By CodingStrategies on March 16th, 2018

A pun is the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meaning or applications. It is also defined as the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning: a play on words. That sounds complicated; perhaps it would be easier to illustrate the concept with a few puns:

  • Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? It has great food, but no atmosphere.
  • What do you call a snobby criminal going downstairs? A condescending con descending.
  • How long does it take you to think about a mirror? It takes me a while because I have to reflect.
  • My friend once told me a joke about chocolate – it wasn’t that funny, but I snickered.
  • Don’t spell “part a” backward! It’s a trap!

And the classic:

  • I need to look for my missing watch, but I just can’t find the time.

And in case you don’t think people take puns seriously, there are Internet sites dedicated to pun battles, enough to make the world collectively groan. Corny jokes and bad puns are a calling card for many people, even when their audience doesn’t necessarily find the droll introduction amusing. But, even though these individuals may rarely refrain from being a jokester, they could if they wanted to.

There are, however, some individuals among us who cannot control the urge to speak in puns. For them, conversations about transportation morph into bicycles that can’t be ridden because they are two-tired, and a discussion of pets elicits the comment that a dog not only has a fur coat, but also pants. This condition is known as Witzelsucht Syndrome (from the German witzein, meaning to joke or wisecrack, and sucht, meaning addiction or yearning). It is commonly believed to be a manifestation of organic brain disease, such as tumors or atherosclerotic lesions of the frontal cortex. Symptoms present as the need to tell puns, inappropriate or poor jokes, which may sometimes be accompanied by childish behavior. Clinically, it is also known as prefrontal syndrome or frontal lobe syndrome (FLS).

The frontal lobe is the largest lobe in the brain, yet it is often not specifically evaluated in routine neurologic examinations. Frontal lobe syndrome (ICD-10-CM code F07.0, Personality change due to known physiological condition) reflects damage to the prefrontal regions of the frontal lobe. It is characterized by deterioration in behavior and personality in a previously normal individual. Causes can include head injury (category S09), infection (category G04), neoplasm (such as code C71.1, Primary malignant neoplasm, frontal lobe), degenerative disorders (category G31), cerebrovascular event (code I63.9, Cerebral infarction, unspecified) or genetics.

Treatment will, of course, depend on the cause of FLS. For example, some stroke patients respond to medication, neoplasms can be appropriately excised or treated and behavioral therapy can be used alone or in tandem with other care. Due to the rareness of this disorder, there has been little research into potential treatments. Sadly, those with Witzelsucht Syndrome may continue to interact with the world through witticisms, quips, one-liners and wisecracks, all while not recognizing or responding to the jokes of others. But everyone should appreciate a good healthcare pun, such as:

  • I’d tell you the joke about the germ, but I don’t want you to spread it around.
  • A couple of blood cells met and fell and love, but their relationship was all in vein.
  • The primary care office has two doctors on call at all time; apparently, they have a pair a docs.


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