Bilingual pun

From Academic Kids

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This photograph is likely to make any French speaker able to read Greek laugh to tears: the big blue letters read "PTI MPER", which pronouces "PTI BER". This is a phonetic transcritpion of the French "petit beurre" (often pronounced "p'tit beurre", literally "small butter").

A bilingual pun is a pun in which a word in one language is similar to a word in another language. Typically, use of bilingual puns results in in-jokes, since there is often a very small overlap between speakers of the two languages.




The common Finnish surname Lepistö, meaning "from near the alder tree", resembles the French le pisto, which is short for le pistolet, "the pistol".


A young Canadian lad buys three cats and names them Un, Deux and Trois before heading back home across the river. His boat capsizes; he arrives home half-frozen but still alive, sadly crying «Maman! Maman! Un, Deux, Trois cats sank!»

(The punchline sounds like the first five numbers in French, un deux trois quatre cinq.)

Q - Why do French people only have one egg for breakfast?
A - Because one egg's 'un oeuf'. (one egg's enough)


Q: According to Sigmund Freud, what comes between fear and sex?
A: Fünf.

(German numbers - vier, fünf, sechs = four, five, six.)

Q: Did Herr Beethoven write ten symphonies?
A: Nein.
Before the Battle of Normandy, two German spies have infiltrated the Allied Headquarters. Before they can retire and radio to Berlin, they have to attend the officers's cocktail. One of the two spies goes to the barman and asks, in perfect English :
- "Two whiskies, please."
- "Dry?"
- "Nein, zwei!"

(In German, drei (three) is pronounced quite like dry.)

In addition, the German word for team (Mannschaft) opens itself up for various bits of humor centered around its sounding like the English words man shaft, implying the penis.

A Wayne and Shuster routine depicts a young Mozart appearing before an Emperor who offers him items from a plate of food and asks how many he would like:


As Japanese has both a large number of English loanwords and a lot of contact with American culture, English-Japanese bilingual puns are plentiful.

A man buys a car, and wants to name it, but can't decide if he should give it a male or female name. He asks his Japanese friend, who says, "Female." The man asks why, so the friend responds, "Each Nissan, she go."

(The punchline sounds like the first five numbers in Japanese, ichi ni san shi go.)

The theme song to the anime series His and Her Circumstances contains the following pun;

-You may dream, masshiro na...
(You may dream, pure white...)

"You may" sounds like yume, the Japanese word for "dream".

Puns on the word "Ai", which means "love" in Japanese, and is pronounced like the words I and eye, are quite common. The title of the manga/anime series Video Girl Ai is a bilingual pun. Ai means "love" in Japanese, which fits Ai's character. But in English, AI means artificial intelligence, which also befits Ai's character.


"The plane took off with a great fart and disappeared in the horizon as a prick"

(Fart is how one would spell "speed". Prick is "dot".)

"What a mess you have made!"

(Mess is almost the word for "conference".)

"Make love, not vår"

(vår rhymes with "war", and is the Norwegian word for the season of spring. This pun was used by IKEA in advertisements.)


Which is better, snow or milk?
Better leite than neve.

(Leite is milk, and neve is snow. The phrase with the Portuguese words substituted into it sounds like "better late than never".)


A Spanish speaker who knows no English goes into a clothes store in an English-speaking country and wants a garment but doesn't know how to ask for it. After the manager shows the Spanish speaker every article of clothing in the store, she shows the Spanish speaker a pair of socks, and the Spanish speaker says:
"¡Eso sí que es!" ("That's what it is!") The manager responds:
"If you could spell it all along, why didn't you say so?"

("¡Eso sí que es!" sounds like the English letter sequence "S-O-C-K-S.")

The road El Camino Real (literally, "the royal road") in California passes by Stanford University, which has a notable computer science department. Since "real" is a type of number in some programming languages, a programmer began calling it "El Camino Bignum", and the name has stuck somewhat among computer programmers in the area.


"My name is Jönsson, with two pricks over the first 'o'".

(Prick is Swedish for dot.)

An English couple are travelling by train in Scania (southern Sweden). At one stop, two local farm boys board the train and take their seats in the same compartment. One is tall, blond, and striking, while the other one is short and plain. The Englishwoman admires the tall youth for a moment, then remarks to her husband:
"What a handsome face!"
The short boy blushes and answers:
"Näeij, frun, det var jau."

("What a handsome face" sounds like the Swedish phrase "Var det han som fes?", i.e. "Was it he who farted?"—especially if pronounced with the Scanian dialect of Swedish. The boy's answer means: "No, ma'am, it was I.")

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