The Inventiveness of People in Trying Economic Circumstances

450px-A_Quechua_girl_and_her_LlamaMy faith in humanity has been repeatedly buoyed over the years by observing the extraordinary creativity and resourcefulness of people in trying economic circumstances. I reflected upon this life lesson during a recent trip through some of the poorest towns in Peru.

In towns without a paint store were astonishingly beautiful murals. Talented locals created lush pigments from local plants, brushes from animal hair, and wonderful images from their minds. Local doctors had poor access to medicine, but were remarkably resourceful in harnessing the power of therapeutic plants to do their healing work. But the Peruvian who impressed me the most was an extremely old man I met who was renowned for his ability to care for llamas.

In my broken Spanish, I was able to gather that the llama was central to life in the town, particularly for the transport of foodstuffs and crafts for trade. It was thus a significant problem that a local bird known as the malchiste had taken to nesting in the warm, thick manes of the llamas during the winter months. The noisy birds irritated the animals, disrupted their sleep and inflicted scratches that sometimes became infected.

In a wealthy country, the llamas would simply have been stabled in a tightly fenced enclosure, but that was beyond the means of the poor people of the village. So the inventive old man suggested rubbing baker’s yeast all over the llamas to repel the birds. Stunningly, it worked.

I asked him how he ever came up with such a strange but effective idea. He responded that he long ago learned that

Yeast is yeast and nest is nest and never the mane shall tweet.


  1. Ken Rhodes says

    Keith, preceding this post is one titled “Weekend Film Recommendation: …etc.”

    When you do this to us, I think you should be required to use the title “Weekend Groan: …etc.”

  2. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    Hail, peerless Pun! thou last and best,
    Most rare and excellent bequest
    Of dying idiot to the wit
    He died of, rat-like, in a pit!

    Thyself disguised, in many a way
    Thou let’st thy sudden splendor play,
    Adorning all where’er it turns,
    As the revealing bull’s-eye burns,
    Of the dim thief, and plays its trick
    Upon the lock he means to pick.

    Yet sometimes, too, thou dost appear
    As boldly as a brigadier
    Tricked out with marks and signs, all o’er,
    Of rank, brigade, division, corps,
    To show by every means he can
    An officer is not a man;
    Or naked, with a lordly swagger,
    Proud as a cur without a wagger,
    Who says: “See simple worth prevail–
    All dog, sir–not a bit of tail!”

    ‘T is then men give thee loudest welcome,
    As if thou wert a soul from Hell come.

    O obvious Pun! thou hast the grace
    Of skeleton clock without a case–
    With all its boweling displayed,
    And all its organs on parade.

    Dear Pun, you’re common ground of bliss,
    Where _Punch_ and I can meet and kiss;
    Than thee my wit can stoop no low’r–
    No higher his does ever soar.

    - Ambrose Bierce

    • Allen K. says

      Exactly the same here. I’ve even had a number of false positives.
      But it’s been long enough since the last similar post that I had been lulled into complacency. Argh!!!

  3. Adam says

    I always love these unexpected puns. Thank you for making the Internet a little more light-hearted during these depressing times.

  4. ferd says

    TWO points for the Mother Teresa shaggy dog setup tone, and ONE for making us click below the fold to, in a way, PUNish our own selves.

  5. ferd says

    What’s the actual category for the humor here. Shaggy dog, with ‘play on words’ punch line? “Never the mane shall tweet” is pun-esque, but not really a pun, is it?

          • ferd says

            “Never the mane shall tweet” fills the spoonerism bill, but the rest of the punch line doesn’t.

            I want a WORD for this comedy situation. Buggin’ me man.

            Spin out a shaggy dog set up, then use words from that setup to create a somewhat sensible punch line whose words merely rhyme with the words of a well-known phrase/aphorism/saying. Needs a word.

            The funny part of a shaggy dog is being gulled into investing some time into a story; slipping into the belief that you’re about to get a satisfying conclusion, then only getting a wet noodle. The punch line can’t be silence, it has to be at least a wet noodle. But it can be as little as little can be, to riff off Ed Grimley.

            Shortest shaggy dog I know of:

            “Hey, guess what?”


            “Poopy butt.”

          • Tony P. says


            The Wikipedia entry for the old BBC program My Word! links to another entry for a shaggy-dog set-up with a PUNchline: a Feghoot. But we COULD just call it a “Harumphreys” and be done with it:)


  6. CharlesWT says

    A former word pun champion’s funny, erudite, and provocative exploration of puns, the people who make them, and this derided wordplay’s remarkable impact on history.
    The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics

  7. MobiusKlein says

    Let me ruin a few more:
    I left my harp in Sam Clam’s Disco.
    These are the tines the fry men’s sole.