What’s funny about puns?

I just got back from a week in Malibu, and along with that, I’m recovering from a pretty severe case of olympic fever.  What have I learned?  Simply this: some puns are funnier than others, and only partially because some work better orally than they do in writing.  For instance, consider the following three observations.

Meddling:
If I was going to compete in the Olympics, I would medal in other people’s business.

Schelling:
When some people visit the beach, they go shelling.  I’m more open than that.  When I visit the beach, I go Heidegger.

Booooo:
I think the name “Malibu” comes from a Chumash word for the aural intensity of the surf there (i.e., loud waves), but “Malibu” sounds too negative to signify that sacred sound.  A more positive name would be Malihooray, or better yet, Benihooray.

What can we conclude from this?  At the very least, we can probably agree that a lot of puns feel like bad jokes, but maybe the point of puns is less about being funny and more about performing some kind of phonosemantic alchemy, like Jesus using the “Peter is a rock (petros)” pun to enact the institution of his Church.

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