I sometimes contemplate the possibility of a world without puns. Such a world would, in many ways, be much poorer. Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare would both have found their humour sadly constrained by the lack of a punning option; it is possible they would even have given up in despair and taken to writing depressing plays about two characters waiting at a crossroads for a man who never came.* Without puns, our innuendos would be less spicy. Without puns, we would have a lesser understanding of the power of word-play. Without puns, there would be no Family Circus.
That last point is the one that really does sometimes have me longing for a punless universe.
Today's Adventures of Idiotic Melonheads has Dolly making an atrocious pun about Moses' tablets. There are many places Dolly can take this pun and stuff it; it makes my brain cringe. However, while still trying to control both the dry heaves and the rage, I started wondering whether this comic were really a candidate for medievalisation. Surely "tablet" wasn't a pun in the fourteenth century. Surely today's melonheaded chuckle couldn't be that old.
Surely it can. "Tablet," according to a certain eminently useful online Middle English dictionary, is from the Old French and can mean both "one of the tablets of stone upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments" and "a small, flattish or compressed cake of a medical substance, a troche, lozenge." The Family Circus is drawing on a pun that has been possible since 1394.
The Keanes are thus missing something from their comic. If they want the true medieval feel, they're going to have to cite an authority in order to prove their pun's antiquity; if they can't find an authority, they need to make one up. I have thoughtfully glossed their comment with the immortal words of Isidore of Seville. I'm sure the Keanes would have done so themselves if they hadn't been running entirely on autopilot since the end of the Vietnam War.
*Metaphorically, of course, this more or less describes the plot of Hamlet.