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Pun and Pickpocket

He who would make a pun would pick a pocket. Dr. Johnson is generally credited with this silly dictum (1709-1784), but Dennis had said before to Purcell, “Any man who would make such an execrable pun would not scruple to pick my pocket” (1657-1734). (Sir W. H. Pyne: Wine and Walnuts, vol. ii. p. 277.)

The “execrable pun” was this: Purcell rang the bell for the drawer or waiter, but no one answered it. Purcell, tapping the table, asked Dennis “why the table was like the tavern?” Ans. “Because there is no drawer in it.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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More on Pun and Pickpocket from Infoplease:

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