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This Headline Contains No Puns

Here is the beginning of the New York Times stylebook’s entry for “puns.”

puns have a place in the newspaper, but as a trace element rather than a staple. A pun should be a surprise encounter, evoking a sly smile rather than a groan and flattering the intelligence of a reader who gets the joke. Plays on personal names never qualify; no one will be flattered to read, say, that a pitcher named Butcher carved up the opposing team.

It goes on from there, too longwindedly for my taste, but the basic advice seems sound for a newspaper (or hell, even for a blog) that aspires to a dignified tone (who could begrudge the Post or Daily News their front-page puns?). I don’t know if the Los Angeles Times has any similar guideline, but an article in Friday’s LA Times, about Czech women who choose not to add the feminine “ova” to their last names, bore the following headline and subhead:

Being a Czech mate can cause women pain and suffix

Their society and the very language have an ‘ova-reaction’ to eliminating last names’ feminine endings

I count three puns in 25 words (a 12 percent pun rate!), and none of them particularly flatter me. “Pain and suffix” is especially clumsy. The article itself is unobjectionable—even interesting!—and blessedly pun-free until the final few paragraphs. Is this what happens when you halve your editorial staff in less than a decade?