Home Columns Anantha Narayan Namasutra – Pun on a platter

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    Pun is like pizza. The cheesier it gets, the yummier it appears for connoisseurs of bad taste. Long before us numbskulls could figure it out, some smart minds in the food industry decided to milk the possibilities of this idea.

    Restaurants began to mushroom with seemingly dim-witted names. If a pizzeria tried ‘Basic Kneads’, a fish and chips store experimented with ‘Frying Nemo’. If a Thai eatery chose ‘Thai Tanic’, an Irish kebab chain floated ‘Abrakebabra’. If a Norwegian coffee shop flirted with ‘Coffee Annan’, a mom and pop beverage joint explored ‘Has Beans’. In short, pun inspired pun, and takeaways started courting fame by feeding off each other.

    The proliferation of puntastic names was so rampant that at one point, food lover Ben Brusey was actually tempted to put out a book titled Pu Pu Hot Pot: The World’s Best Restaurant Names. His personal favourite was the rather obscenely named ‘Phat Phuc Noodle Bar’ near South Kensington. Apparently ‘Phat Phuc’ in Vietna-mese means ‘Happy Buddha’. So much for your smutty thoughts!

    The choicest sizzlers from his compilation include: ‘A Salt & Battery’ in New York, ‘The Meat’ In Place’ in Kent, the hot dog outlet ‘Award Wieners in a Supporting Roll’, the Middle Eastern Toronto take-out ‘Syriandipity’, the French fry heaven ‘Lord of the Fries’, the bagel house ‘Lox, Stock & Bagel’, the clever cocktail bar ‘Tequila Mockingbird’, and the sandwich bar ‘Pita Pan’.

    Surprisingly, many not-so-flattering puns made it to his list. Like the food and fuel station ‘Eat Here and Get Gas, the knuckleheaded ‘Nim Com Soup’, and the unappetising ‘Pee & Poo Steakhouse’. His logic: even a self-deprecatory name works, as customers get a hearty laugh without paying a penny.

    I don’t buy the lousy name theory. Why would anyone invite ridicule by visiting ‘Pu Pu Hot Pot’ when all it does is to remind you of fecal matter? I’d rather pick the poetic ‘Earth, Wind & Flour’, the literary minded ‘Life of Pie’, the historically-themed ‘Boston Sea Party, the geographically inclined ‘Maine-ly Lobsters’, the linguistic word play ‘Juan in a Million’ and a ‘Mrs Sippy’ that sounds like Mississippi. After all, a restaurant name should be sweet as honey rather than sour as vinegar.

    – Anantha Narayan

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