On puns, placards and political protest

On Saturday 23 March 2019 around 1 million people (including me) took to the streets of London to show our disgust at the Brexit shambles and to demand a #PeoplesVote. I’ve no idea if it will make any difference but it felt right – and beats simply pulling your hair out in frustration every time the word Brexit is mentioned. I’m glad I participated. It was a good experience being part of a good-humoured, like-minded crowd.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the march was reading the many inventive and amusing home-made placards. People had travelled from all over Europe and the British Isles to be part of the march and had made serious efforts with their placards. I had struggled to come up with a suitably pithy and devastating line so I fell back on wordplay, the good old pun.

My #PeoplesVote placard - with thanks to Dusty Springfield

The Oxford Dictionary defines a pun as:

A joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings.

As a nation, we love to hate puns but they do come in handy, especially for protest placards. For my placard I took inspiration from the old Dusty Springfield song I Only Want To Be With You.

And it turns out many people had the same idea – I saw placards that had played with many different song lyrics including Harry Neilson’s Without You, Prince’s Nothing Compares to You, Wonderwall by Oasis and Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up.

Photo credit: Londonist.com

But puns weren’t the only form of wordplay to be seen. Much fun was had with the word Brexit itself…

But I think my favourite placards were the ones that played on quotes from popular culture. Like this one referencing the movie Clueless

And these Ru Paul’s Drag Race-inspired placards …

As well as being an important part of a free and open democracy, public demonstrations also seems to provide a creative outlet for communal polite venting, which swearing at the radio or TV simply can’t match.













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