Reading is pun-damental
Author John Pollack argues that wordplay is not just entertaining, but also a critical building block in the development of the first phonetic alphabet, writing, and modern civilization as we know it:
It was by distilling these phonetic components to a set of basic sounds that scribes invented that first alphabet, which in time gave birth to alphabets that included -- among others -- Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Latin, Persian, Russian, English, and Sanskrit. Coincidentally, the word alphabet is itself a meld pun comprising the first two letters of the Greek sequence, alpha and beta....In sum, the deconstruction and recombination of sound, symbol and meaning - the very essence of punning - was the key that enabled people to unlock the potential of written language.
(h/t Erica Greider)