'I'm the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised' and Other Country Music Puns

Country music is known for its word play. The genre is full of songs with titles like "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?," "Nothing On But the Radio," and "You Look So Good In Love." But is this hallmark of the genre also preventing it from gaining new fans? As part of a week long series about country, NPR re-posted a 1999 essay that questions whether this excessive use of puns makes people biased against the music:

For some people, of course, this sort of punning just confirms a sense of country music as a linguistic trailer park. Since Tennyson's time, punning has been deprecated as the basest form of humor, to the point where it is usually a kind of veiled aggressiveness. Habitual punsters live for groans the way violinists live for applause. Sophisticated people may make exceptions for the literary puns of Joyce or Nabokov or the urbane word play of 30s show tunes. But they have trouble finding a place for someone who make puns in earnest, particularly in a sentimental ballad.

Read the full story at NPR.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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