I particularly like your observation that Hermes hides inside ambiguity. He’s the trickster: the kind of tricks that make you laugh when they happen to someone else and make you groan or cry (!) when they happen to you.
I’m always drawn back to Campbell’s observations that mythology puts us into the mode of the comical – the surprise realization that we weren’t as smart as we thought we were or that we didn’t see things as clearly as we thought we did. So maybe that’s at play here.
People always say things like, “say what you mean.” but I think we all know you can never say or write exactly what it is you mean. The words themselves never contain everything we need them to convey and we can never assume that the person reading those words understands those words in the same way.
I think puns remind us of this fact and we’re left to chuckle or groan depending on the degree to which we had forgotten it. 🙂
If I can go back to Plato’s Cave Allegory for just a second, the people casting the shadows (the shadows everyone else takes to be reality) are the political and economic elite, the shadowcasters in every political order. As has always been the case, it is the function of comedy, the court jester of our culture, is to call attention to the fact that the shadows are merely that, shadows.
As a rule we forget that the shadows we’re exposed to, in media, in popular culture, and even in the masks we wear in public, these are all just shadows of underlying, deeper truths. Comedy punctures this assumption and that’s why it hurts. We discover we’ve taken shadows more seriously than they deserve.
I’m looking forward to a lot of dangerous puns in here over the next week!