paronomasia /pair-on-ə-MAY-zee-uh/. noun. A play with words using words that sound alike but have different meanings. A pun. Perhaps the most famous example in literature appear in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York,” in which the “sun” also refers to Richard himself, a son of the house of York. Paronomasia, in fact, breaks down into five types…which I leave as an exercise for the Clamor. From Latin, from Greek paronomasia (play upon words which sound similarly), from paronomazein (to alter slightly, to call with slight change of name).
A few more examples of (literary) paronomasia:
“You see the earth takes twenty-four hours to turn round on its axis—” ¶ “Talking of axes,” said the Duchess, “chop off her head!” (Lewis Carroll)
“We had breakfast in the township of Soda, pop. 1001.” (Vladimir Nabokov)
“You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless, of course, you play bass.” (Douglas Adams)
“What is majesty, when stripped of its externals, but a jest?” (Edmund Burke)
And a selection of thoughts on paroonomosia, high and low.
“The point of paronomasia is that a mere accidental phonetic relationship assumes the appearance of a semantic relationship.” (Wolfgang Müller)
“Paranomasia: words that are unrelated but sound alike, placed in proximity for the fun or pleasing sound of it. Kissing cousins-in-law, couples that look good in public (or on paper) but aren’t, in fact, compatible. Not croce/crochet (false friends), but a place for the plaice or traditore-traduttore. The heart’s hurt, if you stretch it.” (Rachel Cantor)
“Paronomasia is a kind of verbal plague, a contagious sickness in the world of words…” (Vladimir Nabokov)
“A chaos of paronomasia, sound-links, ambiguous sense-links, and memory-links very like that of the dream.” (Northrop Frye)
“Ev’rywhere but at Norfolk, where talk of Passion far outweighs its Enactment,— indeed, the Sailors’ Paronomasia for that wretched Place, is ‘No-Fuck.’” (Thomas Pynchon)
“Oral traditions on the whole seem to license such wordplay or paronomasia more than written traditions: the pun (as anecdote, not figure) is itself an exclusively oral genre…” (Ralph Hexter)
“I am a painstaking, conscientious, involved and devious craftsman in words, however unsuccessful the result so often appears, and to whatever wrong uses I may apply my technical paraphernalia, I use everything and anything to make my poems work and move them in the directions I want to: old tricks, new tricks, puns, portmanteau-words, paradox, allusion, paronomasia, paragram, catachresis, slang, assonantal rhymes, vowel rhymes, sprung rhythm. Every device there is in language is there to be used if you will.” (Dylan Thomas)