I first want to point out that there’s a reason the title of this post isn’t “Punny Business.” That reason is that it would be a dreadful title. Some people, however, have neither the restraint nor the better judgement to leave puns in their accustomed milieu: the passing comment or the punchline of a soon-forgotten joke.

As I, and no doubt countless others, have mentioned previously, puns are roundly and routinely criticized as the lowest form of humor; some even speculate that uncontrollable pun-making is a legitimate psychological condition, a disease. I hold no such vendetta with them, but caution that there is a time and a place for puns, as well as a time and a place not for puns.

Which brings us to the thrust of this post, also not particularly new territory. The phenomenon of businesses whose names are puns. In my exprerience, although there is a broad variety of punned establishments, there are three categories that are more prone than others: coffee bars, hair salons, and lunch spots (particularly chicken joints).

Honorable mentions go also to bicycle shops (Cycletherapy, Different Spokes), Chinese and Thai restaurants (Wok ‘n’ Roll, Thai Tanic), portable toilet renters (Johnny-On-The Spot, Call-A-Head), and crafts stores (Passionknit, Taming of the Ewe).

My problem with punned business names is that, although they may initially be memorable, they reek of impermanence and perhaps even diminished quality. True, they telegraph a certain inviting playfulness to customers, but they also suggest that the proprietors might not take quality or service as seriously as they should. This observation certainly accounts for the fact that such names are endemic to niche businesses and are nowhere to be found among Fortune 500 companies. Despite all this analysis and awareness I still can’t shake the sense of transience such cute-and-coyness conveys.

In a similar fashion, I resolutely refuse to order things in restaurants with “cute” names: I just describe the core characteristics of the dish so the server knows which one I’m talking about. No “Championship Sliders” for me, thank you. And at Starbucks it’s a medium-size, not a “Grande,” if you please.

And finally, do not get me started on that other minefield of puns out of control: mystery novels! I honestly think it’s reached pandemic proportions in that industry. (Christmas-themed mysteries are the most egregious of the egregious.) I will not deign to mention any titles, but will point out that a related phenomenon is the preponderance of skulls worked into the cover artwork of those very same books. Profligacy!