Local entertainment section of the paper tonight has a deal on the "outlandish" Sacha Baron Cohen's new Borat movie. The headline -- the subject line of this post -- raises a question that I've long wondered about. No, not what cause Cohen is pursuing. Clearly for a very large number of Americans, 'Kaz' from Kazahstan (assuming that they use a back vowel in the first syllable) rhymes with 'cause', making a slick pun. But to what extent do speakers without merger react to the near-homophonous forms? And does successful language play of this type correlate in some way to likelihood of merger? That is, maybe the same similarities that make mergers work also make these jokes work.
OK, that's pretty lame, but I'm pretty tired.