I'll admit it: I love puns. I know, I know; puns are basically the epitome of "dad humor" and are generally thought of to be a low-level form of funny. Personally, though, I think puns are hilarious. But unfortunately for me, new research claims that a love of puns can be a sign of brain damage. That's right: As Melissa Dahl over at Science of Us reports, there's new research that "pathological joking," known as "Witzelsucht," may be linked with brain damage. As an example of a real person suffering from Witzelsucht, Dahl describes a 69-year-old man who has such a compulsion to tell jokes that he routinely wakes his wife up at night to crack puns. Reportedly, when she asked him to stop waking her up at night and advised him to simply write them down, he recorded 50 pages of his jokes. That's right: 50 pages of bad puns.
Though research on this phenomenon is still fairly new, scientists are finding that damage to the brain, such as damage to the right frontal lobe (the part of the brain often associated with recognizing humor), can lead to the compulsion to tell jokes at inappropriate times, or to continue telling jokes without recognizing how not funny everyone around you is finding them. It's important to point out that people who suffer from "pathological joking" aren't just people who can't take a hint; research shows that people who suffer from Witzelsucht are generally "normal" in terms of socialization and other interactions, leading researchers to believe this compulsive joking is more than just a blindspot in how to socialize.
But panic not, fellow pun-lovers, and it seems there are a few other correlations between enjoying punny humor and your brain, too. Below are three other findings researchers have made about what puns say about you and your sense of humor, aside from the possibility of brain damage (which, if you're up to 50 puns per day, you might want to get checked out):
1. Puns Signal You Enjoy Social Play
Now, if you're racking up 50 puns a day, you're probably going to annoy your partner and friends. But if you employ puns at a more socially acceptable rate, you're probably going to earn some positive feedback. Research shows that people who use wordplay in their humor (including things like rhyming, tongue-twisters, and yes, puns) fair well in social situations and are generally well-liked. Again, cracking a joke probably isn't something you need to do when someone is sound asleep, but executed during dinner or via text message is usually A-OK.
2. Puns Can Make You Seem Smarter
That's right: Puns can make you seem smarter. This isn't to say that making a pun actually makes you smarter, of course, but the wordplay required to execute certain kinds of humor can signal that you're intelligent to those around you. Basically, because you're aware enough about language, timing, and delivery to make the joke, it communicates to the person you're delivering the joke to that you have some level of planning and critical thinking going on. Of course, if people don't "get" a joke, this doesn't make them stupid — it just means they have a different sense of humor (or your delivery was off).
3. Puns And Sarcasm Come From The Same Place
As Julie Beck over at The Atlantic explains, "Why is sarcasm considered cool by the same people who often decry puns as uncool? Both are a way of saying one thing and meaning another," which I think is pretty accurate. Personally, I'm someone who enjoys a wry, sarcastic sense of humor as much as I enjoy a good pun. Often, people who employ sarcasm are seen as intelligent, quick-thinkers, and I think people who make puns are on the same level. Sure, puns are often seen as the "lowest form of wit" but puns actually come from the same root as sarcasm: The joker is playing a trick by playing with words and the expected outcome of the joke based on the preconceived notions of what connotations and denotations the language they're using has.
In my opinion, if you're still getting to know someone, puns are actually a safer, smarter route than sarcasm because with a dry sense of humor, you might risk offending someone or making a sour joke they read at their own expense. Sure, a pun might earn you some cringes, but they're unlikely to cause offense or ill-feelings. If you're someone who loves a good pun, fear not: You (probably) don't have brain damage and you aren't less intelligent than your sarcastic, dry-humored peers. Puns rely on an understanding of language and wordplay, as well as social skills and an awareness of how others will "get" your joke. Remember, the only risk of a bad pun is pun-itive damages (ha, ha) - unless of course you're up to 50 pages of puns per day, then it's probably time to cool it.