Created By: helltamirre on December 15, 2011

Multilingual Pun

A pun which relies on two or more languages to work.

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Some words sound the same, but have different meanings in different languages. Which. of course, opens up a whole new way of making a pun.
Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • December 15, 2011
    Erm, isn't this just intentionally invoking In My Language That Sounds Like?
  • December 17, 2011
    Yes, because that's what puns often are. One pun that comes to mind is "Il y a l'anglais avec son sang froid habituelle", or "Here's the Englishman with his usual bloody cold." Of course, the original French is "Here's the Englishman with his typical stiff upper lip." It's a pun on the "sang froid" meaning, literally "cold blood", allowing a loose translation to "bloody cold", relying on the British slang "bloody" and stereotypes about the English bottling up their emotions and living on a damp, chilly island that causes colds.

    There's also "coup de grace" defined as "lawnmower" and some others, but that's really all I have on tap.
  • December 17, 2011
    • In Feet Of Clay, a candlemaker named Arthur goes to a herald to buy a coat of arms; rather than getting assigned a Latin[[hottip:*:actually the Discworld equivalent "Latatian", which is apparently identical to Latin]] motto as is customary, he gets the already-punny English motto "Art brought forth the candle." It's because he and the herald are in cahoots to murder the Patrician using arsenic-infused candles, and the Latin translation of the motto would be "Ars enixa est candelam."
  • December 17, 2011
    • Sir Pterry loves multilingual puns! He also gave us "FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC" over the door to the police station ("Make my day, punk") and "Ave! Bossa nova similis bossa seneca!" right after the real phrase "Ave! Duci nova simili duci senici!"
  • December 17, 2011
    So far, the only examples are puns from a non-English language. Not puns involving two languages.
  • December 17, 2011
    Actually, my first example is a pun that relies on the multiple meanings of the English word "cold" and the dual stereotypes, but which meaning doesn't actually translate that way into French because "sang froid" is something of an idiomatic phrase, like "coup de grace". In French, a cold would be a "rhume de cerveau" or "rhume banal". "Froid" means cold as in temperature, not cold as in the stuffy wheezy mucosal illness.

    The first Terry Pratchett example actually is a bilingual pun because arsenic is arsenic in both English and Latin. "fabricati diem, pvnc" is actually a foreshortened "fabricati diem, pvncti agvnt celeriter" (make the day for the moments pass quickly), and pvnc = punk is entirely a bilingual pun. The third, about the bossa nova, is a bilingual pun of which neither language is English. "Bossa Nova" is a style of Brazilian music (language, Portuguese), whereas the Latin phrase means, "Hail! The new leader, the same as the old leader!" or "Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss."

    So, yeah, bilingual puns all.
  • December 18, 2011
  • December 18, 2011
    Lolita, and most other works by Vladimir Nabokov, feature bilingual (and occasionally trilingual) puns.
  • December 18, 2011
    Your first example is to make an English pun in French, which only works because you're switching "sang froid" from cold blood to blood cold. The lawnmower example is unclear.

    Discworld uses pseudolatin, which means it translates to just about anything P Terry wants it to. In the non-spoilered section, only an English pun is explained. Thus, not an example unless you read the spoiled section.

    Then we get to Fabricate Diem pvnc. First of all, in "Latin", there's a Running Gag that people couldn't spell in the good days. Second of all, the only word that doesn't look like another English word is diem, which is still well known from phrases like carpe diem. Thirdly, there's no second meaning. It's only a pun if there is a second meaning, or more.

    Lastly, is there another meaning to Bossa seneca? Because otherwise, it's just a reference, not a pun. Terry Pratchett loves obscure references more than puns. There are relatively few puns in his stories.

    Your description is when a line that means something in one language, but intentionally means something different in another language.

    For example, you're number... (counts in binary on fingers) 4 today. In binary, the middle finger means 4 (well, 0100). In American culture, it means fuck you.

    No insult intended, I just couldn't come up with anything else.
  • December 18, 2011
    Dairy air smells like milk cows' derrieres
  • December 19, 2011
    House Of Leaves includes quite a few of these, including a poem which can be translated into French to produce a poem that still rhymes, but has a different subtext and rhyme scheme.

    Additionally, there's the old riddle about the Englishman and the Frenchman who wanted to race their cats, both called "1-2-3" in their respective languages, across the channel. Which one won? The answer: the English cat, because un deux trois quatre cinq.

    The Other Wiki has more examples.
  • December 19, 2011
    The play Oh Calcutta was named after a painting of the same name. Calcutta is the name of a city in India, but in French it sounds like "Oh, what a lovely ass!"
  • December 20, 2011
    Finnegans Wake is a 600+ page example of this trope, every single "sentence," start to finish.