open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Rurouni Kenshin, the eponymous character ate some Magic Mushrooms called waraitake or "laughing mushroom," which refers to multiple species of psilocybin mushroom. Media Blasters translated it as "funny mushrooms." In English, "funny" can mean "strange," but an adult probably wouldn't describe a thing as funny in that sense, but a quality possessed by that thing. A child, on the other hand, would just describe the thing itself as funny. Kenshin was definitely a child when this happened, so in the Media Blasters dub, Hiko appears to be directly quoting Kenshin's description of the mushrooms in question.
- In Azumanga Daioh, Osaka makes a pun on the word kaidan, which means either 'horror story' or 'staircase' depending on context. This pun translated easily into English, because of the double meaning of the English word 'stor(e)y'.
- Earlier in the same scene, Tomo asks, "who's always banging up cars?" The answer is "the dentist", because the Japanese word for "dentist" is phonetically the same as the word for a scrapped car ("haisha"). But in English, "dentist" works just as well. The anime could get this across through Osaka's diction; the manga didn't have this option, but also didn't have pictures to worry about, so they just replaced it with another joke.
- Kamigami No Asobi has one that goes both ways. The gods are going to put on a school play, and they decide to do Cinderella. Some of them don't know what it's about, and Hades says is must be about death, because Shinderella refers to death. Well, of course, the name Cinderella already comes from "cinders", so the subtitle says "The name Cinderella must refer to her cremated ashes". Thanks, Hades.
- Pokémon examples:
- The series is filled with Punny Names, and some actually went well in the translation: Misty in Japanese was called Kasumi, the word for "mist", for example.
- The second movie, Pokémon 2000, involves a prophecy about a disaster that only The Chosen One (Ash, naturally) can stop. There's no wordplay here in the Japanese original, but the English translators couldn't resist adding some: the prophecy's English version says that "the earth shall turn to ash". Translators into other languages had to decide what to do with this — Ash is still Ash in most places, but the pun only works in English. Several translations solved the problem by outright citing the English pun (i.e. the characters notice that Ash's name is the English word for that stuff the earth shall turn to). But the Italian translators got lucky: they noticed that the prophecy could be rephrased to include the words "a scendere", pronounced "Ash endere"!
- In Pokémon 3: Spell of the Unown, Molly Hale, wanting to see her parents again, takes some Unown tiles and uses them to spell out "Mama", "Papa" and "Me" together in a Scrabble-like fashion. She's actually spelling out her own name here—in the Japanese version her name is Me, pronounced like the English pronoun. The English dub can just pretend it was the pronoun all along.
- In the Japanese version of Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns, Misty says during a river cruise that she's have no problem ignoring (mushi-shima~su) Bug (mushi) Pokémon around her. The English dub has an almost identical pun, where she says she won't "let Bug Pokémon bug [her]".
- Dawn had a nickname that was based on her past and was constantly known as Dee Dee from Kenny (or in Japan, Pikari). We learn that it was because she hugged a Plusle and Minun a bit too much and thus they did an electric attack on her and made her hair stand on end thus gaining the nickname Pikari (with 'Pika' the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparks). The dub went for Dee Dee (which can be read DD) and the nickname became Diamond Dandruff.
- In the Italian dub, where Dawn is called Lucinda, the nickname is "Lulu" and it's short for "Luccica come la luna" ("It glows like the moon")
- In the XY episode where Serena disguises herself as Ash, there is a scene where it appears to Serena (and the audience) that Ash is romantically confessing to her, but then it turns out he's just telling Pikachu to use Iron Tail before collapsing. The pun works in both Japanese and English because the Japanese word "ai" (love, as in "ai shiteiru") is phonetically identical to the English pronoun "I" (as in "I love you"), and "Iron Tail" was in Gratuitous English to begin with.
- The most common translation of Kamina's/Team Gurren's Catch Phrase in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is "Who the hell do you think I/we am/are?" This happens to fit the mouth flaps quite well, and is used in the dub (though for the plural they add "Just" in the beginning).
- In the original Lucky Star, Konata Izumi's favourite anime icon is Haruhi Suzumiya, and many of the jokes are dependent on the fact that the two are voiced by the same person (Aya Hirano). The jokes were left in the English dub because luckily, the same English voice actress (Wendee Lee) also had enough range to play both Haruhi and Konata. The same goes for Minoru Shiraishi in regards to Taniguchi (Sam Riegel plays both in the dub).
- Strawberry Marshmallow: Nobue's name sounds close enough to "no boobies" that Miu was able to spin an insult out of it.
- School Rumble - Reading Sun Tzu, Tenma misreads a word as 'to remove clothes' and 'hare'. The real problem was that she actually vizualised this strange image of someone stepping out of a bunny costume, so it would be hard to ignore. It was translated as 'to take off like a rabbit', a phrase which Sun Tzu did use.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- In episode 11 of Brotherhood, there's a scene where Ed's trying to talk about a baby that's about to be born (in Japanese, "umareru"), but he's too flustered to spit out anything beyond "uma", the first two syllables; Winry thinks he's talking about a horse, which is also translated from "uma". In the English version, Ed instead mutters "the ba..." ("The baby's coming"); by pure luck, the first syllable of "baby" is pronounced the same as the English word "bay", which is a certain-colored horse, thus making the pun work in English as well.
- Ed calls the second Greed "Greedling" because he possesses the body of a guy named Ling. However, "ling" as a suffix in English means "little" (e.g. fingerling potatoes), which works quite well in two respects. It makes sense that the second version would sort of be "little Greed", and it's completely in character for Ed to call someone else little, which makes the nickname funnier in English.
- In the manga, though, Viz translated Ling's name as Lin, so a variation on his Junior Greed title had to be given. Ed ended up calling him "Grin" as a contraction of "Greed" and "Lin," which, while not as true to the original intent of the joke—i.e. a play on being a mini Greed—the joke still works in its own way.
- The title of Bakemonogatari is a Portmanteau of the Japanese words "bakemono" (ghost or monster) and "monogatari" (story):
- In English Ghostory or Monstory are obvious translations. One of the sequel novels, Nisemonogatari, also has this going for it ("Impostory").
- In Russian Bakemonogatari is wonderfully translated as Монстрассказы (Monstrasskazy)
- In Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, "Hanage Shin Ken" (a parody of "Hokuto Shin Ken" from Fist of the North Star) literally means "True Fist of the Nose Hair". The reference to Fist of the North Star is obvious, even more so if the "True" is omitted. This is in fact doubly lucky, since "Hokuto" is actually the name for the Big Dipper, not the North Star.
- Sebastian's catchphrase in Black Butler is a pun on akumade, meaning "to the end," and akuma, meaning "demon." The English translation used by both the Fan Sub and Funimation's official subtitles, "one hell of a butler," just happens to convey both meanings as well. The manga uses "a devil of a butler," which is a little more on the nose, but still works.
- At one point in the Amazon Lily arc of One Piece, Luffy is being stared at completely naked by a group of amazons who don't know anything about men. When one of them asks what's in the 'bag' attached between his legs, Luffy replies with 'kintama', which is a Japanese slang term for testicles that also means 'balls of gold', so of course the amazons think he's saying that he has actual balls of gold between his legs. The English translation uses 'family jewels', which fits the joke perfectly.
- One filler villain has the "Kama-Kama Fruit", which the characters mishear as "Okama" (crossdresser). In the dub, the fruit's name was translated as the "Sickle-Sickle Fruit", and the characters mishear it as "Sicko".
- Before the Straw Hats arrive at Dressrosa, Luffy mishears the name of the island and asks Law: "Have you ever been to Dressroba?". "Roba" means "old hag" in Japanese, so cue Robin having an Imagine Spot about an ugly, old lady dancing around in a dress. The German translation makes Luffy say: "Have you ever been to Dress Oma?". "Oma" means "grandmom", so the hilariousness of the imagine spot stays pretty much the same. Furthermore, it is a lucky translation that "Oma" still sounds enough like "Rosa" (two syllables, the same two vowels) to make Luffy's mishearing plausible.
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, there is a reference to the "former Taro Sekiutsu" (former because he sold his identity to Maria and now lives in a cardboard box) being classless. This works perfectly as a pun in English, since Taro is both classless in the sense of abandoning society and classless in the sense that he's not attending class in high school.
