pun: (pun) n. The humorous use of two words having the same or similar sounds but different meanings, or of two different, more or less incongruous meanings of the same word.
			-- Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary

The form of humor that fans dote on, that they slaver over, that they indulge in among themselves, that they slather across fanzine pages, that they interlineate and cross-quote, that they revere and unmercifully visit on the rest of us is... The pun.
      That most witless thalidomide bastard of True Wit. That intellectually-debased sediment found at the lowest level of humor. That coarse-surfaced imposition on our good offices that never produces a titter, a giggle, a chuckle or a laugh, but which takes as a measure of its effectiveness...a groan of pain.
			--Harlan Ellison

The Pal-o-Din (lit. ``Friend of Discordia'') is defined by his awful gift, and is recognized as one of the Chosen from early on. From the time they can hold a top until the time they're sealed away in the Ancient Punslinger Mausoleum (yea, e'en from the dreidel to the cave), Punslingers dedicate their lives to protecting the Children of Eris from the Orders of Discordia. (They are especially effective against the Sacred Order of the Defamation League, because they take paticular joy in being able to bother, pun and wholly roast any member of the clergy foolish enough to allow it).
      They are often attracted to and form an off-color guard (the office of Agitant) for the Episkopossum, who, due to their own kind of masochism and love for Eris, are only too glad to have them.
      They are masters the Deeper Urkana, the art and science of That Which Annoys (known among the Oriental as Pun Fu, which, legend has it, can be learned from the Holey Punfighter Codex, The Book of Battle Prods, or Chao Pun-Ching. It is, of course, on the closed shelves of the Akashic Records), and must often take a vow of silence so that their terrible gift does not harm the innocent. They also pierce their jackets with many buttons, the trademark of the true Punslinger, that all men will see them coming and be forewarned. This is the price they pay for their Goddess. These silent knights, holey knights, safeguard our way of strife. (Once they finish milking the ``silent Knight'' bit for all it's worth, they give up their oath of silence [not that they can keep it on their best day, of course -- ``Have Pun, Will Babble,'' after all]).
      Make no mistake -- a pun is a joke in very much the same way that a crowbar is an implement for opening crates; it does its stated job very well, and is likewise very well suited for some not-so-benign purposes. In this case, the crowbar has grip-tape at one end and a skull-and-crossbones painted on it. Well, to take this analogy a wee bit farther than is really necessary, imagine also that the wielder of said ominous crowbar can't actually see the grip-tape or skull, and is truly intending nothing more than opening crates when he happens to dislodge someone's vertebrae. The Punslinger sees an overabundance of straightjacket Order or Seriousness, and attempts to lighten the mood -- then The Gift springs to life.
      Let's suppose that a staff meeting is called in order to decide who should be put in charge of improving efficiency in the Indiana Office of the Punslinger's company. Staff meetings are, if not the most awful tool of Greyface, at least his most favored. To minimize the creativity-sucking of the meeting, the Punslinger will saunter in, steely-eyed, and offer his opinion first. ``Simple,'' he will say, smiling suggestively. ``Promote their cowtowing greaseball of an administrative assistant to the position of office manager.'' When someone asks why (and someone always will, because that is the Nature of Things), he will say ``Because everyone knows that the I.O. will be faster if you use a deferential, scuzzy comptroller.''
      Anyone left breathing will quickly pass a motion to adjourn the meeting.
      One report from his horrible weapun is usually enough to waylay any man bent on boring discourse, but often the offender is more tenacious and knows not who he faces. Such a one often goes down under a hail of punishment from which no man could hope to rise. Punslingers are instinctively adept at the craft of devising the most horrid and painful puns depending upon the situation and person involved (with puns, the cruelty is in the ``Oy!'' of the beholder). Punslingers can usually register higher than five on the Rictus Scale (which is how long, in seconds, the punished grimaces after the pun is delivered).
      The gift of the Punslinger is a metaphysical one -- the Lady has granted him the limited ability to will Jokes, which are by nature metaphysical events (covered more thoroughly elsewhere), and those Events are almost always punitive. In a very real sense, the puns are more something that happens to him, not something he does (anyone who has ever pulled off an unintentional Rictus 3 probably knows the feeling). He isn't really the absolute source of the pun, any more than the lightning rod is the source of the lightning.
      The Punslinger gift is likewise a curse -- for while they can, at will, pun like crazy ('cause baby, they were born to pun), they often can't do anything but pun, and often pun much more than is considered punctilious (butt, then, Punslingers are always wont to, metaphorically speaking, drop the breeches of etiquette). Thus, they pay a heavy price in popularity (and, sometimes, teeth).
      Nevertheless, they happily accept their sometimes difficult job, and take offbeat pride in their unique variety of annoyance. Their Fraternal Disorganization (the House of Devising Puns [which is part of The Out House of POEE, however much some weaselly Episkopossum might deny it]) proudly bears the motto ``We few, we slappy few, we brand of bothers...'' (They cut it off there mainly for fear of manslaughter charges, I hear.)
      They may be loose cannons at times, but trust me, you can have none better by your side during a debate (especially if you want said debate to degenerate as rapidly as possible).