A friend of mine recently had the opportunity to meet former professional boxer and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield. He snapped a photo with him and posted it on Facebook, saying that he wanted to discuss “ears” with Holyfield but he just wasn’t “biting.” A clever pun referencing the infamous match with Mike Tyson, right? Someone then commented that this was “so puny.”
My friend then replied to say that indeed his fist is smaller than that of the former professional boxer. That’s because the comment was likely meant to say that the caption was “so punny” rather than “so puny.” One letter completely changes the pronunciation and the meaning.
That puny car will never be able to haul such a load up the steep hill.
The first syllable in “puny” is pronounced such that it rhymes with dew, new or few. It’s pronounced “pew-nee” (or more accurately as “pyoo-nee”). That’s not quite the same as the word “peony.” The pronunciation is probably closer to the word “mutiny” if you were to remove the second syllable.
“Punny” is a portmanteau combining the words “pun” and “funny.” In other words, it becomes an adjective to describe an especially funny pun. The clever play on words (pun) is particularly amusing or humorous (funny).
The way “punny” is pronounced, it understandably rhymes with the word funny. It also rhymes with runny, dunny, and honey. It’s not a “real” word, in the traditional sense, but it is used quite widely online, particularly in the context of dad jokes.
I’d know, of course, since I’m a cool dad who makes “punny” dad jokes all the time.