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You Can Tune A Piano, but You Can't Tune A Fish

English For Israel You Can Tune A Piano, but You Can't Tune A Fish

You can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish is a pun, or play on words, that exploits the similarity in pronunciation between tune and tuna.

Here's how the spelling changes the meaning

You can tune a piano refers to the process of adjusting the strings of a piano to the correct pitch so that it produces pleasant sounds when played. The word tune used here is a verb, indicating the action of adjusting or fine-tuning.

but you can't tuna fish plays on the word tuna, which is a fish. However, tuna here is spelled differently from tune. Tuna refers to the fish itself, and can't tuna fish is a humorous way of saying that you cannot adjust the pitch or the tune of a fish because it's not a musical instrument.

So, the pun hinges on the double meaning of the word tune which in this example means adjusting pitch, and the word tuna the fish, highlighting the difference between an action that can be done to an inanimate object like a piano versus something that cannot be done to a living creature like a fish.

Here are two popular examples of a play on words in the English language.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. 

This play on words relies on the multiple meanings of the word flies. In the first part, flies is a verb indicating the rapid passage of time, while in the second part, flies is a noun referring to insects. The sentence is structured in a way that leads the reader to initially interpret flies as a verb in both instances, creating a humorous twist when the second part is read.

I'm reading a book on anti-gravity. It's impossible to put down! 

This play on words involves a pun based on the phrase put down. In the context of the first sentence, put down means to physically place something on a surface. However, in the second sentence, put down takes on a different meaning—it means to stop reading or lose interest in something. The joke is that the book on anti-gravity is so engaging that it's impossible to stop reading, creating a humorous contrast between the literal and figurative meanings of put down.

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