Coal mimers

Today’s Bizarro:

Don Piraro is a great pun fan — mostly imperfect puns, as in this case, where miner and mimer are phonologically distinct, but also phonologically very close, differing only in the segments /n/ and /m/, which are only one (position) feature apart.

/n/ and /m/ are, in fact, very closely related phonologically. From A. M. Zwicky & E. D. Zwicky on imperfect puns (1986, p. 501), here:

Consider … the strong relationship between /m/ and /n/; this recurs in production studies, for instance those examining speech errors, and also in studies of perceptual similarity other than those involving imperfect puns, as in research on half rhymes [where it’s by far the most common segmental relationship] and on perceptual confusions.

It’s one short step from miners to mimers.

One Response to “Coal mimers”

  1. Robert Says:

    The effect is slightly weakened by the fact that performers of this type are not generally called “mimers”. If he had just written “coal mimes”, it would have been fine.

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