- Fairy Tail has a couple, usually in the way of puns. One good example is Erza's spear, named 破邪の槍 (haja no yari, literally "spear of destroying evil"), which is translated as "De-Malevo-Lance". With no way to concisely render the concept of "destroying evil", they went for a play on words instead.
- In Wolf's Rain Tsume frequently calls Toboe "chibi" (meaning "small") as a disrespectful nickname. In the dub, he uses "runt", which works even better for having a canine/lupine connotation.
- A joke in Gin Tama involved characters becoming sick and turning into Will Smith. He's called "Virus Smith". In Japanese "Virus" and "Wills" are pronounced similarly, so it's a pun. This pun doesn't work with English pronunciation, so the subs decided to go with an equally fitting English pun, "Ill Smith".
- Urusei Yatsura:
- In episode 87, the principal makes a pun on "'nikui" (hatred) and "niku" (meat). AnimEigo's subtitles rendered it as "I've got a beef with you, seeing you hide that meat in your pocket."
- The chapter / episode introducing Kotatsu-Neko (manga chapter 111, anime episode 51) is titled "Kaidan ni Neko ga Onnen", which literally means "There's a Cat on the Stairs", but "kaidan" written as 怪談 means "ghost story" (as mentioned above), and "onnen" written as 怨念 can mean something like "a grudge that persists after someone's death, turning them into a ghost". Viz translated it as "Two-Story Ghost Story", whereas AnimEigo didn't try to translate the puns.
- In Yakitate!! Japan, Kuroyanagi - known for his punny reactions to really good breads - tries a sample of chicken yakisoba bread and has to be restrained from taking off his pants. The double meaning of "cock" works the same in Japanese as it does in English.
- In GeGeGe no Kitaro, Medama-oyaji, the title character's father, an eyeball monster's name could be translated into English as "Pop Eye".
- In Bunny Drop, there's a scene where a little boy is having a laughing fit because of a news report on TV. He thinks that the report is about trains pooping (unko), when it's actually about trains being on time (unkou). The joke still works in English, due to the multiple meanings of the word "regular" (in addition to its normal meaning of "at frequent intervals," it's also commonly used euphemistically to mean "has normal bowel movements").
- A nice bonus in Polish translation of Get Backers is Mugenjou as "Nieskończony Zamek" which can mean "Endless/Infinite Castle" as well as "Unfinished/Incomplete Castle"
- In Bleach, there's a scene where Yumichika refers to himself as "beautiful" and Ganju pretends to mishear it as "pathetic", or something along that line. This works well in English where Yumichika refers to himself as "pretty" and Ganju agrees by saying, "Yeah, you're quite a pity."
- In Kirby of the Stars, there's a character called Tokkori who once said "sono tokkori da", a pun on the phrase "sono toori da" (that's right). The fansubbers were lucky enough to make this "Exact-tokko-ly".
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- Asuka in Japanese calls Kensuke, Toji, and Shinji the "trio of idiots," which was translated in English to The Three Stooges.
- Before Operation Yashima, Rei tells Shinji "sayonara" instead of something like "matane", which implied that she thought she won't be able to talk to him again. This was easily translated into English by her saying "goodbye" instead of "see you".
- In the original Japanese K-On!, Azusa is nicknamed "Azunyan" ("Azumeow"). In the French translation, she's instead nicknamed "Azuchat", which incorporates the word "chat" ("cat" in French) and is phonetically similar to "Azusa" (the 't' is silent).
- An unusual written version is the title card of Kill la Kill. Mostly because of the font they use, the Katakana title, "キルラキル", bears a strong resemblance to "KIL;KIL". This is also something of an inversion, because "kiru" has several meanings (most notably "to cut" or "to wear") and "kill" is the least significant to the story. So a literal translation of the name loses a lot to English-speaking audiences.
- The same goes for the title card for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, where "JoJo" bears a strong resemblance to its katakana version; ジョジョ.
- Dragon Ball has the character Chi-chi, whose name is based on a childish Japanese slang term for breasts. Luckily enough, it's also a slang term for breasts in Spanish, and enough English-speakers are aware of this that the pun works well enough for English-speaking audiences as well. Jokes like "Okay, her name's Chi-chi, but where's the one with chichis?" work just fine without having to awkwardly rename the character something like "Tits."
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS Sein and Wendi call Quattro "Megane-nee" or "Mega-nee" when not in her presence. There's a very easy translation in "Glasses-sis" and "Glass-sis", which is exactly the same pun.
- In Chihayafuru, Chihaya's nickname for Nishida is nikuman (meaning a Japanese meat bun) based on his large, round shape and the fact that he was eating one of them when they re-met in high school. It would've been fine enough to retain the original, but one sub group decided to go a little further: one of the most common ingredients in nikuman is pork, and 'porky' just so happens to be a well-known nickname for fat people in English. This way, they get a nickname that reads the same as the original as well as still making sense in context.
- Toriko has an arc that involves a temple called "Shokurin Tera". "Shokurin" is a pun both "shoku", one of the words for "food", and "shourin", the Japanese pronunciation of "Xiao Lin". Both the official manga and anime translations (by Viz and Funimation respectively) successfully preserve the pun by translating it as the "Chow-lin Temple".
- One-Punch Man has a part where Saitama is reading the website for the Superhero Registry with the slogan "an unregistered sentai is just a Hentai". The English preserves both the meaning and the rhyme directly with "if you aren't a hero, you're just a weirdo."
- In episode 6 of the Kantai Collection anime, Akatsuki attempts to say the word "elegant" in Gratuitous English but ends up saying "elephant". In the Filipino dub, this is translated as "elegante" and "elepante", with the exact meanings intact.
- Astérix was chock-full of these, which is part of the reason its translations are held in high regard and rarely prone to things getting Lost in Translation:
- The names "Astérix" and "Obélix" are quite fortunate as the pun on "Asterisk" and "Obelisk" work in English - and most languages - as well, meaning translators don't have to change the title characters' names.
- In the original French, Obelix's dog is named Idéfix (a pun on idée fixe, or fixed idea, because on his first appearance he doggedly followed Obelix everywhere). "Dogmatix" is a more-or-less accurate translation and a pun on "dog".
- In one of the Hungarian translations, they kept Idéfix because "ide" means "here", as in the dog command.
- In the Italian translation of Obelix's Catch Phrase, "These Romans are crazy!", is "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani!", which is also a pun on SPQR, the Roman initialism.
- In Asterix and the Banquet, the characters tour Gaul, picking up regional specialties. In Cambrai, they pick up peppermint sweets called "Bêtise de Cambrai", meaning "mistake" or "nonsense". Most of that section was plays on "bêtise". If the sweets had just been "peppermints" in English, the translators would have had to fill it with unrelated puns. Conveniently, however, they're similar to the stripy mints that are called "humbugs" in the UK, so they played on the meanings of that word instead.
- Certain other character names translate perfectly, such as the Roman economist Saugrenus (pun on saugrenu, meaning an unbelievably absurd concept) becoming Preposterus.
- There's a moment in Asterix and the Banquet where there's a pun that works perfectly in both French and English without changing any of the text at all. Asterix and Obelix go to a wine dealer who offers them several different kinds of wine, using the French jargon terms (which are all used commonly in English). Asterix and Obelix don't understand any of the differences, so buy one of everything. Outside they encounter a Roman who attempts to attack them, and Asterix asks Obelix to hand him a bottle. Then, in both versions:
Asterix: Brut. [He shakes up the bottle and fires the cork at the Roman - it hits him in the chin]
- The end of Asterix and the Actress hinges on a joke about Caesar giving a golden statue of himself to an actress, which is a pun on the César Award, the French film awards - completely unknown elsewhere. The English version altered it into 'a golden me!' to play off M-E-, or Emmy.
- Flintheart Glomgold of the Disney Ducks Comic Universe. Initially he got the German name "Steinerz Goldunger", but later he was renamed "Mac Moneysac", a Meaningful Name that's even understandable for kids who only know few English words.
- One Yoko Tsuno story has the three main characters trapped into a glass dome by giant insectoids, with Pol commenting that they now only need to add vinegar to get three pickled cucumbers. The translation has him say that if the insectoids add vinegar the heroes will find themselves in a pickle, adding a pun that was not there in the original text (the expression does not exist in French).
