How to pun responsibly at Christmas

Estimated reading time
3 minutes
19th December 2019
Author: Natasha Keary
Posted in: Content production

It’s the most pun-derful time of the year. And probably one of the only times yule get away with such truly elf-ful puns. Because let’s be honest, the festive season just wouldn’t be the same without a collective sigh at cracker jokes and Brussel sprout puns.

Some of the best Christmas marketing is built around puns. Whether it’s getting creative with Mariah Carey lyrics or using snow-based wordplay, brands from Costa to Innocent use puns to add festive cheer to their marketing. Let’s take a look at the steps to punning responsibly at Christmas, and some tips on how you can add them to your newsletter or social media. 

All you have to do next is sit back and watch as your audience cringe and laugh in equal measures. 

Step one: know the psychology 

Excited elfPuns have an interesting effect on the brain. Cognitive scientists and psychologists were fascinated by the mixed reaction to the joke, so much so that they devoted a lot of their time to figuring out what goes on in our minds when someone tells us a pun. 

The left and right hemispheres of the brain have to work together to decipher this type of humor. Researchers at the University of Windsor in Ontario tested which side of the brain is more dominant when it comes to understanding puns. Psychology professor Lori Buchanan concluded that “the left hemisphere is the linguistic hemisphere, so it’s the one that processes most of the language aspects of the pun, with the right hemisphere kicking in a bit later” to highlight a word’s double meaning. This is called a “surprise reinterpretation”.

As to why puns are simultaneously loved and hated by their audience, this has no explanation. The reaction has, however, been consistent across the ages. After Mercutio is stabbed in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he says “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man”. Such a line was equally met with groans and laughter in Shakespeare’s times.

Step two: choose your type 

Elf in lift pressing all buttons

Ready to start punning? Time to choose your type. Feel free to mix and match – you could schedule a different type of pun for your social channels per week, or send out a different one on each Christmas card you send. 

Homophonic pun
“Oh deer”
The classic. Two words that sound similar, switched with each other for hours of fun. 

Compound pun
“Icy people are shocked that Christmas has come so quickly, but it’s been on the cards for months.”
Two in one. This one takes some advanced thinking to get two puns going at the same time – but it’s completely worth it. 

Homographic pun
“Santa’s elves are just a bunch of subordinate Clauses”
Two words spelled exactly the same way, with two different meanings. These work particularly well when written down, and are especially good for email subject lines. 

Visual pun

I'm the ghost of Christmas present with illustration of ghost present cartoon

Via 31.media.tumblr.com

Puns illustrated with a picture. Genius – and perfect for social media.

Step three: make your puns topical

Festive marketing is all about catching trends and keeping up with the lastest pun opportunities.  A perfect way to do this is by punning your way into a Christmas song – or any song for that matter.

Here’s how Costa did it:

mince pies

And here’s how Innocent based their Christmas card around the lyrics to that song we’re all fairly familiar with now: 

All I want for Christmas is you, or a yacht.

And how Capterra maximized on a Christmas film we all know inside-out:

Buddy the B2B marketer what's your favorite CTA color

A wrap-up 

bye

Don’t let this festive time of year go by without jazzing up your marketing with a good pun or two. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:

If you don’t like my Christmas puns, you’re rude-olph.
I’ll have the final sleigh on this one.
Snow way will there be a white Christmas this year.
It’s a tree-mendous time to go Christmas shopping.

Remember to get punny in your content by:

  • Knowing your audience, and choosing a pun type accordingly 
  • Sprinkling your puns across email subject lines, newsletters, and social media
  • Keeping your puns on-trend with popular festive songs and films
  • Being ready to impress everyone at the Christmas party with your pun psychology knowledge