes the cynick, who, although pretending to withstand the irresistible charms of punning, was cursed with the name of an Abhorrer, yet, in spight of all his ill-nature and affectation (for he was a tubpreacher), he made so excellent a pun, that Scaliger said, "he would rather have been author of it, than king of Navarre." The story is as follows: Didymus (not Didymus the commentator upon Homer, but a famous rake among the ladies at Athens) having taken in hand to cure a virgin's eye that was sore, had this caution given him by Diogenes, "Take care you do not corrupt your pupil." The word ϰόρα signifying both the pupil of the eye and a virgin[7].

It would be endless to produce all the authorities that might be gathered, from Diodorus Siculus, Herodotus, Proconosius, Bergæus, Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Lycophron, Pindar, Apollonius, Menander, Aristophanes, Corinthus Cous, Nonnus, Demosthenes, Euripides, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, &c.; from every one of which I should have produced some quotations, were it not that we are so unfortunate in this kingdom not to have Greek types sufficient for such an undertaking[8]; for want of which I have been put to the necessity, in the word ϰόρα, of writing an alpha for an eta.

However, I believe it will not be amiss to bring some few testimonies, to show in what great esteem the art of punning was among the most refined wits at Rome, and that in the most polite ages, as will appear from the following quotations.

Quinctilian says[9], "Urbanitas est virtus quædam, in breve dictum, verum sensu duplici, coacta, et apta ad delectandos homines, &c." Thus translated, "Punning is a virtue, comprised in a short expression, with a double meaning, and fitted to delight the ladies."

Lucretius also,

Quò magìs æternum da dictis, Diva, leporeri.
Goddess, eternal puns on me bestow.

And elsewhere,

Omnia enim lepidi magis admirantur, amántque
Germanis quæ sub verbis latitantia cernunt:
Verbaque constituunt simili fucata sonore,
Nec simili sensu, sed quæ mentita placerent.

All men of mirth and sense admire and love
Those words which like twin brothers doubtful prove;
When the same sounds a different sense disguise.
In being deceiv'd the greatest pleasure lies.

Thus Claudian,

Vocibus alternant sensus, fraudisque jocosæ,
Vim duplicem rident, lacrymosaque gaudia miscent.

From word to word th' ambiguous sense is play'd;
Laughing succeeds, and joyful tears are shed.


And Martial,

Sit mihi, Cinna, comes, salibus dictisque facetus,
Qui sapit ambiguos fundere ab ore sonos.

Cinna, give me the man, when all is done,
That wisely knows to crack a jest and pun.

Petronius likewise will tell you,

Dicta, sales, risus, urbana crepundia vocum,
Ingenii facilis quæ documenta dabunt.

Jokes, repartees, and laugh, and pun polite,
Are the true test to prove a man is right.

And Lucan:

Ille est imperium risus, qui fraude leporis
Ambigua fallens, humeros quatit usque solutis
Nexibus, ac tremuli trepidant curvamina dorsi,
Et jecur, et cordis fibras, et pundit anhelas
Pulmonis latebras

He's king of mirth, that slily cheats our sense
With pun ambiguous, pleasing in suspense;
The shoulders lax become, the bending back
Upheav'd with laughter, makes our ribs to crack:
Ev'n to the liver he can joys impart,
And play upon the fibres of the heart;
Open the chambers of the longues[10], and there
Give longer life in laughing, than in air.

But to come nearer home, and our own times; we know that France, in the late reign, was the seat of learning and policy; and what made it so, but the great encouragement the king gave punners above any other men: for it is too notorious, to quote any author for it, that Lewis le Grand gave a hundred pistoles for one single pun-motto, made upon an abbot, who died in a field, having a lily growing out of his a——;

Habe mortem præ oculis.
Abbé mort en prez au cu lis.

Nor was his bounty less to monsieur de Ferry de Lageltre the painter (though the pun and the picture turned against himself), who drew his majesty shooting, and at some distance from him another man aiming at the same fowl, who was withheld by a third person pointing at the king, with these words from his mouth,

Ne voyez vous le roy tirant?


Having now, from the best authorities, plainly proved the antiquity and excellence of the art of Punning, nothing remains but to give some general directions as to the manner how this science is to be taught.

1. Let the husband teach his wife to read it.

2. Let her be appointed to teach her children.

3. Let the head servant of the family instruct all the rest, and that every morning before the master and mistress are up.

4. The masters and misses are to repeat a rule every day, with the examples: and every visiting-day be brought up, to show the company what fine memories they have.

5. They must go ten times through the book before they be allowed to aim at a pun.

6. They must, every day of their lives, repeat six synonymous words, or words like in sound, before they be allowed to sit down to dinner. Such as,

Assent, Ascent. Alter, Altar.
A lass, Alass. A peer, Appear.
Bark, Barque. Barbery, Barberrie.

They are all to be found in metre, most laboriously compiled by the learned author of "The English School Master," printed anno 1641, London edit. p. 52.

7. If any eldest son has not a capacity to attain to this science, let him be disinherited as non compos, and the estate given to the next hopeful child.

———Si quid novisti rectius istis
Candidus imperti: si non, his utere mecum[11].

If any man can better rules impart,
I'll give him leave to do 't with all my heart!

A Paragraph of the First Preface, that was omitted; which the Reader (according to his judgment or discretion) may insert where he pleases.