- An in-universe example in Mass Effect Interregnum: after seeing a krogan teammate blow an enemy's arms off, a salarian character makes an "unarmed combat" pun that he notes as working just as well in the common salarian and krogan languages as it does in English.
Films — Animated
- Despicable Me: The scene with the cookie robots, which actually are boogie robots, is rendered very well in the Italian dubbing of the film. They have been renamed "Bisco robots", where "bisco" is short for "biscotto" (cookie), and then revealed as Disco robots, a joke that works as well, if not better, as the original English language pun.
- In the Brazilian dub, the sloth Flash is renamed Flecha, meaning arrow, retaining both the sound and the connotation of speed.
- Judy finds it distressing when a predator calls her "cute". In the Italian dub, it was translated as "tenera", which can mean cute, cuddly, soft, or tender. As in tender meat. Which makes her discomfort even more justified.
- In the French dub, the scene where Judy pulls a hustle on Nick got an hilarious upgrade: after saying that it was a "carrot" (understand like a "Carrot on a Stick", reinforced by her showing the carrot-shaped microphone), Finnick bursts out in laughter, mocking Nick for having been "carroted" which in French means being the victim of a scam. However, the translation ruins a bit the Ironic Echo of the scene because the first time it was simply translated as a hustle, but the new joke is arguably funnier.
- Mayor Lionheart refers mockingly to his assistant Bellweather as "Smellweather". In the Italian dub it was translated as "Bruttweather", a pun around "Bella" (beautiful) and "Brutta" (ugly). The same lucky translation is used in the French dub, with Bellweather becoming "Mocheweather".
- Some examples from the European Spanish translations of the Disney Animated Canon include "Bajo el mar" ("Under the Sea") from The Little Mermaid (100% literal, and it even has the exact same amount of syllables!), "Ahí fuera" ("Out There") from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (literal, although the song plays with that translation and the word "allí"), or "¿Cuándo mi vida va a comenzar?" ("When Will My Life Begin?") from Tangled (literal, although with a kinda twisted grammar construction).
- In the Japanese version of The Prince of Egypt the main song "Deliver Us" is translated into Japanese as "我らを救いたまえ" ("warera wo sukui tamae", essentially "bestow upon us a savior"). Surprisingly, the song doesn't change much.
- The Finnish translation of Frozen turns "Let It Go" to Taakse Jää, roughly Left Behind. The lyrics are about the things Elsa is leaving behind her, but "jää" is also a homonym for ice. The Brazilian translation of the song is also quite a faithful translation of the original. In the Spanish dub the song is translated as "Sueltalo" which has the same amount of syllables and even rhymes, is a valid direct translation of the word although it can also means "Let it lose" or "Lose it" depending on the context.
- Basil The Great Mouse Detective, a Sherlock Holmes Expy, is called "Basil Holmuis" (hole-mouse) in Dutch. Yes, it's an actual word.
- The name of Cruella De Vil, from 101 Dalmatians, works great in Spanish too. While originally the name would be a simple play on "Cruel Devil" for the English speakers, in Spanish "Vil" means "Vile" so it works as "Cruel of Vile". Also the "la" termination in "Cruella" indicates it is a feminine entity.
- In Flemish, the word for "to saw" can also be used as slang for "to whine". So in Atlantis: The Lost Empire "Less talk! More sawing!" became "Niet zagen! Zagen!" ("Don't whine! Saw!").1
- The Swedish subtitles for The Simpsons Movie translate Homer's "D'OOOOOH...ME!" as "KUUUU...POL!" It works fine since "kupol" means dome, whereas "kuk" is a common curse meaning "dick".
- The LEGO Movie:
- The villain's right-hand man is a police officer with two personalities: a good cop and a bad cop called "Good Cop" or "Bad Cop" depending on which personality is active. The Swedish dub translated "Bad Cop" into "dumsnut", which doubles as a terrific pun. To wit, "dum" means "stupid/mean" and "snut" means "cop", but the word "dumsnut", when taken as a whole, is a somewhat folksy word for "idiot" or "dummy".
- Italian is a language perfect for Batman-related puns. The "Let's wing it!" joke is translated as "Bat-tiamocela!", The point being that "battiamocela" is Italian for "let's beat it" (as in running away), but it also begins with "Bat".
- In the Portuguese dub of Monsters vs. Aliens, Doctor Cockroach PhD's name becomes "Professor Barata". While "barata" is the literal translation of "Cockroach", it's also a real Portuguese surname that happens to be significantly associated with academia.
- The Swedish dub of The Lion King takes advantage of the fact that Scar is pronounced exactly the same as the Swedish word "skar" which is past tense for "skära", meaning "to cut". In the scene where Scar is first mentioned to Timon and Pumbaa, the latter asks "where did he cut himself?".
Films — Live-Action
- The title of Me, Myself & Irene has a pun on Irene and "I". Coincidentally, the Hungarian equivalent of the name Irene is "Irén" and "én" means I, so the literal translation: "Én, meg én meg az Irén" did the same thing.
- 'Major Asshole' Scene, which in Italian is translated with the very similar expression 'Maggiore Stronzo' ('Major Turd').
- In the Latin American dub, Chewbacca's parody "Barf" is translated as "Basca" (that means "nausea" or "vomit"). Coincidentally, Chewbacca's name in the first Latin American dubs for Star Wars was "Masca" (which means "he/she chews"), creating an almost perfect parallel that worked even better than in the original version.
- In the Swedish translation, Barf is translated as Kräk. Kräk usually means gag or vomit, but can also mean beast, rotter and moron in the right context.
- Another Mel Brooks example, this time from Blazing Saddles: In Norwegian everyday speak, "mongo" is an (admitedly offensive) word for "retard" or "retarded". So to Norwegians, a simpleton character named Mongo makes sense.
- In The Stinger of Daredevil, Bullseye is recuperating on a hospital bed after a fight with Daredevil when a fly suddenly comes and annoys him, and when the fly goes to the wall, he struggles to get a surgical syringe and manages to throw it right at it. He then shouts "Bullseye". The Portuguese translators went with the closest translation to this expression, "Na mosca," which means... "In the fly".
- In Russian, машина (mashina) means "machine," but it also means "car." A time machine is a машина времени (mashina vremeni, literally "machine of time"). This makes Doc Brown's DeLorean all the more significant to Russians.
- Similarly, Doc Brown describing the elaborate contraption used to harness the lightning bolt as a "weather experiment" becomes a pun in Spanish: "time" and "weather" are both "tiempo".
- The "Surely you can't be serious" gag from Airplane! works arguably even better in Finnish as "Et kai ole tosissasi". Kai means surely or supposedly and is also a first name.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky's movie, El Topo, is to have a sequel, "El Toro". That is, from "The Mole" to "The Bull".
- In Mean Girls, Karen goes to the Halloween party dressed as a sexy mouse. In the Italian version, when asked what she is dressed as, she answers "Sono una topa", "topa" meaning "female mouse", but also a slang word for female genitalia and a rude compliment to a pretty girl.
- The title of the movie Species was translated into Hebrew as "Min Mesukan", literally "Dangerous Species". However, "min" also means "sex" (both "gender" and "intercourse"), making the translation mean "Dangerous Sex", which could also serve as an appropriate title for the film.
- Lincoln has one that works perfectly in French for the whole "Washington and the English" joke. In French "faire chier" means bugging someone to the point of pissing them off, but taken literally reads "make (him/her/it) take a shit", which gets the point of placing the presidential portrait in the privy across that much better.
- The "Argo fuck yourself" line in Argo is translated as "Argoderse" in the Spanish dub, which is as phonetically close to "a joderse", the Spanish version of "go fuck yourself", and a less contrived pun than the original at that!
- Similarly, the part in Man on Fire where Pita asks Creasy the name of his last girlfriend and he answers "Notyou"note was translated in Spanish as "Queti" (pronounced Katy).note
- In Miss Congeniality, Gracie teaches the audience a self-defense pnemonic, SING, for the pressure points solar plexus, instep, nose, and groin. When the movie was translated into Spanish, the line becomes "¡Plexo solar! !Empeine! ¡Nariz! ¡Entrepierna!", foreshadowing the Groin Attack that comes at the end.
- Bulletproof Monk relies on "crane"'s double meaning for its Prophecy Twist; the same double-meaning is present in French.
