Letters to the Editor

Pun Rationing
A Caltech alum details his experiences as a graduate student and punster. 


… There was a core of residents [in David X. Marks House] who wanted to reduce my pun-ning, and used their overwhelming plurality in numbers to impose upon me a numerical limit of three per day. They posted on a bulletin board in the lobby of the dorm a score sheet that listed the dates of the month, with three empty boxes next to each date. When someone heard me make a pun, an “x” was placed in a box for that day. I of course made every effort to meet my quota. 

This scoring system was implemented for a couple of weeks before a revision was proposed. Someone—I daresay it was Dick, one of the physicists—declared that the system was flawed because not all puns were equal. The solution was a point system. It was decided that puns would be rated—one point, two points, or three points—with me receiving a 10-point daily limit.

But there was still the question of who would rate these puns, and the problem that not all residents evaluated puns identically. Those res-idents of Marks House who were present at the time the pun was made would offer their scores, and the arithmetical average (mean) would be used as the score, rounded to the nearest whole number. My bonus from rationing was that everyone was thinking puns all the time.

This system was soon found to be unwieldly. Residents lost interest in stopping whatever they were doing in order to vote on the score, and be-came disinterested in continuing the complicated scoring system. Thus ended the discriminatory period of pun rationing at Caltech. I was free to pun to my heart’s content, un-pun-ished. 

—Ralph Y. Komai (MS ’67)