The Codfather of wordplay17-Jan-2013
Puns can often elicit a collective groan of despair, and some people would even go so far as to say they are the lowest form of humour while others think plays on words are actually very clever ways of manipulating language which were even used by Shakespeare. It seems that many shopkeepers in English-speaking countries would agree with the latter, as was featured in an interesting BBC article yesterday. Just walk almost around any town in the UK and you’re likely to come across a fish and chip shop named something like The Codfather, the local hairdresser Curl Up and Dye or Sure Lock Holmes the locksmith. (Get it?! These are all 100% real, by the way.)
Plays on words are quite easy for native English speakers to understand and create, but they are notoriously difficult for learners of English. Parts of well-known phrases might be replaced by obscure words, and there is more often than not at least a smidge of British humour and a knowledge of British popular culture required to fully get the jokes.
This could make for an interesting activity to get advanced students thinking about how you can really play around with English, and help them understand that you don’t always have to follow what you learn in books to the letter.
Try these with them, perhaps mixing up with the name of the shop with the type of business, and get them to explain why they’ve decided which two go together. Maybe start off with some of the easy ones to get them used to the concept. These, again, are all genuine shop names.
Baguette, Set, Go – sandwich shop. (See – it’s easy!)
Espresso Yourself – coffee shop
Planet of the Grapes – wine shop
The Merchant of Tennis – sports shop
Chain Reaction – jewellers
Heaven Scent- florist
Pane in the Glass – business selling windows/glazier
Ace of Suedes – furniture shop
And I could go on… but I won’t make you suffer any longer. If you want to take a look at more examples of some other inspired (or cringeworthy) shop names, take a look at this link from Time Out, London’s weekly guide. Your students might even want to have a go themselves at being creative. Whatever your opinion about plays on words and puns, there’s no denying they are a fun way of showing the nuances of English. And I, for one, am not going to forget about ‘Sellfridges’ in a hurry.