- When Schindler's List was released in Sweden the only change in the title was that the apostrophe was removed (Swedish doesn't use apostrophes to mark the genitive like English does). "List" in Swedish could mean "cunning" (noun) or "cleverness", or something like "ruse" or "stratagem", all of which are highly descriptive of Schindler's activities and personality.
- The Danish subtitles of The Inbetweeners Movie translates "steak" in Jay's line of "why go for hamburgers, when you can have a steak?" (why go for plain-looking women when you can score with a hot woman?) into "steg" which basically means the same ("steg" is more often used for roast meat, though), but is also a very well-known slang term for a sexy woman, thus creating a funny pun.
- The Latin American subtitles for Train of Life features a scene in which one Jewish character is trying to eat meat given by Nazi officers. He asks to himself in low voice if the meat is "kosher", raising suspicions by the Nazi officers. He rectifies asking at loud voice if the beef is "de cocer" ("for boiling"), an accurate homophone for "kosher" in Spanish that serves to mask up his little mistake.
- In the Spanish dub of the Life, the inmate known as Biscuit is renamed "Bizcocho" (Sponge Cake), in order to fit better the lip movement (the literal translation would be "Galleta"). Sponge cake, being a very fancy bakery product, also suits Biscuit's personality well. The term "Bizcocho" is also used as a pet-name between lovers, similar to "Cupcake" or "Sweetheart", and in Spanish, just as in English, can be used ironically to mock an un-manly man.
- In Zoolander, a joke is made when the Power Trio tries to find out what device Mugatu will use to make Zoolander kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. When Matilda discovered it will be the song "Relax" and tells the title character about it, Derek Zoolander thought she was asking him to relax. The joke would got lost if it wasn't by the fact that the loan word "relax" was already a widespread slang in Latin America retaining the same meaning it has in English.
- For some reason, this is somewhat subverted in the Mexican Spanish dub of Ghostbusters (2016) regarding the Spanish title: In the previous films and productions of the franchise, the title is translated as Los Cazafantasmas being the plural article "Los" refering to male characters. For obvious reasons, since the film now features female Ghosbusters, it should be named Las Cazafantasmas, being "Las" the plural female article for the same thing, but for some odd reason, the Mexican Spanish title of the film removes any kind of gendered articles in the title and now it's just named Cazafantasmas instead.
Live Action TV
- In a Drake & Josh episode, Drake and Josh make a bet. If Drake eats junk food or if Josh plays video games, one of them will lose. Megan makes a contract to regulate this and there is specified that the loser will dye his hair pink. The joke is that dye and die are homonyms, but the Mexican dub did a clever translation by using the word "mata", which depending of the context can mean "hair" or "kills".
- The name of the Mexican telenovela Amigos X ("Por") Siempre can easily be translated as "Friends 4 Ever". In multiplying in Spanish, "por" is used as the equivalent to "times" (e.g., "two times two equals four" in English would be "dos por dos son cuatro" in Spanish).
- In the Halloween Episode of iCarly. The maincharacters are terrified by what sounds like an old woman yelling die while she actually says dye. The Dutch verf which means paint and dye. doesn't sound too different from sterf the Dutch word for die.
- An episode of Rizzoli & Isles gets in the Italian dub an example that manages to double as an accidental case of Actor Allusion: One episode begins with the two main characters comparing the case they're working on to a Scooby-Doo episode, discussing about which one of them is Daphne and who is Velma: Jane gets to be Velma and even says "Jinkies!" at the end of the discussion. All of this is funnier in the Italian dub because Jane is voiced by Rachele Paolelli, who coincidentially is also the voice of Velma in every media since 2001, so her brief impression of the character is indeed the real deal.
- In the Doctor Who episode The Impossible Astronaut, a character asks where the Doctor is, prompting the usual "Doctor Who?" question. The French dub turns this into "Un Docteur ? Où ?" ("A Doctor? Where?"), which sounds very close to "Doctor Who", thus keeping the joke intactnote .
- In Japanese poetry, it's common to use the pine tree (matsu) as a symbol of longing, because matsu also means "to wait". It's easy to remember, because English has an almost identical double-meaning for the word "pine".
- A French poem in House of Leaves gains a completely different rhyme scheme when translated into English. (One is ABAB and the other is AABB.)
- This Latin poem. It's almost as if Catullus knew of The Queen's Latin.
- Non-language example: In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams makes a joke about the movement of 'small green pieces of paper', meaning the British pound note. The joke made perfect sense to Americans, on account of the color of their money. Now the joke only works for Americans, because Britain doesn't use pound notes any morenote and the other notes aren't green.
- One of the dwarfs in the Discworld novel The Truth is named Goodmountain, a literal translation of the German surname of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable types in Europe. In the German translation, said dwarf's name is Gutenhügel ("good hill"). This not only solves the problem of salvaging the name's subtle reference, but also adds an additional layer of humor by alluding to the name bearer's height.
- Another Discworld example: in Dutch, 'seamstress' is translated as 'naaister'. 'naaien' does not only mean 'sewing', but 'fucking' as well.
- Another Discworld example, this time from the Hebrew language. The Luggage is said to be made (originally) from "Sapient Pearwood". In the Hebrew version of the books, the Luggage is said to be made from "עץ הדעת" ("Etz Ha'Da'at"), which means "Tree of Sentience/Knowing/Knowledge". Yes, that Tree of Knowledge. Makes the Luggage all that much more awesome.
- In Hogfather, there's a running gag about Mr. Teatime insisting his name be pronounced 'Té-AH-ti-mé'. The French version translated his surname as 'Lheurduthé' (l'heure du thé, teatime), which allowed him to insist it be pronounced 'Le Redouté' ('The Dreaded').
- In Witches Abroad, we briefly learn about a character whose touch turns anything to gold. Or at least it would have, but things went wrong and instead his touch turns everything to Glod, an irritable dwarf. Later, in Soul Music, Glod's son Glod Glodsson appears, and his name leads to a "mission from Glod" pun. Since "gold" is "guld" in Swedish and "God" is "Gud," this pun was translated perfectly.
- The Polish translation of Feet of Clay lucked out so much. The Polish equivalent of "copper" is "glina", which literally means "clay", but also happens to mean "cop". The book involves all kinds of jokes about clay people.
- The Hebrew version of Animal Farm is considered by some actually a bit better than the original for a single reason: the word "שווה" ("Sha-ve") in Hebrew means both "equal" and "worthy/deserving". This gives the animals' motto an entirely new pun-tastic layer: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal/deserve more than others."
- In Scots, the word "heehaw", as well as being onomatopoeia for a donkey's bray, is also a slang term for "nothing". So in James Robertson's Scots translation of Winnie-the-Pooh, the line "Eeyore still said nothing at all" becomes "Heehaw wis still sayin heehaw".
- In the traditional Chinese translation of The Lord of the Rings, Mordor note is rendered as mó duō (魔多), which can be understood as "the place of many demons".
- Lewis Carroll, not wanting to ridicule clergy, did not feature Bishops in Through the Looking Glass. However, it still featured two Messengers of the White King — and in some languages (German, Polish) chess bishops are called runners or messengers. In French they're called fou — fools, which triples the lucky translation, as the messengers are Expies of the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. However, because Carroll was an educated Victorian, it is possible that he was already aware at least of the French terminology. For that matter, he was probably also aware of ancient Greek as well — the word for "messenger" in that language is the etymological root for the word "evangelist."
- In Xanth pineapples are highly explosive. But if you change it to pomegranate the pun still works in many other languages. In others, pineapple grenades are called lemons.
- Not surprising when the word "grenade" was derived from the French word for "pomegranate" (pomme-grenade).
- The name "Once-ler" from The Lorax is translated as "Einstler" in the German version, which, apart from being an equivalent, is also reminiscent of "Einsiedler" ("hermit"), which is what the Once-ler became.
- In an early Adrian Mole book, Adrian gets a letter from Norway, written in Norwegian. Adrian copies its full text into his diary, and right afterwards he complains that he can't understand a word of it. In the Swedish translation, the Norwegian text remains the same, but to any Swedish reader the text would be fairly easy to understand since Swedish and Norwegian are incredibly similar languages. Luckily, this just makes it even more hilarious for Swedish readers when Adrian complains about not comprehending a single word of a letter that the readers understood perfectly fine.
- In one of the Land of Oz books, a character tells a bad joke and considers himself extremely funny. The joke barely translates into Swedish, but since the readers are supposed to find the joke bad, this isn't a problem.