THERE IS a remarkable passage in Petronius Arbiter, which plainly proves, by a royal example, that punning was a necessary ingredient to make an entertainment agreeable. The words are these, "Ingerebat nihilominus Trimalchio lentissima voce, Carpe. Ego, suspicatus ad aliquam urbanitatem toties iteratam vocem pertinere, non erubui eum qui supra me accumbebat hoc ipsum interrogare. At ille, qui sæpius ejusmodi ludos spectaverat, Vides, inquit, illum qui obsonium carpit, Carpus vocatur. Itaque quotiescunque dicit Carpe, eodem verbo et vocat et imperat." And it is farther remarkable, that every day of his life he made the same pun at dinner and supper.




LEST my modesty should be called in question, for venturing to appear in print, in an age so famous for politeness and ingenuity: I think I am bound to say this in my own defence. That these few sheets were not designed to be made publick, as being written for my own private use: but what will not the importunity of friends conquer? They were no sooner discovered in my study, but my merry friend George Rochfort, my learned acquaintance Patrick Delany, and my much honoured patron Jonathan Swift, all unanimously agreed, that I should do my own reputation and the world that justice, as to send "such a Treasure of Knowledge" (as they were pleased to express themselves) to the press. As for the work itself, I may venture to say, it is a work of time and experience, and entirely unattempted before. For which reason, I hope, the candid reader will be favourable in his judgment upon it, and consider, that all sciences in their infancy have been weak and feeble. The next age may supply where I have been defective; and the next perhaps may produce a sir Isaac in Punning. We know that logicians first spun out reason in catagories, predicaments, and enunciations; and at last they came to wind up their bottoms in syllogisms, which is the completing of that science.

The Chaldeans began the mathematicks; in which the Egyptians flourished. Then these, crossing the sea by the means of Thales the Milesian, came into Greece, where they were improved very much by Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, and Oenopides of Chios. These were followed by Briso, Antipho, Hippocrates, &c. But the excellence of the algebraic art was begun by Geber, an Arabian astronomer (whence, as is conceived, the word algebra took its rise) and was much since improved by Cardanus, Tartaglia, Clavius, Stevinus, Ghetaldus, Herigenius, Fran. Van Schooten, Florida de Beaune, &c.

But to return to the Art of Punning again; the progress and improvement of which, I hope, will be equal to the sciences I have mentioned; or to any superiour to them, if there be such: reader, I must trespass a little longer on your patience, and. tell you an old maxim, Bonum, quo communius, eo melius, "Good, the more common, the better it is." You see, I have, in imitation of the industrious bee, gathered my honey from various flowers; but yet I cannot say, without some diminution and loss to the persons from whom I have taken the examples to my rules, who are likely never to use their puns again.

And here, to avoid the imputation of ingratitude, must declare to the world, that my worthy friend Dr. R——, who is singularly remarkable for his unparallelled skill in punning, and a most industrious promoter of it, has been a very great instrument in bringing this work to light, as well by animating me to proceed in it, as by endeavouring to procure a good letter for the impression.

The favourable acceptance that my puns have met with in some private companies makes me flatter myself, that my labours therein will be candidly accepted, as they have been cordially intended to serve my native country[12].

From my Study, up one Pair of

Stairs, ill contrived Street-

wards, August 9th, 1719.



"PUNNATA dicuntur, id ipsum quod sunt, aliorum esse dicuntur, aut alio quovis modo ad aliud referuntur."

Puns, in their very nature and constitution, have a relation to something else; or, if they have not, any other reason why will serve as well.


Punning is an art of harmonious jingling upon words, which, passing in at the ears, and falling upon the diaphragma, excites a titillary motion in those parts; and this, being conveyed by the animal spirits into the muscles of the face, raises the cockles of the heart.


Punning is a virtue that most effectually promotes the end of good fellowship, which is laughing.

N. B. I design to make the most celebrated punners in these kingdoms examples to the following rules:

Rule i. The Capital Rule. He that puns, must have a head for it; that is, he must be a man of letters, of a sprightly and fine imagination, whatever men may think of his judgment; like Dr. Swift[13], who said, when a lady threw down a Cremona fiddle with a frisk of her Mantua,

"Mantua væ miseræ nimium vicina Cremonæ!"

Or, if you would have a more obvious reason, St. Dennis never made a pun after his head was cut off. Vid. Popish Legend, tom. lxxviii, p. 15000.

R. 2. The Rule of Forehead. He must have good assurance, like my lord ——, who puns in all companies.

R. 3. The Brazen Rule. He must have better assurance, like brigadier ——, who said, "That, as he was passing through a street, he made up to a country fellow who had a hare swinging on a stick over his shoulder, and, giving it a shake, asked him, Whether it was his own hair, or a periwig?" Whereas it is a notorious Oxford jest.

R. 4. The Rule of Impudence. He must have the best assurance, like Dr. ——, who, although I had in three fair combats worsted him, yet had the impudence to challenge me a fourth time.

R. 5. Any person may pun upon another man's puns about half an hour after he has made them; as Dr. —— and Mr. —— frequently do.

I remember one day I was in company with them, and, upon major —— saying, "That he would leave me the gout for a legacy;" I made answer, and told the company, "I should be sorry to have such a leg as he." They both snapped it up in their turns, and had as much applause for the pun as I had.

