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The phrase "no pun intended" is often added after someone made a pun or something that could be considered a pun. If this should be taken literally (i.e. it really was unintentional), then I'm not sure what exactly the reasons are for adding this phrase or if you should even add it at all.

I guess the intention could be to avoid that a statement will be viewed as a joke because of the pun. This seems reasonable when used verbally. You realise what you just said was a pun and try to clear it up. When written, it seems unnecessary though. You could just rephrase the sentence and get rid of the pun if it isn't appropriate or too confusing in the context.

At other times it seems that the purpose of the phrase is to get the readers attention to the pun you just made. If that's the case why does it seem to be so well accepted? Isn't it the same as saying "hey guys, I made a joke, please laugh!?", which would be considered lame? I believe it would be more witty to just let it pass and let the more clever readers figure it out on their own. Some people are even more direct and just add "pun intended" or a sarcastic interjection like "(ha!)" for obviously intended but bad puns.

So it seems there are multiple reasons to use "no pun intended". What is the general reception of the phrase, should I always assume it was intentional and how do I tell if it really wasn't? Should I use it if I want to make a pun or only to prevent confusion when there is a double meaning?

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@Downvoter Sorry if you came here in the hope to find some puns, I really tried hard not to include one. Have some relevant xkcd instead. –  kapep Apr 17 '13 at 15:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The vast majority of times, "no pun intended" is used precisely to draw attention to the pun that was just made.

Since the preceding pun may not be readily apparent, it can help the reader go back a few words and catch the pun. Personally I don't use this phrase much, but I'm not a very punny person.

If you're actually afraid that something you wrote can be misinterpreted as a pun, then simply reword it, so that you wouldn't need to use a disclaimer like "no pun intended".

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I think that's true. Sometimes, a pun was unintended, and the writer (or especially speaker) is making that clear (when they realise that they actually have just come out with a pun) either because the situation is inappropriate for humour, or they don't wish to be taken as an inveterate punster, or because they're just being modest. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 17 '13 at 15:34
    
@EdwinAshworth I guess that's a point I where I'm confused a bit: I often see it written in situations where humor is inappropriate and the writer could just remove/rephrase the sentence. By including the disclaimer he is basically saying "I know I shouldn't joke on this subject but I do it anyway" - and just because of the phrase everyone is ok with that? –  kapep Apr 17 '13 at 15:56
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I'd probably downvote in the cases you mention (ie don't buy / read his stuff). You are, sadly, quite right in that some writers go beyond accepted bounds. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 17 '13 at 16:16
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There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did. –  user Apr 17 '13 at 16:22
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Personally I don't use this phrase much, but I'm not a very punny person I saw what you did there. –  KeyBrd Basher Apr 18 '13 at 5:21

Most of the time, in my opinion, if one goes to the extent of pointing it out by saying 'no pun intended,' it was intended, and the reason they are pointing it out is so the other party 'gets' it, because in many cases, the other party doesn't 'get' it unless one points it out, since it is a double entendre.

In writing, I write, 'pun intended.' When speaking, I usually don't say 'pun intended,' I just pause for a moment and look bemused at the other party to wait until they get it, and if they don't, I finally ask, 'get it?'

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