I have often heard people say "pun intended" or "pun not intended" and thought nothing of it at the time. However, last week, someone said "excuse the pun". And that got me thinking. The play on words used was definitely not offensive. So, why would one need to excuse the pun.

Why do people say "pun (not) intended" or "excuse the pun"? Why should pun need to be excused?

[EDIT] : This was on the "5 Live Science" podcast of 14 Mar 2015. ( http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/fivelive/drkarl/drkarl_20150314-0653a.mp3 ) At 24:07 into the podcast Naked Scientist Chris Smith says: "Coming up after the news we'll be hosting, excuse the pun, several interviews about the world of parasites." Why would he ask to 'excuse the pun'? Is this some kind of social thing in Britain or something? I get the joke. I just don't get the need for him to excuse himself.

  • 1
    Would you please post a little more information about the situation where someone said "excuse the pun"?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 21, 2015 at 7:40
  • 2
    I think I've never heard "pun not intended". I'm more familiar with "no pun intended". (The phrase "excuse the pun" also sounds possible.) Mar 21, 2015 at 10:51
  • 2
    Only bad punsters say "pun not intended" and "pun intended".
    – TimR
    Mar 21, 2015 at 12:14
  • 1
    @Mausy5043 No need to say sorry! You did nothing wrong. It's a good question. By the way, welcome to ELL! Mar 21, 2015 at 16:28
  • 3
    Some people are of the opinion, or think it's funny to pretend to be of the opinion, that the entire genre of puns is inherently offensive. The stereotypical response to a pun is not a laugh but a groan. It's an interesting social feature.
    – sumelic
    Mar 21, 2015 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


In the specific example you mentioned, "excuse the pun" is used as a way of saying "sorry that this is a bad pun" or "I'm not meaning for this to be a pun, but I'm aware it is."

The speaker isn't apologizing in the sense that he is saying something offensive, but rather subtly pointing out (in a humorous or tongue-in-cheek way) that the phrase happened to sound like a bad attempt at a joke.


Pun, also known as paronomasia, means a humorous play in words. So, while writing such stuff, the author may want to clear that he has played a pun. So, 'pun' intended.

And, if the author is serious about conveying his message, 'pun non intended' is mentioned so that the reader should not 'ignore' it thinking it as a joke.

About 'excuse the pun', it's a polite way to say, please ignore if you think it is a bad joke.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .