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About Us

“Lend us and ear and we’ll give you more corn,” was how those who attended the first O. Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championships were welcomed in 1977. Shucks! Now, 47 years later the Pun-Off continues to a-maize people with wacky wordplay and home groan wit from powerful punsters who are out standing in their field.

What is a Pun?

The answer isn’t terribly complicated. A pun is the humorous use of a word or words in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications OR words that have the same or nearly the same sound but different meanings. Just think homophones and you’re most of the way there. But honestly, even WE sometimes disagree on what is actually a pun. And we’re good at this!

Want to test your knowledge of puns-attempted vs. puns-intended? Play a quick round of our game, "Is it a Pun?"


What is the Pun-Off?

The Annual O. Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championships consists of two mighty struggles.

PUNNIEST OF SHOW: A maximum of 32 contestants will compete to deliver their prepared “punny” material within a time limit of 90 seconds . At 90 seconds a “soft” bell will be sounded. The presentation may continue, but at 2 minutes a “hard” bell will be sounded and the contestant will be disqualified. These entries are ranked on a 1-10 scale by our judges panel. A cumulative score will be recorded. The three top scoring contestants will be recognized as winners of Punniest of Show. In the case of a tie score, the audience will be asked to help decide a championship round.


PUNSLINGERS:  A maximum of 32 contestants may compete. Each pair of competitors will be given a topic. At the judge’s signal, each player in his turn will have 5 seconds to deliver, or begin delivering a pun. The opponent will then be given a signal and another 5 seconds to start a pun. This shoot-out continues until one of the contestants cannot make a pun “tongue-tied” or accumulates a total of three non-qualifying “strike” attempts at a pun. Eliminations continue in standard tournament style until the final round where we often end up with an odd number of surviving punsters. In such cases, a three-way contest results in the elimination of one contestant. The quick draw wit continues on the same topic until an ultimate winner is determined. This, of course, means the second place finisher is even more determined to do better next year.

Why O. Henry?

Austin is proud to claim as a citizen William Sydney Porter, better known to the world as O. Henry, a writer of short stories that have become American classics. Born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina, 2012 was a significant one because it marked the 150 anniversary of O. Henry’s birth with a commemorative stamp issued in his honor.

O. Henry short stories also include wit and wordplay with puns, skillful characterizations, surprising twists of plot and warm regard for common and uncommon people in all walks of life, made him one of America’ s new favorite storytellers.

Porter moved in 1884 to Austin, liked the social atmosphere of this growing city, and decided to make Austin his home. He  married an Austin girl, Athol Estes Roach, and began his writing and newspaper career with the publication of his own humorous newspaper , The Rolling Stone.  Along with Athol’s death in 1897, he was charged by federal bank examiners for “shortages” when working as an Austin bank teller. His friends believed he had protected the Austin bank owners from financial embarrassment, but he was still found guilty. 

After serving more than half of his 6-year sentence as a model prisoner in the Ohio penitentiary, he moved to New York City to start over with a new pseudonym, O. Henry. Once the stories about New York characters he wrote for Sunday World began appearing weekly in 1904, his fame as a writer grew enormously. In 1905, O. Henry  wrote the Christmas classic, Gift of the Magi, and by the time he died on June 5, 1910 he had published over 300 short stories.

The Brush Square Museums Foundation, Inc (formerly Friends of the O. Henry Museum) is a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. In 2004, BSMF organized several public fund-raising events for the Susanna Dickinson House restoration which the City of Austin completed with bond money voted by Austin citizens. The Susanna Dickinson Museum was officially opened March 2, 2010.


Traditional Topics Frequently Used In Punslingers

Religion, Biology & Chemistry, Colors/Art & Artists, Radio & Television, Carpentry/Construction, Flowers, Education, Money & Finance, Wheeled Vehicles, Medicine (no body parts), Winged Creatures, Wild Animals, Movies & Theater, Food & Cooking, Male Names, Clothing, Computers/Electronics, American Cities, Airborne Vehicles, Books & Authors, Oil Business, Trees, Astronomy & Astrology, Archeology, Female Names, Sea Creatures, Farming & Ranching, Insects & Bugs, Drinks, Politics, Diseases, Internal Body Parts, Popular Music, The Law & Crime, Rock & Roll Music, Jazz & Classical Music, Physical Sports, Child’s Play (toys & games), Weather, Shrinks & Psychology, Military, Holidays, Indians & Aboriginals, External Body Parts, Country Music, Fruits & Vegetables, Bodies of Water (specific or general), Europe, Asia, & Australia (countries only), Countries of the World (no cities or states), Ceramics and Glass and Related Terms, Mathematics & Physics, Furniture & Furnishings, Waterborne Vehicles, Nuclear Energy, Dogs, Cats, Domestic animals (other than cats & dogs), Gambling.

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