R. 6. The Rule of Pun upon Pun. All puns made upon the word pun are to be esteemed as so much old gold; ex. gr. Suppose two famous punsters should contend for the superiority, and a man should wittily say, "This is a Carthaginian war."

Q. How, Sir?

A. Why, sir, it is a Pun-ick war.

R. 7. The Socratick Rule is, to instruct others by way of question and answer.

Q. Who was the first drawer?

A. Potifer.

Q. Which is the seat of the spleen?

A. The hips.

Q. Who were the first bakers?

A. The Crustumenians. (Masters of the Rolls, quoth capt. Wolseley.)

Q. Where did the first hermaphrodites come from?

A. Middle-sex.

Q. What part of England has the most dogs?

A. Bark-shire.

Q. From whence came the first tumblers?

A. From Somerset.

Q. Who were the first mortgagers of land?

A. The people of Cumber-land.

Q. What men in the world are the best soldiers?

A. Your red-haired men, because they always carry their firelocks upon their shoulders.

Q. Why should a man in debt be called a diver?

A. Because he is dipped over head and ears.

Q. Why are ladies of late years well qualified for hunting?

A. Because they come with a hoop and a hollow.

Q. Why are presbyterians, independants, &c. said to be vermin?

A. Because they are in-sects.

Q. Where were the first breeches made?

A. At Thy-atyira.

Q. Who were the first gold-finders?

A. The Turditani.

Q. What part of the world is best to feed dogs in?

A. Lap-land.

Q. What prince in the world should have a boar for his arms?

A. The duke of Tusc-any.

Q. Where do the best corncutters live?

A. At Leg-horn.

Q. Why are horses with grease in their heels the best racers?

A. Because their heels are given to running.

Q. What is the reason that rats and mice are so much afraid of bass violins and fiddles?

A. Because they are strung with cat-gut.

Q. If a lawyer is a whig, and pretends to be a tory, or vice versa, why should his gown be stripped off?

A. Because he is guilty of sham-party.

Q. How many animals are concerned in the formation of the English tongue?

A. According to Buck-anan, a great number; (viz.) cat-egorical, dog-matical, crow-nological, flea-botomy, fish-ognomy, squirril-ity, rat-ification, mouseolæum, pus-ilanimity, hare-editary, ass-tronomy, jay-ography, stag-yrite, duck-tility.

Q. Where were the first hams made?

A. They were made in the temple of Jupiter Hammon, by the Hamadryades[14]; one of them (if we may depend upon Baker's Chronicle) was sent as a present to a gentleman in Ham-shire, of the family of the Ham-iltons, who immediately sent it to Ham-pton court, where it was hung up by a string in the hall, by way of rarity, whence we have the English phrase ham-strung.

Thus did great Socrates improve the mind,
By questions useful since to all mankind;
For, when the purblind soul no farther saw,
Than length of nose, into dark Nature's law,
His method clear'd up all, enlarg'd the sight,
And so he taught his pupils with day-light.

R. 8. The Rule of Interruption. Although the company be engaged in a discourse of the most serious consequence, it is, and may be lawful to interrupt them with a pun; ex. gr. Suppose them poring over a problem in the mathematicks; you may, without offence, ask them, "How go squares with them?" You may say too, "That, being too intent upon those figures, they are become cycloeid, i. e. sickly-eyed; for which they are a pack of logarithms, i. e. loggerheads." Vide R. 34.

R. 9. The Rule of Risibility. A man must be the first that laughs at his own pun; as Martial advises;

Qui studet alterius risum captare lepore,
Imprimis rictum contrahat ipse suum.

"He that would move another man to laughter
Must first begin, and t'other soon comes after."

R. 10. The Rule of Retaliation obliges you, if a man makes fifty puns, to return all, or the most of them, in the same kind. As for instance: sir W—— sent me a catalogue of Mrs. Prudence's scholars, and desired my advice as to the management of them:

Miss-Chief, the ringleader.
Miss-Advice, that spoils her face with paint.
Miss-Rule, that does every thing she is forbid.
Miss-Application, who has not done one letter in her sampler.
Miss-Belief, who cannot say the Creed yet.
Miss-Call, a perfect Billingsgate.
Miss-Fortune, that lost her grandmother's needle.
Miss-Chance, that broke her leg by romping.
Miss-Guide, that led the young misses into the dirt.
Miss-Laid, who left her porringer of flower and milk where the cat got it.
Miss-Management, that let all her stockings run out at heels for want of darning.

For which I sent the following Masters:

Master-Stroke, to whip them.
Master-Workman, to dress them.
Master-Ship, to rig them.
Master-Lie, to excuse them.
Master-Wort, to purge them.
Master-Piece, to patch them.
Master-Key, to lock them up.
Master-Peck, to mortify them.
If these can't keep your ladies quiet,
Pull down their courage with low diet.
Perhaps, dear sir, you'll think it cruel,
To feed them on plain watergruel;
But, take my word, the best of breeding,
As it is plain, requires plain feeding.

Vide Roscommon.

