John Ritchie, An Expected Rise in Stocks, nineteenth century.
It’s galling to reach adulthood and realize how many things have gone over your head. That, in a single e-mail thread, you can learn both that “Staples” is a pun and that Chips Ahoy! is an allusion to “Ship ahoy.” I mean, you like to think that if someone had forced you to consider the matter for five seconds, you would have realized. But the point is that I had not realized—and I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the definition of stupidity.
That night, I tried to comfort myself by thinking of the plays on words I had recognized in the course of my thirty-plus years of relative sentience. U-Haul. The Beatles. Central Perk from Friends. That fish and chips shop, A Salt and Battery.
I couldn’t think of anything else, which was terrifying.
But then, don’t we all have certain blind spots? In a way, doesn’t that sort of make the world a more interesting place? After all, knowledge gaps like these mean that everything is a source of potential, of child-like wonder. There are always new and exciting things to learn! Even when those things are easy puns.
On the other hand, I’ve just read this two-year-old Reddit exchange, from a thread titled “I just realized the play on words in the office supply store, Staples. What puns have you realized far too late?” (Look, I was feeling very alone.)
“Dora the Explorer,” someone wrote. “In Spanish, exploradora = female explorer.”
Another Redditor responded: “It’s in the theme song, man.”
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.
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