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Pun pokes fun at Pooh and mind trick

By Debra Dobbins

Even I, an unrepentant perpetrator of atrocious puns, groaned at Frank & Earnest today. My first thought was, “What a bad pun.” OK, OK, my second thought was, “Why didn’t I think of it?”

A pun is a play on words. According to Webster’s, it happens through “the use of a word, or of words which are formed or sounded alike, in such a way as to juxtapose, connect, or bring out two or more of the possible applications of the word or words, usually in a humorous way.”

The cartoonists rely on our culture’s common knowledge of A.A. Milne’s much-loved literary character, Winnie-the-Pooh, to make this pun work.

“Deja Pooh” plays on the French expression “déjà vu,” which means “already seen or viewed.” It describes the rather strange feeling we have when we think we have already had the experience we are currently undergoing.

Trying to understand why déjà vu happens, scientists have come up with a few theories. A prominent one, according to Wikipedia, is that the neurological systems in brains that contribute to our short-term memories and those neurological systems that contribute to our long-term memories sometimes overlap. In other words, once in a while sensory impressions may go into our long-term memories just slightly before they register in the conscious part of our brains.

In researching déjà vu in Wikipedia, I came across a related French expression that I find comforting. It is “presque vu,” meaning “almost seen.” It describes the sensation of having information on “the tip of our tongues.” This happens to me frequently. Some people call this experience a senior moment, but the French version sounds much more impressive. “Oh, excuse me,” I can now say. “I’m having a touch of presque vu.”

The concept of presque vu is a great help for a retired teacher such as I. After getting to know a slew of students during my years with District 51, I often fail to remember everyone’s name. This causes great consternation when I  run into folks in places such as the grocery store. For reasons both good and bad, they always seem to remember me.

I often take evasive action and dodge into an adjoining aisle when I spot someone I should know. Then I have a few precious moments to dredge up the name from my memory's murky depths. At that point, I saunter back into the next aisle, “casually” call out his or her moniker and feign surprise over the encounter.

The boys, after all, change from scrawny eighth-graders with braces to strapping young men with beards, and the girls’ hair colors change as often as mine. Those are my excuses, anyway; I must remember to stick to them.


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