Bilingual pun

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A bilingual pun is a pun created by a word or phrase in one language sounding similar to a different word or phrase in another language. Bilingual puns are often created by mixing languages, and represent a form of macaronic language.

A general technique in bilingual punning is homophonic translation, which consists of translating a passage from the source language into a homophonic (but likely nonsensical) passage in the target language. This requires the audience to understand both the surface, nonsensical translation as well as the source text – the former then sounds like the latter spoken in a foreign accent.



"What did the computer order from the vending machine?" "Saftware." Saft is the German word for juice. By replacing the O in "software" to an A, it becomes "Saftware", literally meaning "juiceware".


An updated version of the famous Who's On First? comedy routine by Abbott and Costello called "Hu's on First"[1] is based on confusing Chinese and other names with English words.


Q: Why do the French only eat one egg for breakfast?
A: Because one egg is un œuf.
Un œuf means "one egg" in French, and it sounds like enough.

Luis van Rooten's English-French Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames (1967), translates the beginning of "Humpty Dumpty":[2][3]

Un petit d'un petit / S'étonne aux Halles

The original English text reads:

Humpty Dumpty / Sat on a wall.

while the translation, which imitates the sound of someone reading the English text with a French accent, is nonsense, but could be translated into English nonsense as:

A little [one] from [another] little [one] / is astonished at Les Halles.


- "Can you تلميذة name of your classmate?" by EatPunRepeat

The Arabic word in the middle sounds like "tell me the", and means "student" in Arabic.

- "Fog fog فوق النخل" by Punshtein

The Arabic word "فوق" means above in English and sounds like "fog". So the sentence literally means: Fog above the palm trees.


Many kosher restaurants have names punning on the type of food they sell and well-known Hebrew phrases. The kosher Mexican restaurant Burrito'lam references the Hebrew phrase meaning "eternal covenant",[4] and the kosher barbecue restaurant HaKadosh BBQ, refers to the phrase HaKadosh Barukh Hu ("the Holy, Blessed be He") a term used to refer to God in Jewish tradition.[5]


A Danish ice cream ad with the caption, "Take it Is'i". "Is" is the Danish word for ice cream, and Is'i sounds like "easy".


At the beginning of his short story "The Dead Lady of Clown Town", science fiction author Cordwainer Smith wrote:[6]

Go back to An-fang, the Peace Square at An-fang, the Beginning Place at An-fang, where all things start. Bright it was. Red Square, dead square, clear square, under a yellow sun.

In Chinese, An-fang can mean "Peace Square", while Anfang is the German word for "beginning."


- Elton John.

(Eltin can) Elton John (eltin means sister-in-law)

- I run each teen me?

(Ayran içtin mi?) Did you drink ayran?

- A wet each team.

(Evet, içtim) Yes, I drank it

- I run each make is tea your sun each.

(Ayran içmek istiyorsan iç) If you want to drink ayran, drink

- Hire them in each team.

(Hayır, demin içtim) No, I just drank

- Catch bar duck each teen?

(Kaç bardak içtin?) How many glasses did you drink?

- On bar duck each team.

(On bardak içtim) I drank 10 glasses.

-Why High One Why

(Vay Hayvan Vay) Whoa, you're crazy


In the film Gaijin, a Brazilian Odyssey[7] directed by Tizuka Yamasaki, newly immigrated Japanese agricultural laborers struggle to adapt to Brazilian culture. At mealtime, the Brazilian cook serves up a stew of feijoada to Japanese more used to rice:

Japanese: Kome! (Kome (), Japanese for rice)
Cook: Come! (Portuguese for Eat!)


Pierre Clouthier, Moncton NB, 1968; in Spanish class.

English: An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Spanish/Latin: Manzana (mens sana) in corpore sano (Manzana is apple in Spanish; mens sana is a healthy mind)[original research?]


Indonesian bilingual puns abound, due to the syllabic-nature of the language:


  1. Lari Tidak Mobil Tidak (run-no car-no), reads Rano Karno, the name of an Indonesian veteran actor
  2. Menjadi Muda Peduli Rock (be-young care-rock), reads biang kerok, or the troublemaker
  3. Ketakutan Baru si Saya adalah Pohon (new-fear the-me is-tree), reads nyupir demi istri, or driving for the sake of the wife
  4. Pergi Muda Dungu Merah (go-young dumb-red), reads goyang dombred, a type of dangdut dance
  5. Nge-Dunk Bisakah Aku nge-Rock (slam-dunk can I-rock), reads selendang Ken Arok, or Ken Arok's scarf (Ken Arok is a semi-mythical figure in old Javanese history)
  6. 2121 2 Mobil Warna [Adalah Pohon] (two-one two-one two-car color [is-tree]), reads tuan-tuan tukar kolor [istri], or "the masters are exchanging shorts (or [wife])"
  7. Berkata Penuh Lompat Sakit (say-full jump-ill), reads "Saiful Jamil", the name of an Indonesian dangdut musician
  8. Tidak Tahu, Tunai Aku Tahu, Dalam Menggambar (don't-know, cash-I-know, in-draw), reads Dono, Kasino, Indro, trio famous Indonesian comedian (the first two are now deceased).

Other than Indonesian/English bilingual puns, Chinese and Japanese puns are also popular, by playing on stereotypes of (mostly made-up) Chinese and Japanese sounds/syllables.[11] The Indonesian words equivalent are often replaced with Javanese language,[12] or other languages of Indonesia. Other foreign languages that get the same treatment includes: Dutch (because of Dutch history in Indonesia), Arabic (because of Arabic influence in Indonesian loanwords), Korean, German, Indian, Spanish/Portuguese, etc.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ George Bush - Hu's on First. 10 November 2006 – via YouTube.
  2. ^ van Rooten, Luis d'Antin (1980). Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames. ISBN 978-0-14-005730-0, originally published London, Angus and Robertson, 1967.
  3. ^ "Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Humpty Dumpty". The Guardian. 27 November 2009. Archived from the original on 23 December 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  4. ^ says, Richard Sachs (15 January 2014). "Closing Alert: Burrito'lam, Teaneck, NJ".
  5. ^ "The Holy Grail of Kosher Barbeque: Hakadosh BBQ".
  6. ^ Smith, Cordwainer (1993). The Rediscovery of Man. Framingham, MA: The NESFA Press. p. 223. ISBN 0-915368-56-0.
  7. ^ Yamasaki, Tizuka (1980). "Gaijin, a Brazilian Odyssey". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  8. ^ Rizki Ramadan. "Bahasa Indonesia-Inggris-Ception".
  9. ^ Indonesian bilingual puns
  10. ^ (in Indonesian) Funny English
  11. ^ (in Indonesian) Bahasa Kocak: Chinese, Japanese
  12. ^ "Dunia Kita".
  13. ^ "Dunia Kita".