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CUTE NAMES A-PUN PUBLIC

Punning - sometimes described as the lowest form of humor - is on the rise in American business, says Dennis Baron, a professor of English at the University of Illinois. Corny humor and outrageous puns in corporate names are making a strong comeback in the Midwest, he notes. But ``there is good evidence that this trend has established beachheads on the coasts as well.''

``Cutespeak'' in nursery schools has produced Pattie's Cakes Nursery, Babes in Toyland, and Captain Kid. Restaurants are forcing people to swallow such monikers as Garden of Eatin', The Great Impasta, and Lox Stock and Bagel.

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Hot dog stands relish such names as Mustard's Last Stand, Frankly Yours, Uncle Frank's, Franks-A-Lot, and Tasty Pup.

Among hair salons are The Clip Joint, Hair It Is, and Head Hunters.