It's been said that Britain and the USA are two countries Separated by a Common Language. These days, that might truly be said of the entire Anglosphere. Despite the homogenising effects of mass media, different English-speakers continue to speak English differently. Some of the differences are:
- Pronunciation: Does "caught" sound like "court" or "cot"?note
- Vocabulary: Are "chips" thin crunchy things you eat with dip, or long chewy things you eat with vinegar?note
- Spelling: Can "storey", as in "floor", be spelled the same as "story", as in "tale"?note
One of the consequences of this is that wordplay may not always work as well for one English-speaker as it does for another. Words that sound the same in London may sound very different in Bristol. Words that rhyme in England may not do so in Scotland. And a commonplace word in the United Kingdom may not even exist in the United States.
This page is for puns, rhymes, and other forms of wordplay that work in some varieties of a language, but not in others. These typically involve forms of English spoken in different countries, but may also be accounted for by regional or class differences within a country. Moreover, English is not the only language with diverse forms: Québécois sounds very different from Parisian French, and Spaniards do not speak Spanish the same way Mexicans do. In order to belong here, all that's necessary is for a play on words to be comprehensible to one group of people who speak a language, and incomprehensible (or, at least, less obvious), to another group of people who speak the same language.
Thanks to books, movies, and jet planes, most of us have some idea of how English is spoken in different parts of the world. If you're looking for more information, check out this page for a concise break-down of the pronunciation differences between some of the major English accents. See also the American Accents, Australian Accent, British Accents, and Canadian Accents pages.
Examples are listed by country of origin.
- Motoring organisation, the AA, launched a campaign for its breakdown rescue service with the tag-line Aask the AA. Looked good in print with the reinforcing emphasis on the "AA" part. Spoken, it wasn't so sensational outside the South of England: the ad agency failed to take into account the fact that the word "ask" is spoken with a very short "a" Oop North. To anywhere that didn't speak RP English, the ad campaign went down like a lead balloon.
- Some of James Roberts' wordplay and puns in the comic The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye work better in his native English accent than in an American accent (unless one speaks an r-dropping American accent). For example, the Duobot twins are named Shock and Ore, which only becomes a pun if "ore" is pronounced the same as "awe."
- Some of the Punny Names in the English translation of Asterix. Most characters with '-a' names (Gaulish and Roman women, and Numidian men) are named actual words that end in '-a', but a few characters get plays off '-er' words that only work if you have a non-rhotic accent - for instance Flaturtha (Flat-Earther). There are also some names that only work in London accents with dropped 'h's, like Sendervictorius & Appianglorius, and Mykingdomforanosnote . Another pun relied on the words "flawed" and "floored" being pronounced identically, which only works in non-rhotic accents.
- The Beano's Pansy Potter, the Strongman's Daughter. Potter rhymes with Daughter in Scotland, where the Beano's publishers DC Thomson are based, but not in a lot of English accents. One story lampshades this, with other characters claiming that her title doesnt rhyme, while she insists that it does.
- Knock-knock, Who's there?, Adam, Adam who?, Adam holds water. Meaning 'a dam'. The name is usually pronounced 'Ad-am', some people from the West-Midlands pronounce it 'A-dam'.
- "Marmite, but Pa might not." Supposed to sound like "Ma might". Then again, Marmite isn't as familiar to non-Brits.
- Phill Jupitus related the following joke on QI:
[After Phill has confused Stephen by speaking in a Geordie accent]Phill Jupitus: Theres that great joke about the little soldier whos with General Custer, and they can hear the [taps a war drum beat on the desk] and he says to the little Geordie soldier, Listen, theyve got war drums, and the Geordie soldier goes, The thieving bastards!Stephen Fry: Is it, like, a naval wardroom? Is that what theyre saying, wardroom?[Phill sighs in exasperation and puts his head on the desk]Stephen Fry: Well, its where naval officers gather for their pink gins, its called the wardroom.Phill Jupitus: [to the Pudsey plush on his desk] Oh, Pudsey, make him stop!Stephen Fry: Well, [Geordie accent] theyve got wardrooms, the thieving bastards? [Normal] What ?Phill Jupitus: In Newcastle, they say, instead of our, they say, wor!Stephen Fry: Well, they simply must go to school; its just ridiculous.
- In video form: THE THIEVIN' BASTARDS!
- Lewis Carroll:
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: The Mock Turtle's line, "We called him 'Tortoise' because he taught us!". With the right accent, "tortoise" is pronounced "to't-us". This pronunciation is common for English accents and r-dropping American accents, such as a Brooklyn accent (as demonstrated by at least one community radio theater adaptation).
- Through the Looking-Glass contains an orthographical example: while American readers could easily guess that Hatta is an Expy of the Hatter, they would be far more likely to pronounce the G in "Haigha" than a British reader, potentially missing the fact that he is a stand-in for the Hare entirely if they don't see the illustrations. Some may also interpret the letter combination "ai" as being pronounced "i", rather than "ay", so a speaker of a non-rhotic accent might think the word is a homonym of "higher" rather than "hare".
- In Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Haroun meets the "Plentimaw" fish, who have plenty of maws, i.e. mouths. This is a play on the saying "There are plenty more fish in the sea," but only works in non-rhotic varieties of English, where "maw" is a homophone for "more".
- "Dark" and "clerk" rhyme throughout Britain. US readers, however, will likely be baffled.
- In Equal Rites, the Unseen University refuses to accept female students, arguing that it would be "against the lore". "Lore" and "law" sound identical in RP.
