Did you hear the one about the guy who told 10 puns to his wife, hoping at least one would make her laugh? No pun in 10 did.
Oscar Wilde once referred to puns as the lowest form of humour, but even the legendary playwright might have had a tough time putting down Pu Pu Hot Pot, a book that pulls together 100 of the most punnily-named businesses on the planet. Compiled by Ben Brusey, a London-based editor for Penguin Books, Pu Pu Hot Pot focuses primarily on restaurants and bars -- places like Thai Tanic in Washington, D.C., Tequila Mockingbird in Christchurch, New Zealand and Hindenburger ("flame-broiled and disastrously good") in Toronto.
Brusey took the title of his book from a Chinese take-out joint in Cambridge, Mass., but he could have easily gone with another of his picks, namely: a spirits store called Amy's Winehouse or a fish and chips spot named New Cod on the Block.
"Good, punny names are memorable, that's obvious," says Richard Nordquist, an English professor at Armstrong Atlantic State University, in Savannah, Ga. "But what's interesting to me is that only certain businesses — hair salons and coffee shops, for example — seem to go in for punny names in a big way, as if there's some sort of unofficial competition among them for the best play on words."
A couple of years ago, Nordquist published an article listing his 200 favourite pun-named businesses -- each more guffaw-worthy than the last. Included in the mix was a Saskatoon lumberyard called Julius Cedar, a mason who answers to William the Concreter and a furnace repair shop in England that goes by — wait for it -- Napoleon Boiler Parts.
"You rarely hear of financial outfits or Silicon Valley start-ups relying on puns in their names," Nordquist goes on, from his office in Georgia. "My simple conclusion: mom-and-pop operations enjoy puns while corporate entities do not. Another reason to dislike big business."
All this talk of puns got us thinking: surely Winnipeg must have its fair share of punny places, too. Turns out we do. And don't call us Shirley.
So, armed with a copy of The Pun Also Rises, a 2011 tome that explains how puns "revolutionized language and changed history," we recently hit the streets in search of the best witticisms and double-entendres we could find. Here's some of what we turned up, divided into a variety of categories.
RICH Marion is the owner of A Brick Shirt House, a custom T-shirt company located at 1855 Ness Avenue. His store's tag — a play on a slang-term for a person of tremendous girth — is a bit of a draw in itself, Marion says.
"We get a lot of compliments and even business because of it. I'll never get tired of hearing, 'I love your name,' " Marion says.
Marion's father-in-law, Wayne Lucas, coined A Brick Shirt House 19 years ago.
"He loved the play on words and thought it would be perfect for a screen printer," Marion says.
Here are our other nominees for best general business name. Each wins a Wash Up Doc award, in honour of a Colorado laundromat named just that.
— By the Hand of Gord, skate sharpening service based in the Eric Coy Arena
— Bin There, Dump That, trash disposal business located on St. Anne's Road
— AFishionados, tropical fish outlet, 825 Erin Street
— Pawndora's Box, pawn shop, 808 Main St.
Restaurants and bars
THE original owners of Van Goes Pizza & Chicken at 741 St. Mary's Rd. were named Van Elslander. Van Goes is a play on their surname and a well-known Dutch master who or may not have liked pepperoni.
The fun doesn't end there; Van Goes' menu features a slate of "Masterpiece" pies, like Starry Night (grilled chicken, red peppers, basil, rosemary and thyme). Also, the wall in the front foyer wouldn't look out of place in an art gallery. At least, an art gallery that serves wings and bread sticks.
"Most of the customers do get the name and almost all comment on the décor," says Elizabeth Wagner, who bought the business a year ago.
Here are our other nominees for best restaurant name. Each receives a Jonathan Livingston Seafood award, in honour of a surf and turf restaurant in Reykjavik.
— Cookatoo's, 1069 Sargent Ave.
— A Little Pizza Heaven, 120 Osborne St.
— Daily Grind Coffee, 3393 Portage Ave.
— Wok and Roll, 836 McLeod Ave.
Named for a TV show or movie
JEFF Vermette was 19 when he decided to start up a landscape business of his own. Vermette asked his brother, a graduate of Red River College's Creative Communications program, if he had any suggestions for a company name.
"He came up with Lawn 'N' Order and I loved it instantly," Vermette says, noting it's rare for him to be parked at a red light in his company vehicle, without noticing people pointing and laughing at his insignia.
Just don't ask Vermette, who has been in business for 14 years, which version of the NBC hit series Law and Order, is his fave. "Funny thing is, when I was 19, I wasn't that familiar with the show. I just thought Lawn 'N' Order was really catchy."
They're at 2929 Sturgeon Rd.
Here are the rest of our nominees for businesses loosely named for TV shows or movies. Each receives a Florist Gump award, in honour of a Washington flower and gift shop.
— Wizard of Paws, home-based pet grooming service
— Hair to Eternity, hair stylist, 101-55 Nassau St.
— Around the World in 80 Ways, travel agency, 8 Donald St.
— Baked Expectations, dessert palace, 161 Osborne St.