R. 11. The Rule of Repetition: You must never let a pun be lost, but repeat and comment upon it, till every one in the company both hears and understands it; ex. gr. Sir, I have good wine to give you; excellent pontack, which I got 'pon-tick; but, sir, we must have a little pun-talk over it; you take me, sir, you, and you, and you too, madam. — There is pun-talk upon pontack, and 'pon-tick too, hay?

R. 12. The Elementary Rule. Keep to your elements, whether you have fish, fowl, or flesh, for dinner: As for instance, Is not this fish, which Mr. Pool sent me, ex-stream sweet? I think it is main good, what say you? O' my soal, I never tasted better, and I think it ought to take plaice of any that swims: though you may carp at me for saying so, I can assure you that both Dr. Sprat and Dr. Whaley are of my mind. — This is an excellent fowl, and a fit dish for high-fliers. Pray, sir, what is your o-pinion of this wing? As for the leg, the cook ought to be clapper-clawed for not roasting it enough. But now I think of it, why should this be called the bird of Bacchus? A. Because it was dressed by your drunken Cook. Not at all. You mistake the matter. Pray is it not a grape-lover; i. e. gray plover? — Are you for any of this mutton, sir? If not, I can tell you, that you ought to be lamb-asted; for you must know that I have the best in the country. My sheep bear away the bell, and I can assure you that, all weathers, I can treat my friends with as good mutton as this: he that cannot make a meal of it, ought to have it ram-med down his throat.

R. 13. The Rule of Retrospection. By this you may recall a discourse that has been past two hours, and introduce it thus: "Sir, As you were saying two hours ago — you bought those stockings in Wales; I believe it, for they seem to be well-chose, i. e. Welsh-hose," — "Sir, You were saying, if I mistake not, an hour or two ago, that Soldiers have the speediest Justice. I agree with you in that; for they are never without red-dress."

R, 14. The Rule of Transition; which will serve to introduce any thing that has the most remote relation to the subject you are upon; ex. gr. If a man puns upon a stable, you may pun upon a corn field, a meadow, a horse-park, a smith's or sadler's shop; ex. gr. One says, "his horses are gone to rack." Then you answer, "I would turn oat the rascal that looks after them. Hay, sir! don't you think I am right? I would strike while the iron is hot; and pummel the dog to some purpose."

R. 15. The Rule of Alienation; which obliges you, when people are disputing hotly upon a subject, to pitch upon that word which gives the greatest disturbance, and to make a pun upon it. This has not only occasioned peace in private companies, but has put a stop to hot wranglings in parliaments and convocations, which otherwise would not so soon come to a resolution: for, as Horace says, Ridiculum acri, &c.; and very often it is found so. Sir —— —— once, in parliament, brought in a bill which wanted some amendment; which being denied him by the house, he frequently repeated, "That he thirsted to mend his bill." Upon which a worthy member got up, and said, "Mr. speaker, I humbly move, since that member thirsts so very much, that he may be allowed to mend his draught." This put the house into such a good humour, that his petition was granted.

R. 16. The Rule of Analogy is, when two persons pun upon different subjects after the same manner. As, says one, "I went to my shoemaker's to-day for a pair of shoes, which I bespoke a month ago; and, when all came to all, the dog bristles up to me with a thousand excuses, that I thought there would never be an end of his discourse: but, upon my calling him a rascal, he began to wax warm, and had the impudence to bid me vamp off, for he had not leisure now to talk to me, because he was going to dinner: which vexed me indeed to the very soal. Upon this, I jumped out of his shop in a great rage, and wished that the next bit he eat might be his last." Says another, "I went to a tanner's that owed me some money; and (would you think it?) the pitiful fellow was fleshed at it, insomuch that forsooth he could not hide his resentment, but told me, that it was enough to set a man born mad to be dunned so early in a morning: and as for his part, he would curry favour no longer with me, let me do my worst. Thus the unmannerly cur barked at me, &c."

R. 17. The Sophisticated Rule is, fixing upon a man a saying which he never spoke, and making a pun upon it, as, "Ay, sir, since you say he was born in Bark-shire, I say he is a son of a bitch."

R. 18. The Rule of Train, is a method of introducing puns which have been studied before; By talking of Truelock the gun-smith, his very name will provoke some person in the company to pun. Then you proceed: "Sir, I smell powder, but you are plaguy weak in your main-spring for punning; I would advise you to get a better stock, before you pretend to let off: though you may think yourself prime in this art, you are much mistaken, for a very young beginner may be a match for you. Ay, sir, you may cock and look big; but, u-pan my word, I take you to be no more than a flash; and Mrs. Skin-flint, my neighbour, shall pun with you for a pistole, if I do not lose my aim, &c."

R. 19. The Rule of Challenge. As for instance, when you have conned over in your mind a chain of puns, you surprise the best punner in company, after this manner: "Say Tan-pit, if you dare."

R. 20. The Sanguine Rule allows you to swear a man out of his pun, and prove yourself the author of it, as Dr. —— served captain ——, who was told how a slater, working at his house, fell through all the rafters from top to bottom, and that upon this accident he said, "He loved to see a man go cleverly through his work." — "That is mine, by —," said the doctor.