- In Fredric Brown's story Man of Distinction, one of the running gags is that aliens come to Earth from a planet named "Dar", which is apparently pronounced same as "there", leading to a lot of Who's on First? when they speak to The Alcoholic they capture. At least one Russian translation keeps the planet's name, but instead runs on the gag of "Dar" (pronounced as spelled) sounding like "gift" or "for free".
- In-Universe example: J. R. R. Tolkien's notes on translating the Red Book from Westron mentions a few fun coincidences, which are of course due to him knowing the results he wanted when he was creating the language. For example the Brandywine river being both a transliteration of the Sindarin name "Baranduin" (golden-brown) and a reference to the Hobbit nickname "Bralda-hîm" (heady ale).
- The English version of one book of Redwall went with the Old English "Marlfox" for the titular characters, who are foxes with shadowy patches all over their body that give them excellent camouflage. The French translation calls them "Les Ombrenards", a portmantitle of ombre (shadow) and renard (fox).
- The Japanese Pronoun "wareware" means "we", but can also be used as an excessively formal way of saying "I". This is similar to the English-language Royal "We". (See The King of All Cosmos from Katamari Damacy for a well-Woolseyed version.)
- If an alien in Ultraman says this, you know he wants to rule the world.
- The Japanese "Gai" is pronounced exactly the same as the common western name "Guy". As long as we're talking about the English name "Guy" and not the French variant, which is pronounced like "gee" (with a hard "g", as in "go" or "guilt".)
- This one works particularly well in Darker Than Black with Clueless Detective Gai Kurusawa, as his (fake) name calls to mind the parody hard-boiled detective "Guy Noir" of A Prairie Home Companion.
- Same for episode 36 of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. On the original Japanese, Sosuke Esumi keeps mistaking Gai Ikari's name for "Yoroi", which is another reading of his name's kanji (meaning "armor"). One known sub has Gai being called "Guy" instead.
- "Yume" (Japanese) and "dream" (English) have the same dual meaning of those hallucinations you see when sleeping and aspirations for the future. This comes up more often than you'd think.
- Which is the same case with "sonho" (Portuguese), "sueño" (Spanish), "sogno" (Italian), "rêve" (French), "Traum" (German), and so on.
- The English term "trump card" and the Japanese term "kirifuda" both literally mean a playing card ranked higher than normal, and figuratively a secret weapon or something used to obtain an advantage.
- Another example (see below in the Real Life section) of a lucky mistranslation: Robin Hood becomes Robin of the Woods (Robin des Bois) in French. It still works, since Robin lives in Sherwood Forest.
Mythology / Religion
- In the Welsh myth cycle Mabinogion, one rhyme relies on the fact that "blawd" can mean either "flour" or "to blossom". Luckily, the pun works just as well in English, since "flour" and "flower" are homophones.
- In The Bible:
- The English words man and woman just happen to be very similar (as in the original Hebrew), making God's line on the Creation of Eve — calling her Woman because she comes from Man — make sense. Some other languages are not so lucky; in German, for instance, the meaning of that line is completely lost.
- Samson slaughters a thousand men with a donkey's jawbone, and follows it with a Bond One-Liner playing on how the Hebrew word for "donkey" sounds like the one for "heap". Some English translators try to preserve the pun by using "ass" for "donkey" and "mass" for "heap". Others willing to take minor liberties with the source can just have Samson call his victims "asses", as it's a common if crude insult in English.
- Later, David muses that he wants to build a house, that is, a structure or temple, for God. God counter-offers by promising to build a house, that is, a dynasty, for David.
- In French, the name "Peter" and the noun "rock" are both translated to "Pierre/pierre". Therefore, we get some godly pun with the first pope being told that "You are Pierre, and on this pierre my home shall be built."
- Warhammer has the Imperial Steam Tank - a steam-powered battle tank created by the engineers of the Empire - a nation based heavily on Renaissance Germany and with no small nod to the stereotypical Prussian militarism of the early 20th century. In German it is called, as one might expect, ein Dampfpanzer ("steam tank"), which also serves as a very Warhammer-ish pun on the classic Kampfpanzer ("battle tank").
- A Magic: The Gathering card called Lightmine Field picked up a translated pun that wasn't present in the English version. In Italian, it's called "Campo Illu-minato," Campo meaning field, Illuminato meaning illuminated/lit, and minato meaning "mined," i.e. rigged with explosives.
- The Lysistrata, a Greek play about women who go on a sex strike is full of double-entendres for those who are able to understand the original Greek meanings, but one pun in particular was a gift to translators. When the women are getting together, one of the characters comments that the Spartan woman isn't there yet, because Spartan women always arrive after everyone else. A translator who's not worried about sounding classy can make the pun in English that was made in the Greek. Spartan women come last.
- Works in the title of The Importance of Being Earnest for several European languages, as the word cognate to or that translates as "earnest" is often used as a proper name.
- The word "LEGO" is a play on the Danish phrase "leg godt" which means "play well"; but "lego" is also Latin for "I build".
- Not That Kind of Doctor: works in Western nations and also sinoxenic (i.e. China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc.). M.D.s are the doctors but so are other highly educated people.
- The hero of the game Gitaroo Man is called U-1, pronounced "Yuichi", which is a common Japanese boys' name. When it was dubbed into English, he became U-1 pronounced "Ewan", which sounds more normal to Western ears. Or sounding like "You Won", which is a nice encouragement to the player.
- In the Polish version of Warcraft, Grom Hellscream gets a Meaningful Name - "grom" in Polish is either "thunder" or "bolt" (as in "bolt out of the blue").
- "Grom" is a common Slavic word, so the same happens in the Russian version and some others as well.
- Mario's twin brother is called Luigi. This originates from the Japanese, where "ruiji" is a word meaning the equivalent and opposite of a thing. That it also happened to translate into another common Italian name was a nice bonus.
- The name of Mario's Evil Twin, "Wario," is originally a portmanteau of the Japanese word "waru" (bad) and Mario. Thanks to the negative connotations of the word "war" in the English language, and the fact that "W" can be read as an upside-down "M", Mario fans the world over are treated to a wordplay that translates exceptionally well.
- Luigi's rival, "Waluigi", still works but a little less well, since anywhere else, it hinges on the fact that there's already an established Evil Twin whose name starts with "Wa". Seems that Luigi doesn't even get his own nemesis without Mario overshadowing him. In Japanese, it's a pun on "warui", which is an informal, somewhat condescending way of apologizing. "Waluigi" (or rather the more literal "waruiji") is also an anagram for "ijiwaru", which more or less translates as "mean", which Waluigi (and Wario for that matter) are.
- The Polish language has "wariować" which means "to go insane" and "wariat" for a crazy person. It's like the lottery grand prize of lucky translations.
- There's also Paper Mario: Sticker Star, which is called Paper Mario: Super Seal in Japan (Japan uses the English loanword "seal" to refer to what a native English speaker would generally call a sticker). The Japanese word for "seal" is shiru, and the sticker fairy character's name there is "Rushi" (essentially a transliteration of "Lucy"), made by switching the syllables of "shiru". Switch the syllables of "sticker" (roughly) and we get her English name: Kersti.
- In the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, the hero enters a secret underground kingdom whose inhabitants were called Uura ("hidden"), and gets involved with an Uura girl named Urara ("beauty", and a pun on Uura). In the English version, the people are called Subrosians (referring to sub rosa, an old tradition of using a rose to indicate a secret meeting place), and the girl Link dates is called Rosa, preserving the pun of a secret place and a pretty girl.
- Rabbids Go Home's plot itself is a kind of lucky translation. Said plot revolves around the Rabbids deciding to "go home" by building a huge pile of stuff to go to the moon. In the original version of the game, it makes sense because the Rabbids are insane enough to think they can build a pile of stuff to get somewhere as far away as the moon. In the Japanese version, it makes sense due to there being a lot of mythological connections between rabbits and the moon.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the sprite for the Gambler Trainer Class is a man wearing a red longcoat and fedora hat, making them look a lot like a stereotypical detective. The English translators took note of this and changed the class to P.I., as in Private Investigator, but the fact that they're still flipping a coin and their dialogue was left completely unaltered (they talk a lot about chance and luck) still makes the translation fairly obvious.
