The pun is a trusty weapon in the armoury of headline writers in a hurry and can provoke a strong response and engage the reader when cleverly used.
Response is what we want, of course, but we prefer the right kind: a weak or laboured pun can produce a slight curl of the reader’s lip and be underwhelming. The better response is a smile, a delighted chuckle or a nod of appreciation.
In this year’s strong field of entries we had both. The most effective simple puns are often supported by a well-chosen image; best are those where a double meaning or a play on words powers the pun to greater heights.
First – The Southern Argus – “Show Us Your Ticks.”
This edgy headline was embraced by both the paper and a local pub in a mini-campaign to urge patrons to bring their proof of vaccination after plain-clothes police started visiting hospitality venues. It was a provocative but fun way to deliver an important message – and it is the kind of headline that people laugh and talk about!
Second – The Mount Barker Courier – “Testing times.”
The Courier’s bold headline instantly conveyed its double meaning, accompanied by a telling image of a long, desultory line of people awaiting their Covid PCR tests. It was in no way funny and nor was it meant to be: it captured perfectly both the inconvenience faced by readers along with their patient resilience – a headline for our times.
Third – The Bunyip – “Ready to Rook ‘n’ Roll.”
This is a fine example of how a simple pun can work nicely, supported by a lovely image of a local lad at a chess board, announcing the formation of a chess club. And the fact that he holds the knight rather than the rook is of no consequence at all!
Other strong contenders included the YP Country Times’ For some, FOGO has bin wheelie confusing – heading a story about the roll-out of the lime-green lidded bins; New Day Spawning heading the Eyre Peninsular Advocate’s story about the welcome arrival of triploid oysters; and the S E Voice’s Ex-Demon blessed with AFL Saints deal, on the drafting of Mt Gambier’s Oscar Adams to St Kilda.