R. 21. The Rule of Concatenation is making a string of puns as fast as you can, that nobody else can put in a word till you have exhausted the subject; ex. gr. There was one John Appleby, a gardener, fell in love with one Mrs. Curran, for her cherry cheeks and her lily white hand; and soon after he got her consent to graft upon her stock. Mr. Link the parson was sent for, who joined the loving pair together. Mr. Rowintree and Mr. Holyoak were bride-men. The company were, my lady Joan Keel, who came-a-mile a foot to compliment them; and her maid Sally, remarkable for her carrots, that rid upon a chestnut. There was Dr. Burrage too, a constant medlar in other people's affairs. He was lately im-peach'd for murdering Don Quick-set. Mrs. Lettice Skirret and Mrs. Rose-merry were the bride-maids; the latter sang a song to oblige the company, which an arch wag called a funeral dirge: but, notwithstanding this, our friend John began to thrive upon matrimony like a twig in a bush. I forgot to tell you that the tailor had so much cabbage out of the wedding suit, there was none at all for supper.

R. 22. The Rule of Inoculating is, when a person makes an excellent pun, and you immediately fix another upon it; as dean —— one day said to a gentleman, who had a very little bob wig, "Sir, the dam of your wig is a whisker;" upon which I came in very à propos, and said, "Sir, that cannot be, for it is but an ear-wig."

R. 23. The Rule of Desertion allows you to bring a man into a pun, and leave him to work it out: as, suppose you should hear a man say the word incomparable —— Then you proceed, in-com-in-com-par-par-rable-rable —— So let the other make his best of it.

R. 24. The Salick Rule is a pretence to a jumping of wits: that is, when a man has made a good pun, the other swears with a pun he was just coming out with it. One night, I remember, Mr. —— served Dr.——— so. The former saying over a bottle, "Will, I am for my mistress here." "How so?" says Tom. "Why, I am for Wine-if-red." "By this crooked stick[15]," said Tom, "I was coming out with it."

R. 25. The Etymological Rule is when a man hunts a pun through every letter and syllable of a word: as for example, I am asked, "What is the best word to spend an evening with?" I answer, "Potatoes; for there is po—pot—pota—potat—potatoe, and the reverse sot-a-top."

R. 26. The Rule of Mortification is when a man having got the thanks and laugh of a company for a good pun, an enemy to the art swears he read it in "Cambridge Jests." This is such an inversion of it, that I think I may be allowed to make examples of these kind of people in verse:

Thus puppies, that adore the dark,
Against bright Cynthia howl and bark;
Although the Regent of the Night,
Like us, is gay with borrow'd light.

R. 27. The Professionary Rule[16] is, to frame a story, and swear you were present at an event where every man talked in his own calling; ex. gr. Major ——— swears, he was present at the seizing of a pick-pocket by a great rabble in Smithfield; and that he heard

A Tailor say, "Send the dog to Hell."
The Cook, "Let me be at him, I'll baste him."
The Joiner, "It is plain the dog was caught in the fact; I saw him."
The Blacksmith, "He is a fine spark indeed!"
The Butcher, "Knock down the shambling cur."
The Glazier, "Make the light shine through him."
The Bookseller, "Bind him over."
The Sadler, "Pummel him."
The Farmer, "Thrash the dog."
A Popish Priest going by, "I'll make the Devil fly out of him."

R. 28. The Brazen-head Rule is when a Punster stands his ground against a whole company, though there is not one to side with him, to the utter destruction of all conversation but his own. As for instance — says one, "I hate a pun." — Then he, "When a pun is meant, is it a punishment?" — "Deuce take your quibbling!" — "Sir, I will not bate you an ace; cinque me if I do, and I'll make you know that I am a sice above you." — "This fellow cannot talk out of his element." — "To divert you, was all I meant."

R. 29. The Hypothetick Rule[17] is, when you suppose things hardly consistent to be united for the sake of a pun: as for instance — suppose a person in the pillory had received a full discharge of eggs upon every part of his face but the handle of it; why would he make the longest verses in the world? Ans. Versos Alexandrinos, i.e. All-eggs-and-dry-nose.

R. 30. The Rule of Naturalization is, that punning is free of all languages: as, for the Latin Romanos, you may say "Roman nose" — Temeraria, "Tom, where are you?" —— Oxoniæ prospectus, "Pox on you, pray speak to us." For the French, quelque chose, you may say in English "kick shoes." When one says of a thief, "I wish he was transported;" answer, "he is already fur enough." Dr. Swift made an excellent advantage of this rule one night: when a certain peevish gentleman in his company had lost his spectacles, he bid him "have a good heart; for, if it continued raining all night, he would find them in the morning." — "Pray how so?" — "Why, sir,

"Nocte pluit tota, redeunt spectacula mane."

"R. 31. The Rule of Random. When a man speaks any thing that comes uppermost, and some good pun-finder discovers what he never meant in it; then he is to say, "You have hit it!" As major ——— did: complaining that he staid at home by reason of an issue in a leg, which was just beginning to run, he was answered by Mr. ——, "I wonder that you should be confined, who have such running legs." The Major replied, "You have hit it; for I meant that."

R. 32. The Rule of Scandal. Never to speak well of another Punster; ex. gr. "Who, he! Lord, sir, he has not sense enough to play at crambo;" or, "He does not know the meaning of synonymous words;" or, "He never rose so high as a conundrum or a carrywhichit."

