The great Welsh Pun Miners’ Strike of 1926 started at the Ygnnygyg Mine when a poorly placed Oxford comma support collapsed and buried a passageway under a pile of participles, clauses, and split infinitives.

Management was accused of hoarding their supply of pun-destroying grandmothers and other heavy excavating equipment, judging the trapped miners to be not worth rescuing. When the last gerunds were finally cleared away by work crews, it was found that all but one of them had died of vowel poisoning–especially damning as all the pun mines’ vowels except fom of the Ys were designated for export. The sole survivor, having been forced to subsist on stale humor for nearly a week, was left mad with pun-lust and eventually killed himself by hanging participle.

When the Ygnnygyg Mine operators refused the miners’ request for additional commas and vowel filters on breathing masks, violence broke out. Arming themselves with em dashes, semicolons, and ampersands, the miners blocked the clauses leading into the mine until their demands were met. The pun supply throughout Great Britain dried up, a shortage felt particularly keenly in bohemian and pun-happy London, where puns served with absinthe were all the rage at the time.

Eventually, the management brought in scabs and strikebreakers from Greece. Not speaking English, and using a different script, they were unaffected by the sarcasm, wit, pathos, and punctuation hurled at them by the strikers. By January of 1927 the mines were in operation again and the unrest was crushed.

It would take another ten years, until the explosive simile chain reaction at Metaphor Mine in Berkshire, for British law to begin changing to protect the lot of the humble vocabulary miners.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements