I have noticed that when I am reading something humorous, the kind of humour I most enjoy tends to involve play on words.

When you use the ‘play on words’ technique to create humour, you are mixing up word meanings or connecting words in an unexpected way.

Let us consider an example. The popular joke format that begins with ‘A man walks into a bar...’ has given us a lot of humour.

One version of this joke goes: ‘A man walls into a bar. And breaks his nose.’ In this case, the play is on the word ‘bar.’

You expect it to mean ‘restaurant’ in this case, but surprisingly the word is used in the sense of ‘a metal rod.’ Word play, or ‘play on words’ is a useful expression that describes a major source of humour around us.

Let us look at a few more idioms related to the word ‘play’ today.

Child’s play

The meaning here should be clear enough from the phrase itself.

When you describe something as ‘child’s play,’ you think of it as being extremely easy to do.

For example, you might say, ‘Once I started preparing for my college entrance exams, I realized that compared to those exams our school tests are child’s play.’

Also: ‘I thought finding my friend’s house in the city will be child’s play with the map I had purchased, but the map was actually no help.’

The expression is also used in its negative form as a way to warn that something is not easy, or is more difficult than initially believed.

For example:’ It’s nice of you to want to help me with my gardening, but I am warning you: removing weeds is no child’s play.’

Game that two can play

This is a fun, interesting expression that can come in handy in a variety of contexts.

Let us consider an example to start with: ‘The opposing football team is intentionally playing a rough game, committing fouls and playing forcefully, but that is a game two can play.’

The expression is mostly used in the context of a competition, and is used to suggest that the other person -- or team -- is using a method that was not supposed to be used, and also implies a threat: ‘we can also do the same thing.’

Here is another example: ‘Ever since we had that fight, my roommate has become uncooperative, and makes things difficult for me in small ways. Well, two can play at that game.’ The expression can also be used in lighter contexts, though the threat of retaliation remains.

For example, you might tell a friend of yours:

‘Stop splashing cold water on me! I have a water bottle in my hand too, so two can play at this game!’

NILESH JAHAGIRDAR

nilesh@skillspark.com