Milton B. Lederman of Brighton has a book out.
Milton B. Lederman is a letter man down to a “T.”
The 89-year-old scholar has a doctorate in English, and is a former copywriter and public relations man who is a self-described, and retired, member of the department of verbalosity at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
He’s a pretty nice guy, although he call himself “Attila the Pun.” He appreciates the written word done write (sorry). To whom it may concern, make sure words like “who” and “whom” are used correctly because, well, he may sentence you to an old-school grammar lesson.
If you haven’t already guessed, puns are his passion, from the Bard of Avon to the boardroom of corporate America to those just plain bored silly by looking at life with no sense of humor.
Lederman’s self-published book contains a bunch of puns, from the fun to the ones that get you run out of town when you’re done.
The book is titled, “Puntication: Pun Intended?” but that’s what he settled on, not because he’s wont to pontificate on language (although he will occasionally). His first choice, “Pun Intended,” was already taken. “Pundemonium” also was gone.
“I’ve always been verbal, as old English majors tend to be,” said Lederman from his Brighton home.
Puns and other forms of word fun started early in his life. Born in Poland, he moved to the New Jersey when he was 6. He spoke Yiddish then, and not a lick of English.
“I had to learn on my feet,” Lederman said, which was quite a feat made even more impressive when he later had to learn French and German for his English studies — no joke. He also was taught Russian while serving in World War II.
Work couldn’t curb his drive for finding humor. In fact, it helped.
Lederman and the late Nick Lieberman worked together in the ad business, and the two would play a game they called “Duelogue” — a topic was introduced, and each had to outdo the other in punnery. The king, of course, would be crowned after mastering his subjects.
Lederman claims it jump-started their creative process and, best of all, it was done on company time.
“We were trying to crack each other up,” Lederman said. “People would listen in. It was entertaining.”
Puns may be his specialty, but he is a connoisseur of humorous word play, from malapropisms — when someone butchers words to comic effect — to spoonerisms — transposing letters or syllables of two words for laughs.
“That’s the kind of thing that always fascinates me. What you do with words,” Lederman said.
Lederman volunteers at the Jewish Community Center, his soul energized by helping watch toddlers there — and perhaps the soles of his feet worn out by keeping up. He keeps his mind sharp by completing crossword puzzles. That may be the training, but puns are the kind of thing that can’t be forced because they will sound forced.
“They sort of pop out of my head,” he said. “I may be doing anything, or nothing, and something pops up.”
Eighteenth-century write and critic Samuel Johnson famously said the pun is one of the lowest forms of humor.
Ray Rueby, a Pittsford writer and artist who illustrated the book, said anyone who has an appreciation for language would appreciate Lederman — a true-blue fan of clean language who doesn’t work blue.
“Punning sort of gets in your blood,” Rueby laughed. “’It’s great to be a caterpillar, but it’s butter to fly’ came out of one of our discussions. He’s quite a guy.”
Lederman sides with famed moviemaker Alfred Hitchock, who appreciated a direct hit on his punny bone.
“It’s real wit, as far as I’m concerned,” Lederman said. “Puns don’t depend on vulgarity. It’s word play.”
Laugh, if you will. Groan, if you must. Chuckle or harumph — whatever. Lederman will accept a piece of your mind so he can have peace of mind that his word play has brightened your day.
“All I look for is acknowledgment that this is a clever piece of work.”