Pun and pleasure
Hood’s tied trope
in Thomas Hood and nineteenth-century poetry
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This chapter describes puns and punning. It argues that Thomas Hood's puns should be viewed not as a curious tic or an embarrassing antic but as intrinsic to his perception and deployment of language. Punning is crucially, associated with social disinhibition. It carries both positive cultural memories of infant play, the pleasures of orality prior to communicative responsibility, and negative adult connotations of unstable, potentially anti-social verbal excess. The fine line that the pun walks in the nineteenth century between social and anti-social behaviour, unconscious vulgarism and highly deliberate transgression of class rules, makes it a loaded trope. Hood exploits the delicate balance between pleasure and displeasure to the full, making the 'tied trope' central to his personal high wire act. In Hood's blackly comic poems the pun acts as the 'double figure', the agent and product of grotesque combination.

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