• wellerism •
wel-êr-iz-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A type of pun based on a conflict between the literal and figurative sense of a quoted statement confused by the context of the statement, e.g. "Oh, I see," said the blind man.
Notes: Today's Good word is so new (barely 150 years old!) that some still capitalize it because it was derived from a proper noun (see Word History). It is unquestionably a common noun these days, so capitalization should be avoided. Adjectives like Wellerian and Welleresque are based on the eponym of today's word, Sam Weller. We would expect welleristic as an adjective for wellerism, but no one seems to have ventured that derivation yet.
In Play: Rather than invent examples using this word, let's explore some examples of wellerisms.
"Everyone to his own taste," said the old woman as she kissed her cow.
"We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of his vehicle.
"It all comes back to me now," the Captain said as he spat into the wind.
I'll meet you at the corner, as one wall said to the other.
Word History: Wellerisms were named after Sam Weller, Mr. Pickwick's witty servant in Charles Dickens's novel, popularly called The Pickwick Papers (The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club), 1836. Weller and his father were fond of puns based on well-known sayings. Sam quips at one point, "What the devil do you want with me, as the man said, w[h]en he see [sic] the ghost?" This type of play on words had been around long before Dickens, but Weller soon became most closely associated with it and hence became the eponym of today's Good Word.
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