- In Pokémon Black and White, the final stage of Tepig's evolution, in Japan, is "Enbuoh", an appropriate enough Japanese pun, and sounds almost identical to "Emboar" (its English name), which is an appropriate enough English pun.
- Dragon Quest VIII features a pun by Yangus, a guy with a habit of picking his nose. In one scene, he says that he noticed something while "Picking me nose...erm, picking me some flowers". Lucky as that in Japanese the word for "Nose" is also a pun for "Flower" and in English, you can "Pick" flowers or "Pick" your nose, so the pun worked in both languages, if through different words.
- In the Borderlands 2 DLC "Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep" the villain Handsome Sorceror becomes Handsome Hexer in German.
- Guile's Ki Attack in Street Fighter 2 is called a sonic boom. However, before the importation of the anime and manga, due to the distortion from arcade cabinet speakers set too loud, and due to the poor speech sampling technology available in the early 90s, the speech sample often comes across as sabit-ku to Malaysians. Which in Malaysia is a pretty lucky translation, since a sabit is the Malay word for crescent or sickle, which is ultimately what the sonic boom resembles, while the -ku suffix is an indication of ownership, so the phrase becomes Guile saying My Sickle!, which makes sense given what appears to be a flying sickle going across the screen.
- In Touhou 8: Imperishable Night's Extra Stage, a lot of wordplay is based on two Japanese terms meaning "liver" and "test of courage", which sound similar. The English-language fan translation kept most of it by referring to the "test of courage" as "trial of guts".
- In Mother 2 (the Japanese version of EarthBound), there's a pun about "Alps no Shoujo ___ji" (Hai/Iie). In the English localization, EarthBound, this is translated as "A Beatles song, ___terday" (Yes/No). Apparently this sort of pun doesn't work in any other language.
- Possibly done in Team Fortress 2, since Valve translates all the text from their games into every single language they support. The Mann vs. Machine mode is abbreviated to MvM. Most translations of the word "machine" also start with "M", so the abbreviation of MvM is usually kept as-is.note
- Another lucky Malay one, this time from StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void with the Protoss' ark-ship, The Spear of Adun: The word Adun means to "Mix" or "Blend" in Malay. Given the story of the campaign involves the Daelaam Protoss rallying other Protoss factions and even the Zerg and Terrans to defeat Amon, the name is quite fitting. Same for the original Adun, who was the first Protoss to wield Templar and Dark Templar energies in unison.
- The Japanese version of Animal Crossing, the turnip market mechanic is based around a Japanese pun: the word "kabu" can, depending on the kanji used, mean both "stock/share" and "turnip". The English version keeps the pun by calling it the "stalk market" and even works in a pun with the name of the turnip vendor, Sow Joan (after the Dow Jones stock index).
- The Project Zetsubou Fan Translation of Danganronpa benefitted from a few lucky accidents:
- A serial killer character obsessed with romanticised pretty boys explains that she kills people because she is a "rotten girl", which in addition to a description of her character is the Japanese term for a Yaoi Fangirl (fujoshi). Project Zetsubou changed this to "slasher", which has a similarly appropriate double meaning for a serial killer.
- The same character takes to addressing Byakuya as "Byakuya-sama". To get the worshipful tone across, Project Zetsubou had her say "my white knight" — and Byakuya's name literally means white night. (They say in their TL notes that this "fell into place so well it’s almost scary".)
- Monokuma likes to talk about the students' "koroshiai", a pun that means "Killing School Life". While mulling this one over, the Zetsubou staff noticed that this word looked a lot like "koroshiamu", which is how Japanese renders the English word "coliseum" — and that word just happens to make a good translation on multiple levels!
- The Ace Attorney series is rife with punny names, and occasionally they translate perfectly. In Dual Destinies, one character is named "Kaguya", after both a legendary princess who came down from the moon and glowed brightly, as well as a satellite launched by Japan in 2007 (referencing her work at a space agency). This was translated as "Aura", which in addition to a normal given name is the name of a 2004 US satellite and refers to a bright glow around a person.
- The When They Cry series maintains the pun in the word "cry" ("naku" in Japanese), which can mean both "call" and "weep" in both Japanese and English.
- In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, an extremely important reveal hinges on the number 9 sounding identical to the letter Q in Japanese. This obviously isn't true in English, but fortunately the number 9 looking similar to a lowercase q in English let the translators preserve the most crucial parts of the reveal by changing a vital clue to be written on paper.
- The OEL visual novel Doki Doki Literature Club! has Monika telling the main character "You kind of left her (Sayori) hanging this morning, you know?" near the end of Act 1, which while it normally means "you left her waiting", the "hanging" part can also be interpreted as an allusion to the later shocking discovery of Sayori being Driven to Suicide by hanging herself with a rope. The Chinese fan translation patch has Monika telling the player "你算是把她晾在家里了，你知道吗？" ("You gave her the cold shoulder at home, you know?"). "晾" ("liàng") can mean both the figurative sense of "giving someone the cold shoulder", and the literal sense of "hanging" (more specifically, leaving clothes from the laundry out hanging to air-dry on a clothesline). Monika's statement in Chinese could thus also be interpreted as "You left her hanging like a drying shirt over at home, you know?", which definitely fits the description of Sayori's fate in a poetic sense.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- In the Dutch dub, "Bikini Bottom" is translated as "Bikinibroek". "Broek" happens to mean both "pants" and "brook", and is a very common suffix for a small town close to water.
- In France and Italy, instead of "April fool" they say "Poisson d'Avril" or "Pesce d'Aprile" (Fish of April) respectively. This makes the episode "Fools in April" funnier in those countries.
- In South Park:
- Mr. Garrisson once refers to Mr. Slave as his Teacher's Assistant, or Teacher's Ass for short. In Hungarian, Tanársegéd and Tanársegg mean exactly the same.
- The Brazilian translation of an episode features an odd example: In the South Park episode in question, some people would burn "lowercase Ts" (that is, crosses) outside someone's house with the intent to convey to them that it was "time to go". It actually gets MORE, not LESS stilted in Brazilian Portuguese, as it would be normally translated as "hora de ir" rather than "tempo de ir", which is possible, but sounds odd. However, since this was a case of Strange Minds Think Alike, the expression getting more stilted made it even funnier.
- Flatulent superstars Terrance and Phillip have their initials on their shirts, which adds an unintended visual joke for the Frenchs. The letters PT are pronounced pay-tay, just like the verb "péter", which is french for "farting".
- The Brazilian translation of Wacky Races saw the Slag Brothers being translated as "Irmãos Rocha". Irmãos = Brothers, and Rocha, which happens to be a common surname in Portuguese, means Rock. The net result is their name being more 'plausible' in Portuguese than in English.
- The Polish dub of The Tick slipped in a joke about American Maid's vocation being "preserving peace", based on the word used to translate "maid" meaning more specifically "room maid" and "room" and "peace" being homonyms in Polish.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
- In the French dub of the episode "The Cutie Pox", 'The Three Strikes' (a name Apple Bloom considered for if they all had bowling for a talent, that Scootaloo shoots down with "That makes us sound like we struck out") did not translate. However, they could invoke the Scootachicken meme with Apple Bloom suggesting "Les Trois Boules" and Scootaloo shooting it down by saying it would make them sound like "des poulets".
- It's more likely that they were saying "des boulets," since "poulet" only refers to meat, not live chickens. "Boulet" is both a diminutive of "boule" ("ball") and a colloquial term for "fool," so that works just as well.
- Another French example is in "Owl's Well That Ends Well," with the gag of Spike responding to Owlowiscious hooting as if he were saying "Who?" In most languages this is rendered as a nonsense sound, but due to H being silent in French, it is instead interpreted as "Où?" or "Where?" So while in the English version Spike replies to "Who?" with "It's me, Spike," in French he replies to "Où?" with "Ben, ici!" ("Here, of course!")
- In the French translation of "Power Ponies", Applejack's alter-ego Mistress Mare-velous (a Captain Ersatz of Wonder Woman) is known as Wonder Jument ("Wonder Mare"). Even better, since the "t" is silent "jument" sounds a lot like the English word "woman".
- In the Italian dub of the same episode, Mane-Iac is called "Crinimal", a perfect pun based on "criniera" ("mane") and "criminal".
