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Name Puns refer to a series of images macros with two or more panels in which the first panel presents a celebrity or character captioned with his or her name, followed by a panel containing a pun of the name, editing the image to reflect the joke.
The earliest known instance of a celebrity name pun image macro appeared on the art message board b3ta on September 8th, 2008. The first panel was a photoshopped image of American actress Reese Witherspoon holding a spoon. The second panel removed the spoon from her hand and was captioned “Reese Withoutaspoon.”
Similar practices of “situational photoshopping” has been previously observed as early as in 2003 with Something Awful’s Photoshop Phriday contest Anagrammed Movie Posters, which involved anagramming a well-known movie title and then photoshopping the official poster to fit in with the altered context. This technique was once again iterated through Worth1000’s One Letter Movie Posters contest in 2006. In non-sequitur humor, the celebrity photoshop meme Woll Smoth also takes a similar approach by shrinking the mouth of a celebrity in the shape of an “O” and replacing all vowels in the name with O’s.
IIn September 2008, the Witherspoon macro began circulating on image sharing sites including Laugh It Out, Lowbirdand Demotivate.info. In 2009, a Kanye Interrupts themed image macro was passed around making a similar joke, using a mirror image of the rapper and changing his name to “Kanye East.”
Derivations of these images did not gain notoriety until February 19th, 2012, when Tumblr user i-am-oregonianposted a version featuring Jafar from the 1992 Disney feature film Aladdin. By April 2012, the post had received more than 65,600 notes. The Jafar instance was reposted on several humor sites including LOLROFLMAO, FunnyJunkand College Humor. More instances can be found on Tumblr under the tags “celebrity pun” or “name puns.” Humor blog Slacktory regularly posts these image macros under the tag “Visual Puns.” Between September and December, collections of celebrity name pun image macros were featured on Smosh, Bored Panda, Pop Hangover and List25. In December 2012, the subreddit /r/NamePuns was created to be a hub site for these image macros. Additionally, the Twitter feed @CelebNamePuns launched that month, gaining nearly 3000 followers as of February 2013.
Related: Visual Puns
Image macros of this type involve a visual pun in addition to the textual name change. This type of humor has been seen since as early as 1385, when the Batenburg gable stone was put in place in the Prince’s Canal (Prinsengracht) in Amsterdam. The stone shows a castle overflowing with coins, a play on the words baten (to profit) and burg (castle) that combine to form the village’s name. Online, photoshopped visual pun images could be found as early as 2005, when Worth1000 held a contest asking people to submit images that were plays on common phrases.
(Left to right: Palm Pilot, Dr. Pepper, Fruit Flies)
Many of these instances involve reverse captioning, where the content of the image is manipulated to fit the caption. Similar to Haters Gonna Hate or Seems Legit, Name Pun captions tend to come before the photo. Images of this type have been collected on Urlesque, Metafilter and The Atlantic, who noted that these puns allow viewers to more effectively analyze the image at hand.