The Republican National Committee and allied Super PACs have all made countless puns on "hope and change" at the expense of President Obama this election, but those with the true creative gift for Obama punnery are the the unpaid and unheralded anonymous trolls on news websites and conservative message boards. They don't get the paychecks or accolades of conservative consultants, but these trolls have introduced dozens of Obama puns into our vocabulary. We've decided to rank some of the best.
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"Bad puns will not stir the populace, and while the effective pun seems impishly tossed-off, writing one is not easy," Jerry Adler explains for New York, ticking through some classics, like the terrible 1852 Democratic slogan "We Polked You in ’44, We Shall Pierce You in ’52." Trolls' Obama puns are much better. We are ranking them puns by three metrics. First, syllabic fidelity, or whether the pun rhymes with Obama, or at least has the same vowel sounds and number of syllables as the president's name. Second, relevance, or whether the pun communicates a widespread complaint about a specific Obama policy instead of merely a negative emotion. Third, elegance, which we define as whether the pun can be easily read -- its meaning instantly communicated -- without forcing the reader to pause and puzzle over it. We graded each pun on these three qualities from 1 to 5 and added them to find the winner.
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Syllabic fidelity: 5. This is Obama's name, with an N sound at the beginning.
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Relevance: 1. The N turns the first syllable of Obama's name into "no," indicating a rejection of the president. But what policy and why its being rejected is frustratingly unclear.
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Elegance: 3. The pun is fairly easy to read.
Example of typical usage: At an Obama speech at Texas's Eastfield College, an anti-abortion protester held aloft a sign reading "Nobama Baby Murderer," according to an October 4, 2011 White House pool report. Example two: The sign at left, taken at a March 2010 rally, via Flickr's Fiobonacci Blue.
Syllabic fidelity: 3.5. The pun retains the O, B, and M sounds, and the -er is close to rhyming with -a.
Relevance: 2.5. Like Nobama, Obummer communicates a fairly general negative feeling. However, "bummer" connotes a general "meh" feeling, so the pun communicates the widespread feeling that Obama has let down those who were so excited by him in 2008.
Elegance: 4. Though the sound significantly diverges from the sound of the president's name, in print, it's easy to read, and you get the meaning instantly.
Example of typical usage: "Obummer, on the other hand, has spent the last couple months of his election and service as president to surgically remove all hope from the psyche of the American people with a chainsaw," wrote the blog Daily Anti-Kos on March 4, 2009. Example two: "Poor Obummer he put the curse on four great teams and they lost," scoffed Free Republic commenter ncfool on March 28, 2010, when Obama didn't pick the right teams to go to the NCAA Final Four.
Syllabic fidelity: 2. The pun retains the O, B, and M sounds, but the middle A is long instead of short.
Relevance: 5. The pun suggests a current Republican talking point, that Obama is blaming everyone else for the high unemployment rate and sluggish economy, instead of taking responsibility.
Elegance: 3.5. It takes a quick re-reading of the word the first time you see it to get that it's "O-blamer," and not "Oblahmer." But it's clear it's a reference to the president's name.
Example of typical usage: "Go back to stroking for Oblamer...it's what you do best," Atlantic Wire commenter Ex Speaker Nan said on a post about Mitt Romney's high school bullying on May 10.
Syllabic fidelity: 5. Perfect rhyme.
Relevance: 5. The pun speaks to the feeling that Obama has piled up massive debts that will be a crushing burden for the next generations.
Elegance: 1. It takes a close re-reading of this pun to figure out how it's supposed to sound. It looks like it's supposed to be pronounced "Aw-weh-bama." Perhaps a hyphen could help?
Example of typical usage: "More of owebama’s 'virtual' recovery," Free Republic commenter 43north said on March 13, 2012. Or, from gatoradams on Flickr, there's the above sign demanding we "Impeach Owebama."
Syllabic fidelity: 1.5. The pun retains only the O and B sounds, and the three syllable format.
Relevance: 1. It just suggests Obama possesses a clownish stupidity. This could be true of any politician.
Elegance: 1. The letters are too different to immediately communicate that the writer is mocking Obama.
Example of typical usage: Obozo's America: Why Bother Working for a Living? is a board game created by Robert Johnson. It stars "Obozo the Marxist Clown." According to the Christian Post's Jeff Schapiro, the game goes like this: "Players begin with a 'welfare grant' of $1,000 then move along “Obozo's Welfare Promenade” while accumulating money by producing children out of wedlock, committing 'Saturday Night' crimes involving armed robbery, prostitution, gambling and drugs, or by finding a job for their live-in partner on the 'Government Cakewalk.'"
Syllabic fidelity: 1. The pun retains the O and M sounds, plus the vowel sound in "vom" sounds close to the vowel sound in the "bam" part of Obama.
Relevance: 1. This pun conveys a strong but nonspecific negative feeling.
Elegance: 1. This reader first read the "ovo" part and immediately thought of the Latin prefix that means eggs. Another reader, polled via Gchat, thought it sounded like an industrial cleaner.
Example of typical usage: "Learn to tell all, not select items, Learn to report on Ovomit, the truth, not what you want it to be," an Atlantic Wire reader emailed last week.
Winner: Owebama, which beat my sentimental favorite, Obummer, by a point and a half.