When a person is playing on words, it’s not always in the form of figurative language, sometimes the message right there for us to deceiver but we over analyze the situation so much we miss it completely. In the 2009 movie Exam, the Invigilator told the test takers, “There is one question before you, and one answer is required. If you try to communicate with myself or the guard, you will be disqualified. If you spoil your paper, intentionally or accidentally, you will be disqualified. If you choose to leave this room for any reason, you will be disqualified. Any questions?” Seems likes an easy exam don’t you think? Wrong! The test takers spent the whole movie destroying the test room thinking the question was written in some invisible ink on their papers. Turns out the question was, “Are there any questions?”. At no point in type did the Invigilator say that the question was on their papers, but it wasn’t until the final moments of the movie that they realized that if they had just answered, “No, there are no questions” their situation would’ve ended on a much simpler note. It wasn’t a riddle set up in some strange unique format, just a simple question and the people asked ended up going to the extreme to find an answer. This example of wordplay is an example of how over analytical thinking can cause us to miss the big picture. Sometimes we’re so focused on the tiny details we’ll miss the obvious answers that could be right in front of our faces. Playing on words is something that you would assume requires a lot of detailed thinking but that sometimes can lead to making things harder for yourself then what they need to be.
The 2016 presidential elections have been filled with some of the most interesting cases of wordplay we’ve seen in a long time. During a CNN panel, I watched as the panelist argued over the difference between the words “reckless” and “careless” when talking about Hillary Clinton’s email scandals. These two words have similar definitions but depending on the context they’re used in they can both have negative meanings as well. One meaning suggest that the person intentionally disregarded the consequences of their actions while the other suggest that said individual had good intentions but weren’t thinking about consequences at the time. According to Hillary, she didn’t have any bad intentions at the time but many of her opponents would find that debatable. In one of Donald Trump’s most recent scandal involving his locker room talk quote, “You know I’m automatically attracted too beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” (Fahrenthold) Now if I’m not mistaken, what he’s saying he does (or wants to do) too women he finds attractive is known as sexual assault. I mean I don’t know if anybody would feel comfortable with some random man walking up to them and start kissing them just because he finds them attractive. Do I believe that these phrases when spoken were intended to be taken at their literal meaning when spoken? Of course not, but unless they explain what they mean at the same time those words escaped their lips they should’ve clarified themselves bit more in order to avoid confusion and/or to prevent the news media from taking it and running with it. One of the easiest mistakes to make when it comes to playing on words is misinterpretation. Hillary Clinton is a more of an expressive talker and is more likely to use more expressive words and metaphorical language versus Donald Trump who isn’t as expressive as his opponent but he has a sterner tone and uses more literally language with the occasional set of wordplay. All in all, even though confusing others with our choice of words may seem fun at some points, it can get you into trouble and bring about a whole lot of unwanted attention.
Despite the complicated downsides of wordplay, the most fun part of wordplay is always its use in pop and social culture. Song lyrics, for example, have woven their way into our everyday conversation. Whenever someone says “stop”, I have to constantly stop myself from singing “in the name of love! Before you break my heart!” When I was little and would wrestle with my mom she would say phrases like “I’m going to beat you down like James Brown!” If it’s not being used to teach us valuable lessons, it’s a great conversation starter! Wordplay can be one of the best ways to instigate fun icebreakers and allow people to start relationships that hopefully become long-lasting. In the dating world, people use pickup lines that while being incredibly cheesy can bring some humor to an awkward first encounter. “Hey, I think I forgot my phone number, may I have yours instead?” Playing on words isn’t just an art form, but a very valuable social skill to have as well.
There are many languages spoken around the world. Each with their own slang, regions, pronunciations, and dialects. When you use wordplay, you not only encourage yourself to improve your reading and grammar skills, but it helps others better understand you as well. When you can’t play using athletics or videos game why not entertain yourself by making up crafty and witty ways of using your own language? And while you’re at it, take the time to learn another language! The more you learn, the more you know, and the more you contribute to making the world a more fun educational learning place!
Exam. Dir. Stuart Hazeldine. 2010.
Fahrenthold, David A. Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005. n.d.