- In the Russian dub, the "kelp/help" mishearing in "Applebuck Season" is rendered as "помощь" (help) confused with "плющь" (ivy). This is arguably a better fit for the conversation since ivy is a far more likely diet for a horse than seaweed.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Slumber Party Panic", the Gumball Guardians force Finn to answer a math question — "2 + 2, solve it or die!" In the Japanese dub, the word "shi" is used for "die"... but since "shi" also refers to the number four, it just makes the situation even funnier.
- In the Norwegian dub of Adventure Time rainicorn is rendered "reinhjørning" making a pun on "regn" (rain as in "regnbue", rainbow) and "ein" (as in "einhjørning", unicorn) which are pronounce the same save for the R.
- Dipper from Gravity Falls is a closet fan of a girly Icelandic pop group called BABBA, it's worth mentioning that BABBA sounds just like "baba" (It only has an extra "b") which in Spanish and Portuguese means "drool", it only made the joke funnier in the Iberian and South American dubs.
- Latin American dub for Cow and Chicken refers the character I Am Weasel as "Zoila Comadreja", which is in homophone with "Soy La Comadreja", exact translation of I Am Weasel, while "Zoila" is an actual given name, albeit a female one.
- Latin American dub for Regular Show translates "Pops Maellard" character's name as "Papaleta", a combination of "Papá" (meaning father, dad or grandad, and thus, an equivalent to Pops) and "Paleta", which means "lollipop", creating an accurate and catchy name.
- In Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, there's a part where the main character, Spirit, gets put in his place by a female horse, causing him to walk away while thinking "Mares..." in annoyance. In the Norwegian dub, this line becomes a hilarious Double Entendre as the Norwegian word for "mare" is basically the Norwegian equivalent for "bitch" (just not as obvious that children would react). The voice actor thus changed the line to "...Merr!" ("Mare")
- Teen Titans Go!:
- In the episode "Laundry Day", Starfire attempts to sew a dress—by placing the fabric in the oven and cooking it. This joke is even more funny in the Portuguese dub, as the translation for the verb sew (coser) is a homophone (i.e. is pronounced in the same manner) as another verb related to cooking (cozer) which was close enough to what Starfire actually did.
- In the episode "Terra-ized", Starfire initially thinks that the "L-Word" is "Lobster", with a thought bubble showing a lobster appearing over her head. It works in Italian too, where both "Love" and "Lobster" still begin with the same letter (being respectively "Amore" and "Aragosta").
- In the Bojack Horseman episode 'Downer Ending', Sarah Lynn's drug dealer turns out to be an Asian doctor named Allen Hu. In the English version, his introduction leads to a brief "Who's On First" routine about him and a certain time-travelling alien; the pun also works in the French dub since "who"/"Hu" sounds like "où", which means "where".
- The Simpsons: during "The Shinning" (a The Shining parody, in the "Treehouse of Horror V" Halloween Special) Homer writes "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" on the walls. The Spanish dub translated it to "Sin tele y sin cerveza Homer pierde la cabeza", making a good rhyme while conveying the same thing.
- During "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" (the episode where the family visits Japan) Homer tells Emperor Akihito (mistaking him for a sumo wrestler) "As we say in my country, 'Hasta la vista, baby'!". The Spanish version of that sentence is '¡Sayonara, baby!', "Sayonara" being a Japanese word.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy is known in Brazil as "Du, Dudu e Edu", all common nicknames for the name "Eduardo" (Portuguese equivalent of Edward). "Dudu" is also much more natural than the somewhat forced "Double D" Edd is often called as.
- In one episode of The Flintstones, the Flintstones and Rubbles visit "Rockapulco", an obvious pun on "rock" and "Acapulco". This was preserved in the Latin American Spanish dub ("Los Picapiedra"), where they visit "Rocapulco" (with "roca" meaning "rock").
- A Real Life example: the Russian RPG series of weapons. In Russian, the Latin alphabet transliteration of the weapons' designation comes out as Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot: "Handheld Anti-Tank Grenade Launcher". This provides a perfect acronym match-up with the English designation of this weapon type: Rocket-Propelled Grenade.
- The Japanese expression "ai shiteiru" （愛している）and the English phrase "I love you" have the same amount of syllables and consistent mouthflaps if the 'shi' and the second "i" sounds aren't stressed.
- Not to mention they both start with the "I/Ai" sound and end with an "u" sound.
- The Japanese word "suki" （好き） is often used in romance anime and manga to create love confusion because "suki" can be interpreted as either platonic or romantic love, causing people to wonder if the person who said that meant "I view you as a good friend" or "I love you". In other words, it has almost the exact same connotations that the English phrase "I like you" does.
- On that note, "daisuki" （大好き）can be used to intensify the sentiment (dai = "big" or "much.") Thus, a distinction between the two might be rendered, "Likes her, or likes likes her?"
- "Sumimasen" (Japanese) and "excuse me" (English) are each usable in many different senses and contexts...very, very nearly all of them identical, the exception being when "sumimasen" can mean "thank you", although some creative translation allows one to realize that something like "I don't mean to be any trouble" has connotations of thanks.
- Similarly, chotto matte is conveniently similar to "just a minute", right down to the lip movements.
- Japanese has a phrase, "gochisosama (deshita)", which means "thank you for the meal" and is said when finishing a meal. Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish languages have a phrase, "tak for mad/takk for maten/tack för maten" ("thank you for (the) food"), which is used in the completely same context, making the phrase much less awkward-sounding when it's translated into those languages than into English which doesn't have an equivalent phrase.
- Japanese donjon, meaning a castle, tower or fortified house, suggests the unrelated European word dungeon, meaning the cellars beneath a castle or fortified place.
- Donjon is a French word for keep (as in castle, tower or fortified house), and is indeed the origin of the word dungeon. The Japanese for keep would be tenshu.
- "R. I. P." on tombstones doesn't actually stand for "Rest in peace", but for the Latin "Requiesca(n)t in pace", which means (almost) the same thing. (To be precise, it expresses the hope that "may he / she / it / (they) rest in peace". One wonders why this particular phrasing was deemed necessary.)
- Depending on the translation, it could also mean "(I command that) he/she/they must rest in peace." As in, don't disturb the dead. This is because Latin actually has a third-person imperative.
- In Japan, legend tells that the sakura blossom is pink because it has been stained by the blood of a warrior. This might remind you of the Greek legend of Pyramus and Thisbe, the lovers whose blood stained the mulberry tree forever. In Iran, red tulips are said to indicate that a martyr has died on that spot.
- Poppies have similar symbolism in Europe and Australia, partly because of their colour and partly because they were among the few plants that could grow on the devastated battlefields of the First and Second World Wars (In fact they positively flourished in the muddy, churned soil).
- Or, for that matter, the Christian allegory of how holly bushes look like they do because a lost lamb bumbled into them, bending the leaves and staining the berries with its blood.
- A similar story follows the dogwood, whose flowers have four petals (technically bracts) with a notch at the tips with a dark pink/red edge. According to the lore, the dogwood was the tree used to carve Christ's cross, and the flowers took on a cross shape with nail holes, blood stains, and a crown of thorns in the center (actually a cluster of true flowers). The tree also became smaller, too small to be used to create a cross to hold a man. The truth is that "dogwood" is a corruption of "dagwood", as in "wood used to craft daggers" - also good for killing people.
- The Japanese name Jōji sounds very similar to the English name "George". Actor Joji Nakata and manga artist Johji Manabe have both been known to occasionally sign their names in romaji as George. Taking it to its logical conclusion, baseball player Kenji Johjima (in Eastern order, Johjima Kenji) occasionally refers to himself as George Mackenzie (Jōji Makkenjī).
- Ken is a legitimate name in Japanese, just as it is in English.
- Not to mention Dan (although there's a slight difference in pronunciation).
- There are female names that work like Jōji/George too: Mei/May, Karin/Karen...
- Emma is a common name in Japanese and English — even the romaji is the same (except in Japanese it's only "Ema", with one M - the consonant-doubling diacritic is not used for M; in these cases, they use the n sound before it, but not here, lest it'd become Enma - as in Enma-daioh, King of the Underworld).
- Naomi: a Hebrew-derived name meaning "pleasant", and a Japanese name meaning "straight beauty". Even the meaning overlaps somewhat!
- There's also "Jun/June" (although in Japanese, "Jun" can also be a boy's name).
- "Joe" has also been known to be used in Japanese for a boy's name (e.g., Joe Kido from Digimon Adventure, Joe Musashi from Shinobi).