R. 33. The Rule of Catch is, when you hear a man conning a pun softly to himself, to whip it out of his mouth, and pass it upon the company for your own: as for instance; Mustard happened to be mentioned in company where I was; and a gentleman, with his eyes fixed upon the ceiling, was at Mus—mus, sinapi — snap eye — bite nose — One in company, overhearing him, bit him, and snapped it up; and said, "Mustard is the stoutest seed in the world, for it takes the greatest men by the nose."

R. 34. The Golden Rule allows you to change one syllable for another; by this, you may either lop off, insert, or add to a word; ex. gr.

Church, — Kirk,
For Bangor, — Clangor.
Presbyter, — Has-biter, &c.

This Rule is of such consequence, that a man was once tried for his life by it. The case was thus: A certain man was brought before a judge of assize, for murder; his lordship asked his name, and, being answered Spillman, the judge said, "Take away Sp, and his name is Ill-man; put K to it, and it is Kill-man: away with him, gaoler; his very name has hanged him." This 34th Rule, on this occasion, became a rule of court, and was so well liked, that a justice of peace, who shall be nameless, applied every tittle of it to a man brought to him upon the same account, after this manner: "Come, sir, I conjure you, as I am one of his majesty's justices of the peace, to tell me your name." — "My name, an't please you, is Watson." — "O ho, sir! Watson! mighty well! Take away Sp from it, and it is Ill-man, and put K to it, and it is Kill-man: away with him, constable; his very name will hang him."

Let us now consider a new case; as for instance, "The Church of England as by Law established." Put a T before it, and it is Test-ablished; take away the Test, and put in o, and it is A-bolished.

How much was the late ingenious author of Parson Alberoni obliged to it, in that very natural story which he framed concerning the Preacher; where he tells you, one of the congregation called the Minister an Humbassandor for an Ambassador[18].

Give me leave, courteous reader, to recommend to your perusal and practice this most excellent Rule, which is of such universal use and advantage to the learned world, that the most valuable discoveries, both as to antiquities and etymologies, are made by it; nay, farther, I will venture to say, that all words which are introduced to enrich and make a language copious, beautiful, and harmonious, arise chiefly from this Rule. Let any man but consult Bentley's Horace, and he will see what useful discoveries that very learned Gentleman has made by the help of this Rule; or indeed poor Horace would have lain under the eternal reproach of making "a fox eat oats, had not the learned doctor, with great judgment and penetration, found out nitedula to be a blunder of the librarians for vulpecula; which nitedula, the doctor says, signifies a grass-mouse, and this clears up the whole matter, because it makes the story hang well together: for all the world knows, that weazles have a most tender regard and affection to grass-mice, whereas they hate foxes as they do firebrands. In short, all various lections are to be attributed to this Rule: so are all the Greek dialects; or Homer would have wanted the sonorous beauty of his oio's. But the greatest and best masters of this Rule, without dispute, were the Dorians, who made nothing of saying tin for soi, tenos for ekeinos, surisdomes for surizomen, &c. From this too we have our quasis in Lexicons. Was it not by Rule the 34th, that the Samaritan, Chaldee, Æthiopick, Syriac, Arabick, and Persian languages were formed from the original Hebrew? for which I appeal to the Polyglott. And among our modern languages, are not the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, derived and formed from the Latin by the same power? How much poets have been obliged to it, we need no farther proof than the figures prothesis, epenthesis, apocope, paragoge, and ellipsis, trimming and fitting of words to make them more agreeable to our ears, Dionysius Halicarnassensis has taken notice of, in his Book "De Compositione Vocum," where he pleasantly compares your polite reformers of words to masons with hammers, who break off rugged corners of stones, that they may become more even and firm in their places.

But, after all, give me leave to lament, that I cannot have the honour of being the sole inventor of this incomparable Rule: though I solemnly protest, upon the word of an author (if an author may have credit), that I never had the least hint toward it, any more than the ladies letters and young childrens pronunciation, till a year after I had proposed this Rule to Dr. ——, who was an excellent judge of the advantage it might be to the publick; when, to my great surprise, tumbling over the third tome of Alstedius, p. 71, right loth to believe my eyes, I met with the following passage: "Ambigua multum faciunt ad hanc rem, cujusmodi exempla plurima reperiuntur apud Plautum, qui in ambiguis crebro ludit. Joci captantur ex permutatione syllabarum & vocum, ut pro Decretum, Discretum; pro Medicus, Mendicus & Merdicus: pro Polycarpus, Polycopros. Item ex Syllabarum ellipsi, ut ait Althusius, cap. iii, civil, convers. pro Casimirus, Frus.; pro Marcus, Arcus; pro Vinosus, Osus: pro Sacerdotium, Otium. Sic, additione literæ, pro Urbanus, Turbanus. Which exactly corresponded to every branch and circumstance of my Rule. Then, indeed, I could not avoid breaking out into the following exclamations, and that after a most pathetick manner: "Wretched Tom Pun-Sibi! Wretched indeed! Are all thy nocturnal lucubrations come to this? Must another, for being a hundred years before thee in the world, run away with the glory of thy own invention? It is true, he must. Happy Alstedius! who, I thought, would have stood me in all-stead, upon consulting thy method of joking! All's tedious to me now, since thou hast robbed me of that honour which would have set me above all writers of the present age. And why not happy Tom Pun-sibi? did we not jump together like true wits? But, alas! thou art on the safest side of the bush; my credit being liable to the suspicion of the world, because you wrote before me. Ill-natured criticks, in spite of all my protestations, will condemn me, right or wrong, for a plagiary. Henceforward never write any thing of thy own; but pillage and trespass upon all that ever wrote before thee; search among dust and moths for things new to the learned. Farewell, Study; from this moment I abandon thee: for, wherever I can get a paragraph upon any subject whatsoever ready done to my hand, my head shall have no farther trouble than to see it fairly transcribed!" — And this method, I hope, will help me to swell out the Second Part of this work.



