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Understanding Wordplay As A Literary Device by Stefn Sylvester | Poemify


For today's Literary Devices, we'll play on words and learn how to play on word.

Have you ever heard someone describe a phrase as “punny”? Punny is a blend word, or portmanteau, which combines “pun” and “funny” to describe a funny pun. This is an act of wordplay.

In simple terms, wordplay is the act of rearranging a word in a creative way to change, emphasize, or mock its meaning.

Wordplay is a creative act which allows writers and readers to flex their thinking muscles.

Wordplay has been employed by greats like Shakespeare to create entirely new words, modern poets to hide interesting messages, and quirky comedians to show off witty thinking.


One may want to ask, 'of what importance is Wordplay?'

Much of poetry and comedy makes use of wordplay to emphasize beauty, intelligence, and wit. It is also a way for wordsmiths to sharpen their creative-thinking in crafting words in new and unique ways. Wordplay serves as proof that literature is evolving, as new words are invented each year. 

Readers and writers alike value wit and comedy in poetry, prose, and other forms.



Important Note: 

Wordplay is not Pun, but wordplay includes pun, spoonerism, double entendres and rhetorical excursions.



When is best to use Wordplay?

Wordplay is primarily a playful and creative technique which is used by poets in lighthearted and imaginative compositions. It can also be used in creating new words serious and silly alike.



How to use Wordplay:

1. Neologism: This literally means new words, or words recently created in order to describe something which has never been described. 

Examples: 

- Spork: a combined SPOON and FORK.
- Flabberwhelmed - a combined flabbergasted and overwhelmed.
- Poetica - a combined POETRY and EROTICA.
- Studiot - a combined STUPID and IDIOT fellow.
- Brhoe - a combined BRO and WHORE.
- Punny - a combined PUN and FUNNY.


2. Anagram: This is a type of wordplay in which the letters of a word or phrase are rearranged to create a new word or phrase containing the exact same letters.


Example:

- Anagram = "nag a ram!"
- Martins = "mar things"
- Stefn = "stiffen"
- Example = "ex ample"

(Use the above in a poem and see how hilarious it becomes)



An example of modern word play can be found on line 103 of Childish Gambino's "III. Life: The Biggest Troll".

- H2O plus my D, that's my hood, I'm living in it.


Can you give this a try? In your attempt, be original.

Assignment: Play on words in a FIVE line poem of any theme.

Best FIVE wordplayers gets a free copy of my 500 naira worth 'Types Of Poetry' eBook.
Got questions? Ask!