- "Mimi" is also a Japanese/English name.
- And Guy/Gai.
- Eimi/Amy, Rei/Ray, Haru/Hal.
- Anna and Erika are also common names in Japan and lots of other countries.
- Lately there have been plenty of Japanese names loaned from other countries and given a kanji reading so they will technically fit, including but not limited to the aforementioned cases.
- Ken is a legitimate name in Japanese, just as it is in English.
- This same pun works in a surprising number of languages:
Wife: Do you think I'm pretty or ugly? Husband: Pretty ugly, in my opinion.
妻子: 你覺得我好看還是難看? (Do you think I'm pretty or ugly?) 丈夫: 我覺得你好難看。 (I think you're pretty ugly.)
Ehefrau: Findest du mich schön oder hässlich? Ehemann: Ganz schön hässlich, würd ich sagen.
Vrouw: Vind je me knap of lelijk? Man: Ik zou zeggen, "knap lelijk"!
Kone: "Synes du, at jeg er pæn eller grim?". Mand: "Jeg synes, du er pænt grim".
- In Chinese, AIDS is sometimes translated as the descriptive "獲得性免疫缺陷綜合症", or more commonly "愛滋病", the first two characters of which sounds similar to "AIDS" and the last is for "illness". It literally means "disease that breeds through love", alluding to its affinity on sexual contact.
- An old mathematical pun in English works in Turkish as well: "Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven eight/ate nine." In Turkish, the number "seven" translates as "yedi", which is also the third person past tense form of "to eat". In Turkish, after adjusting for word order, the joke would be "Neden dört beşten korktu? Çünkü beş altı yedi!" Literally, "Why was four afraid of five? Because five six seven/ate!"
- Not really a translation, per se, but anyone who has analyzed British and American English can find some interesting parallels between different words with similar meanings. In British, they use the term "bent" to describe someone being corrupt, very similar to the American use of "crooked." Similarly, the British term "Wanker," originally meaning someone who masturbates has since generalized into any moron or otherwise annoying person, with something similar happening to the related terms "jerkoff" and "jackoff" in American English, as in "Some jackoff stole my car."
- The English words "crap" and "shit" and the Japanese word "kuso" are all interjections that can also be used as colloquial terms for excrement, making word play based on the two definitions work in both languages.
- Spanish "mierda" and Italian "merda" are synonymous with "crap" and "shit", in both senses. Italian also has "stronzata" (more or less "bullshit"), a word that derives from "stronzo", meaning literally "turd" (but also "asshole" when used as an insult).
- Similarly, the Latin "stercus" is a rude colloquial term for animal excrement but can also be used to suggest something is stupid, unfair, deceitful or nonsensical, similar to the modern English sense of the word "bullshit".
- The most important body in China is the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. As in English, the word for "standing" in Chinese in this context is the same as "standing" as in "standing up". Now, back in the '80s, a group of CPC elders formed the Central Advisory Commission of the CPC; because its members were all so old, Party wags called it the Sitting Committee...
- Bear in mind: this pun doesn't even work in most European languages.note It's blind luck that it works in Chinese.note
- In Indonesia, Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) is translated into "Anjungan Tunai Mandiri" (literally "Independent Cash Bridge") so the abbreviation is still the same.
- The similarity of again/against in English is mirrored in German with wieder/wider, making it perfectly translatable without a common word stem.
- Same with the 1-letter difference between eight/night (English), acht/nacht (German), huit/nuit (French)...
- The following joke circulated in East Germany (where "letzte" has the same double meaning of "latest" and "final" that "last" does in English), but not in Iron Curtain nations where the local (mostly Slavic) language did not have that quirk:
Why weren't you at the last Communist Party meeting?
I didn't know it was the last one! If I had, I wouldn't have missed it for anything!
Byls na posledním zasedání strany?
- In Czech, it works fine too.
Já nevěděl že je poslední! To bych si nenechal ujít ani za nic!
Byłeś na ostatnim posiedzeniu partii?
- Czech is enough influenced by German language. But it works also in Polish:
Nie wiedziałem, że to ostatnie! Za nic bym go nie opuścił!
Почему тебя не было на последнем партсобрании?
- German has nothing to do with it. The Czech word for "last" is the same in Russian, where the joke works just as well.
Эх, знал бы что оно последнее, ни за что бы не пропустил!
- In Brazil, since Santa Claus is known as Papai Noel (Father Christmas), his wife is known as Mamãe Noel (Mother Christmas). The same applies in French (Père Noël - Mère Noël).
- The same happens in Portugal with Pai Natal and Mãe Natal.
- Both in English and in Portuguese, an arse/ass, "Burro" in Portuguese, can mean either an animal or a dummynote .
- Pope Gregory I's famous Latin pun upon seeing beautiful Anglish slave boys at a market - "non angli, sed angeli" - actually works better when literally translated into modern English - "not Angles, but angels" - where the two words sound much more similar (for instance, having the same number of syllables) and look almost identical.
- The Chinese character 胆 means either "gallbladder" or "courage", very similar to the English idiomatic uses of the word "gall".
- Similarly, "gall" in Turkish is "öd". "Ödü kopmak", or "for one's gall to break/rip" means being very frightened.
- In English, "Czech" is very similar to "check" in pronounciation. In Icelandic, assuming they're both nouns, it works better as they're almost the same(Tékki vs tékki).
- Danish language has a word, "mis", that can both mean "cat" and be a rather informal term for the vagina, just like the English word "pussy". This makes most English puns using "pussy" quite easy to translate into Danish.
- Same with "chatte" in French, with the added bonus that it means a female cat specifically.
- The Chinese name for Belarus is 白俄罗斯 (Bái è luó sī), which is a transliteration, but also literally means "White Russia", which is exactly what Belarus means.
- The traditional Japanese measurement of a shaku is very nearly identical to one foot.
- This could be explained by the base derivation being the approximate length of a human thumb - something common to both cultures, give or take relative body sizes. Four "thumbs" make one foot and the unit can be subdivided into three approximate inches.
- The English given name Devon is also a Hindi name, although more often romanized as Devan.
- West Berlin had the US-sponsored, German-language broadcasting station RIAS, whose initials could stand for "Radio in the American Sector" in English and "Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor" in German.
- There is a joke that was popular among German soldiers in the last weeks of World War II; "Berlin ist die Stadt der Warenhäuser. Hier war'n Haus, da war'n Haus" - literally "Berlin is the city of warehouses: here was a house and there was a house". Translated to English (as featured in Downfall), it goes:
"Berlin is the city of warehouses: 'Where's my house?' 'Where's my house?'"
- There is a joke that was popular among German soldiers in the last weeks of World War II; "Berlin ist die Stadt der Warenhäuser. Hier war'n Haus, da war'n Haus" - literally "Berlin is the city of warehouses: here was a house and there was a house". Translated to English (as featured in Downfall), it goes:
- Although the company is German, the name "BMW" works in both German and English. The name actually stands for "Bayerische Motoren Werke", but it also just happens to stand for the German name's English translation, "Bavarian Motor Works".
- In Japanese, people sometimes playfully write 'thank you' as '39', punning off the sound of the numbers (san kyuu). This is really easy to convert to the playful English '10Q'.
- There is the Russian joke: "Какая разница между слоном и роялем?" ("What's the difference between a grand piano and an elephant?"). The answer is "К роялю можно прислонится, а к слону нельзя прироялиться" ("You can lean upon a grand piano, put you can't grandpiano upon an elephant"), which works because the root of "leaning upon" is "slon", same as the word for elephant. A very similar joke exists in Hebrew, where the answer to the same question is "פסנתר אפשר להפיל, אבל פיל אי אפשר לפסנתר" ("You can drop a piano, but you can't piano an elephant"), which works because the Hebrew word for elephant is "pil'", and the one for "to drop" is "lehapil'". Think of it like the English pun "What's the difference between a fish and a piano? You can tune a piano but you can't tuna (tune a) fish."
- The word emoji is derived from Japanese 'e' (picture) and 'moji' (word). It coincidentally happens to sound like the English 'emotion', so when they took off in the West, English speakers understood from the name that they were expressive picture-words.
- The pun "Where do cats go when they die? Purrgatory" works in many Latin based languages. For example, in Spanish the pun would be on the "gato", or cat, in "Purgatorio."