THE Second Part of this Work will be published, with all convenient expedition: to which will be added, A small Treatise of Conundrums, Carriwhichits, and Longe-petites; together with the Winter-fire's Diversion: The Art of making Rebuses: The Antiquity of Hoop-petticoats, proved from Adam's two Daughters, Calmana and Delbora, &c. &c. &c.

E. C U R L L,


THERE has not, as yet, been any second part of this work published, nor do I believe was ever intended. But my friend Anthony Hammond, esq., upon reading it over, sent me examples to three more rules of his own making, viz.

Rule 35. The Rule of Blunder is, when any one under the notion of a mistake, makes a pun which he may take notice of himself if the company do not; ex. gr.

Captain J—— said to his kinsman, who was going to be married, "O, cousin, I hear you are about to halter your condition." The company not taking notice of it; the captain corrected himself, "alter," says he, "I should have said."

Rule 36. The Rule of Sound is when the pun consists in the sound of the words only, without any relation to the thing signified; ex. gr.

He who translated that ingenious posy of a wedding ring, "Qui dedit, se dedit;" when "he did it, she did it."

Or, like that of the country parson, whom a Roundhead colonel thought to puzzle by asking him whether he could rhyme to "hydrops, nocthycorax, thorax, et mascula vervex." He immediately answered, "land tax, and army tax, excise, and general Fairfax."

Rule 37. The Rule of Equivocation is the innocent use of this Jesuitical Art; ex. gr.

As the famous Daniel Purcell, a nonjuror, was dabbling along the streets in the dirt and rain, and a friend of his passing by asked him why he did not take a coach — " Alas," says he, "this is not a reign for me to take a coach in."

Another time, one of Daniel's friends telling him that when king George landed at Greenwich, he heard, he had a full view of him, for that he stood next to him at his coming ashore. Therefore, says he, you must know him. "Ay," replied Daniel, "though I know him very well, yet I can't swear to him."

Lastly, Daniel knocking on a 30th of January, at the Crown Tavern door in the Strand, was answered by the drawer, through the wicket, that he could not let him in, because it was Fast day, and his master and mistress were gone to church. "D——n your master and mistress," says he, "can't they be content to fast themselves, but they must make their doors fast?"

The learned Mr. Charles Barnard, sergeant surgeon to queen Anne, being very severe upon parsons having pluralities: A reverend and worthy divine heard him a good while with patience; but at length took him up with this question, "Why do you, Mr. sergeant Barnard, rail thus at pluralities, who have always so many sine-cures upon your own hands?"

Dr. Lloyd[19], bishop of Worcester, so eminent for his prophecies, when by his solicitation and compliance at court he got removed from a poor Welsh bishoprick to a rich English one, a reverend dean of the church said, "That he found his brother Lloyd spelt Prophet with an f."

  1. In the fifth edition, the examples (xxxv—xxxvii) first appeared. They were added by Anthony Hammond, esq., a commissioner of the navy; a good speaker in parliament, and well known by the name of "silver tongued Hammond," given to him by lord Bolingbroke. He was a man of wit; but wanted conduct: and had, if we may credit lord Chesterfield, "all the senses but common sense." He was the father of that elegant writer, whose "Love Elegies" breathe the true spirit of Tibullus.
  2. This Library was sold by auction, by T. Ballard, in 1730-31. Mr. Collins was particularly curious, in adding the name of the Author to every anonymous book in his collection: and when we add, that the Catalogue of his Library was drawn up by Dr. Sykes; whose skill and accuracy in those matters are well known; it will be deemed, in most cases, no inconsiderable voucher.
  3. The whole treatise is written, it must be acknowledged, in the strain of humour peculiar to Swift; yet, without being too fastidious, we cannot but lament such a misapplication of literary ingenuity.
  4. Lib. ii, § liv.
  5. Vide Joseph. Bengor. Chronic. in Edit. Georg. Homedidæ. Seri m Godoliæ Tradit. Hebraic. Corpus Paradoseon Titulo Megill. c. i, § 8. Chronic. Samarit. Abulphetachi. Megillat. Taanit.
  6. Vide Plut. Apophth. p. 177.
  7. See Laërtius.
  8. Though it is no uncommon thing for a country printer to be without Greek types, this could scarcely be a serious complaint at Dublin in 1719.
  9. Institut. Orator. lib. vi. p. 265.
  10. Potius lungs, as a Dutch commentator would observe.
  11. Hor. Ep. I, i, 67.
  12. Dr. Sheridan (who is mentioned as author of "The Art of Punning," by Mrs. Pilkington, vol. 1. p. 64,) had a large collection of bon mots and conts à rire; which dean Swift endeavoured, but without effect, to persuade him to publish.
    See his letter to Dr. Sheridan, March 27, 1733, vol. XIII, p. 44. After the publication of "The Art of Punning," Dr. Sheridan was attacked, by an anonymous writer[*], in a poem called, "Tom Pun-sibi metamorphosed, or the Giber gibed;" which he answered in a letter "To the Author of Tom Pun-sibi metamorphosed." And see the two poems here printed, pp. 427—429.

