On My Family and Their Punning Ways -The Toast

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Dear Toast Readers, before this relationship we have goes further than you reading the title and my name, there’s something you have to know about me. It’s very sad, and I want you to prepare yourself: It’s about my family. Look, it’s a tragic fact of biology – some genes just don’t mix right and you get conditions endemic to a whole set of otherwise nice people. In my family, however, it’s a little worse than with most. You know how in Twilight, all the Native Americans turn into wolves?* It’s a little like that.

Except drastically worse.

We’re punners.

Sometimes I blame my father, who has been known to run three blocks in pursuit of a good** giraffe pun (i.e. – Giraffes are such experts at arts and crafts. Especially basket-weaving and gi-raffia.) But the truth is, the great man himself is in no better control of these terrible circumstances than is Jacob from Twilight***

Well, okay. We do get to keep our clothes on, at least. Also, very few of us are fucking morons.

If you don’t believe this is a serious condition, then, I’m sorry, but you’re a judgmental asshole basing things only on your own experience, which sounds to me like it’s blissfully pun-free.

“Sure,” you say. “Punning is a horrible thing. But in my family there is alcoholism and a history of split personalities. In fact, we have nine alcoholics in my family of three.”

Nope. This is worse.

You still don’t believe me? Well, I didn’t want to do this to you, but I’m tired of this heartbreaking condition being overlooked. I see the only way I can convince you that the Ellis family inheritance, much like the dreaded Hapsburg chin,**** is the worst genetic trait a family of royalty***** could have. So I offer you an accurate representation of of a conversation on what would otherwise be a fairly pleasant holiday. Let’s take last year’s Thanksgiving, perhaps:


Would anyone like more stuffing?


No thanks, I’m stuffed.


I bet your argument will crumble by dessert. 


Yes, but by then he’ll be pie-eyed.


I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.


Can I have a roll?


Yep, right there next to the rocks.


(with resigned sadness)

Here, let me just roll this over to you.


Do we have any sparkling water, or just flat?


No, all our water is unfortunately sharp******


Well, I guess that’s natural.


Can I have the gravy? 


Sure, but you don’t have to be so serious about it.


Does anyone need more wine?


Sure, I’ll take some. 


Well waa, waaaa, waaaaaaa. Was that enough?


God help me.


Gosh, you already want more helpings?


He just can’t help himself.


Mmmmm, these potatoes au gratin are delicious. 


Oh good, I was worried they’d be g’rotten.


Oh, stop being such a bunch of turkeys.

If you think I’m kidding – well, I’m not kidding, and I offer this as proof: I thought up every one of those puns in approximately 90 seconds, and believe me when I say I am far from the best/worst of my family.

If you still don’t understand the problem, that’s because you’ve just viewed the control side of the pun experiment. Everyone in my family is used to this; we’ve grown up in the warm glow of puns rewarded with chuckles or even groans if we’re really lucky. And then often pie. The real trouble starts when you put us out in actual human society without our den-mates. For example, here’s how that conversation would go with my ex-in laws, who were deeply lacking in a pun gene.


Does anyone need more wine?


Sure, thanks.


Well, waaaaa waa waaaa.



Wine…you know, whine…wine like this,

and then I made a whiny sound?

You know what, never mind, I’m keeping this bottle. 

EX MOTHER-IN-LAW (to her son)

I’m so glad this is just a re-enactment and you divorced this woman in real life.

This is the problem with genetic punning. It is something that flourishes in a dark confined space, surrounded by its brood mates. The moment it goes outside, it quickly turns you into a blind mole popping out of its hole into the center of Times Square. You get your confused looks, your socially mortified looks, your scream-and-throw-garbage-at-you looks.

You are 100% medically blind to the idea that there are normal ways to respond to questions that do not involve wordplay.

And let me tell you, it’s all pun and games until somebody loses both eyes.


*I hate these godawful books and that’s the last time you’ll find me referencing them.

**There are no good giraffe puns. Even about necking.

***I meant the last Twilight reference except for now.

****History is fun!

*****Not real royalty, of course. Pun royalty. Like the Borgias, who were never any fun at a party.

*******These are musical puns. You know how with some terrible illnesses, there are telltale signs that ALWAYS show up first? In our particular multi-generational cult of punning, that first terrible sign is be musical puns. You could call them our signature. It gets us in treble frequently.

Jessica Ellis is an award-winning screenwriter who has never written anything you've seen. You can find her hawking her wares like a Dickensian fishwife on Twitter at @baddestmamajama.

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