Puns and Riddles in School-Aged Children
I went to my neighborhood to observe the school aged children. They were children from kindergarten to grade two. Their ages were ranging from two to seven years, and six among them were girls; while four were boys. I asked them many riddles, pun on words, and recorded the following information. A pun is a funny application of word/words that have similar sounds, but are changed in meaning; or simply call it a play with words.
Homonyms and polysemy is used in puns to make them humorous as homonyms are words having same sounds and lexical polysemy is about having many meanings to a word as “Poly” means multiple and “Semy” means many for instance word “walk” can have many meanings such as “walk the dog”, go walk, Hill Walk Driving and so on.
Homonyms and lexical polysemous words used in the puns are many. Some of the examples of Homonyms are listed here as: son and sun, cent, sent and scent, ate and eight, week and weak, bye, by and buy, bare, bear and beer, do and dew, pause and paws, knight and night, won and one, write and right, colt and cold, hoarse and horse, ax and acts, add and ad, eye and I, caws and cause, which and witch etc. Examples of lexical polysemy include pupil (student vs. eye part), bat (cricket stuff vs. animal), bank (river vs. money shop), advance (money vs. modernity), walk (move vs. take the dog), ring (boxing vs. wedding), saw (tool or past participle of see), foot (mountain or body part) and more.
According to my observation, the children began understanding about language and double or two meaning words by the age of six or seven as their cognitive aptitudes start growing by then. They like nonsense situations, slapstick and practical joke particularly as my acting was more liked by them than just joke or riddle telling. School going kids of age below six gets confused with jokes and pun words, as they are too young to interpret. However, the relatively older children had some idea about some words. It is because when I asked them a riddle about beer, bear and bare, the children from age group four to five began asking me the clarifications; while the younger children only understood about “Bear” being their favorite animal.
On asking about the definitions of several “confusing” words children from age group, seven were giving clearer definitions as compared to the juniors. However, their understanding about jokes was good particular practical jokes like peek-a-boo, tickling and so on. Age difference does affect the jokes of children as a child from age group seven will be very good at joking and his understanding about pun on words, riddles and wordplay will be good as compared to the children of age group two to five. Senior children give good responses about jokes unlike children from age group of two year olds. However, it does not mean that juniors have bad or no understanding about this concept. They do have a good concept but sometimes it becomes difficult for them to interpret the underlying meanings. Therefore, it is proved that age plays a significant role in the understanding of jokes in children. Research also discovered the fact that children began getting jokes by the age of 18 months.
As per the analysis, jokes vary with age as six to seven years old child has a good understanding of jokes, puns, wordplay and more as their language develops by that time. One the other hand, two years old can tell the difference about a funny or unfunny thing quickly. Jokes differ by gender as well, but this difference is not as obvious as the difference by age is especially among children. It is because gender differences start becoming apparent by the age of thirteen (i.e. Teenage hood). Children enjoy these jokes more than adults do because children are more optimistic, playful, and not too serious like adults as per scientific research results.
A study conducted in the Michigan University showed that children enjoy jokes more since they are good at handling differences and are more tolerant than their elders are. An elder is more conscious about their relationships, surroundings, social status, race, etc. While children have no such compulsions, they do not think about whom are they joking with or their social or status, race or surroundings that is why many teachers find it difficult to laugh along with children on their “Silly Jokes”.
Dr. Roy. T. Tamashiro from the Ohio State University states in his research that mental perceptions develop through distinct phases throughout an individual’s lifespan. There are various stages of cognitive growth, and each stage has different patterns that are responsible for bringing a variety in each stage. In childhood, the mindset of the little ones varies from adults. They enjoy silly or sometimes trivial jokes that are even detested by the elders.