    * ^ Dr. Tisdell, called Black Tisdell.

  13. He greatly excelled in punning; a talent which, he said, no man affected to despise, but those that were without it. He recorded the puns of several of his friends; wrote a ballad, full of puns, on the Westminster election (of which we have not been able to obtain a copy); and has given three humorous essays in that important science, vol. XVI, pp. 244, 249, 280.
  14. Women of Calabria, who dealt in bacon; not nymphs of the groves, as represented by mistaken Antiquity. See vol. XVI. p. 286.
  15. Cane-a-wry; i. e. Canary.
  16. An improvement on this Rule, which Dr. Swift has adopted in his "Full and true Account of Wood's Procession to the Gallows," attracted the following warm applause of the noble Author of the Remarks. "I have said so much in one of my former letters of the cause which gave rise to them [the Drapier's Letters], and of the effect which they had upon the nation, that I need say no more in this place, than to recommend them to your perusal, for the style and conduct of their manner: but, lest they may appear too grave to so young a man, and one who is so little interested in the present, and much less in the past affairs of Ireland, you will find a paper at the end of them that will excite your risibility, or I am mistaken. — The whole is a piece of ridicule too powerful for the strongest gravity to withstand." Orrery's Remarks, p. 126 — Yet what at last is this merry-making machine? Why the author describes the several artificers attending W. Wood (represented by a log of timber) to the gallows, and each of them expressing his resentment in the terms of his calling: the cook will baste him; the books-seller will turn over a new leaf with him; the tailor will sit on his skirts. His lordship then leads up the laugh, with Risum teneatis, amici? If he did not, we should want such a note as the prudent parson put to the pathetick part of his funeral sermon. Here pull out your handkerchief, and weep. Every apprentice, who has not sense enough to learn his art, is soon able to apply the terms of it to this kind of banter and ridicule. And though I blame not the Draper for falling into it, as it was characteristick of the persons he describes, and suited to the taste of those for whom he wrote, yet I own I am too phlegmatick to shake my sides at it. Bowyer.
  17. Improved by Dr. Swift into "A Discourse to prove the Antiquity of the English Tongue." See vol. XVI, p. 280.
  18. The story here alluded to is told in a pamphlet, entitled, "A modest Apology for Parson Alberoni, Governor to King Philip, a Minor, and universal Curate of the whole Spanish Monarchy, &c. By Thomas Gordon, Esq. 1719;" and is as follows: "There is, in a certain diocese in this nation, a living worth about six hundred pounds a year. This, and two or three more preferments, maintain the doctor in becoming ease and corpulency. He keeps a chariot in town, and a journeyman in the country; and his curate and his coach-horses are his equal drudges, saving that the four-legged cattle are better fed, and have sleeker cassocks, than his spiritual drayhorse. The doctor goes down once a year, to sheer his flock, and fill his pockets, or, in other words, to receive the wages of his embassy; and then, sometimes in an afternoon, if his belly do not happen to be too full, he vouchsafes to mount the pulpit, and to instruct his people in the greatness of his character and dullness. This composes the whole parish to rest; but the doctor one day denouncing himself the Lord's Ambassador with greater fire and loudness than could have been reasonably expected from him, it roused a clown of the congregation, who waked his next neighbour, with, 'Dost hear, Tom, dost hear?' — 'Ay,' says Tom, yawning, 'what does he say?' — 'Say?' answered the other; 'he says a plaguy lie, to be sure; he says as how he is my Lord's Humbassandor; but I think he is more rather the Lord's Receiver General, for he never comes but to take money.' Six hundred pounds a year is, modestly speaking, a competent fee for lulling the largest congregation in England asleep once in a twelvemonth. Such tithes are the price of napping; and such mighty odds there are between a curtain lecture and a cushion lecture." See the collection of Tracts by Gordon and Trenchard, vol. I, p. 130. — Mr. Gordon was a Scotchman, and came to London very young in order to seek his fortune. He was soon taken notice of by Mr. Trenchard, and, in conjunction with him, wrote Cato's Letters, and many political and other Pamphlets. On Mr. Trenchard's death, he married his widow; and some time after received a great addition to his fortune, by a very considerable bequest made to him by the will of a country physician, to whom he was only known by his writings. He was many years a writer in defence of the measures of sir Robert Walpole, afterward lord Orford. To this minister he dedicated his Translation of Tacitus, and was by him appointed one of the Commissioners of the Wine Licence Office, a place which he held at the time of his death, which happened July 28, 1750.
  19. See the Journal to Stella, July 1, 1712. — Dr. William Lloyd, successively bishop of St. Asaph, of Coventry and Litchfield, and of Worcester, was born Aug. 18, 1627; and died Aug. 30, 1717, in the 91st year of his age, "without losing the use of his understanding," says the writer of his article in the "Biographia Britannica." Bishop Burnet tells us, "he was the most indefatigable in his industry, and the most judicious in his observations, of any he knew, and one of the greatest masters of style then living."