- A Double Subversion: Djelibeybi is a pun on the name of a British candy that was lost on Americans. So Pratchett created the nearby country Hersheba - which is equally lost on people who speak with a rhotic American accent. It can also be misinterpreted as having the stress on the second syllable, like "herSHEEba".
- The unofficial motto of Unseen University, "η β π" (Eta Beta Pi) is described as sounding like "eat a better pie" or "eat a bit o' pie". To an American, the greek letters eta and beta are pronounced "AY-ta" and "BAY-ta," respectively, so while the pun can still start with "ate a", the middle part becomes nonsense, as "beta" doesn't really sound like any American-English word or series of words that could fit there (not to mention that many American accents are far less likely to drop "r"s from or add "r"s to the end of words).
- Winnie-the-Pooh: It's far from obvious to many Americans that Eeyore was named after the sound a donkey makes (eee-aww = hee-haw).
- Harry Potter:
- Rita Skeeter is a lot more fun to say in non-rhotic varieties of English (in which the two words rhyme) than in rhotic accents (in which they don't).
- "Spello-tape" is a play on "Sellotape"note , a proprietary eponym popular in the U.K. and other countries, but not in North America, where the same product is generally referred to as "Scotch tape" or simply "tape". To add to the confusion, scotch tape is something else in the UK, and tape may well be a cassette.
- This exchange from the P. G. Wodehouse novel Uneasy Money:
". . . I wish I could remember his name. I had it about a dozen times tonight. It's something with a window in it."
"A window?" Nutty's brain was a little fatigued and he felt himself unequal to grasping this. "How do you mean, a window?"
"No, not a window—a door! I knew it was something about a house. I know now, his name's Lord Dawlish."
- Some of the puns in Horrible Histories Wicked Words are more easily understood in an English accent:
- This Spoonerism: "A cat popped out on its drawers".
- A joke that "Onomatopoeia" comes from "On a mat a pier".
- When discussing spelling mistakes: "The suspect was wearing a car key jacket." note
- "Where is your grammar?" "At home with my gran-da!"
- The book also mentions that in American English, the word "bum" means "tramp" (usually). This has a double meaning in itself Americans are more likely to recognise the word "tramp" as meaning "prostitute" rather than "vagrant". This trope is than lampshaded when the narration says that Americans will be confused if they hear that British people sit on bums, with a cartoon showing an American trying to sit on a homeless person in Britain.
- At the end of 1066 and All That, the authors report "history came to a." That's "full stop" in Britain but "period" in the United States. Possibly intentional, as it's a reference to the geopolitical supremacy of the United States.
- This can occur over time as well as space. For example, the lines "I am the monarch of all I survey / [...] / From the centre all round to the sea" rhymed when William Cowper wrote them in 1792 ("sea" was pronounced like "say"), but don't rhyme in most accents today. Though some accents have also moved to have a very short sound at the end of "survey", so that it sounds more like "sur-vi" and will rhyme with how "sea" is said today.
- The Two Ronnies' Four Candles / Fork Handles sketch.
- The Vicar of Dibley provides a Visual Pun in a game of charades that only works with certain British accents. Alice is standing there with a pair of jars in her hands. The other players have worked out that it's a movie but give up. She says it's Jars, which she says she's never seen but is about "these giant jars that attack people". The others realize she's talking about Jaws and give a Lame Pun Reaction
- Arrested Development has a joke based around the idea that "The Gothic Castle" (an English-style pub) would be pronounced identically in a Cockney accent to "The Gothic Asshole" (a gay bar).
- The IT Crowd: In one episode Jen is dating a man who is almost perfect except that his name is Peter File, which in British English sounds almost exactly like "paedophile." Moss even points out that the problem wouldn't exist if they were in America (where the first vowel is a short rather than long "e"). You can also notice Chris O'Dowd's Roy phrasing it slightly strangely, because if he says it naturally, it doesn't quite work either.
- The Doctor Who serial "The Gunfighters" plays off "Doctor Holliday" and "the Doctor's holiday" in order to fuel some of the misunderstandings that power the plot. The British English use of the word 'holiday' means taking a trip somewhere, or time off. In American English, a 'holiday' refers to special dates like Christmas or New Year and time off would usually be called a 'vacation'. Possibly justified as the only British English speakers in the story are the Doctor and his companions, explaining why the Americans begin to assume the Doctor is Doc Holliday.
- Mock the Week: "Hello, I'm Sue Barker. You may remember my father, Chewbacca."
- QI: When Fry asked the panelists to name something interesting about ferns, Phill Jupitus says, in a Newcastle accent, "They make a canny noise, like!" which confuses Stephen.
- In one episode of Shakespeare & Hathaway - Private Investigators, detective Frank Hathaway tells his assistant, Sebastian that he's sending him to a pawnshop as part of an investigation, and after an amused Sebastian readily agrees, Frank clarifies that he means a pawn broker. The joke is that Sebastian initially thinks Frank is sending him to a porn shop, hence Frank's need to clarify. This pun sort of works in American English (hence the show Pawn Stars), but works a lot better in British English, especially in Frank's accent, in which the two words are homophones.
- In Only Connect the connection is sometimes that all the words sound like other words which are connected. Except that in many accents, even non-RP British ones, they don't.
- Robert Plant was baffled when Americans failed to recognize the Led Zeppelin song "D'Yer Mak'er" as a reference to Jamaica.
- The opening number of Jesus Christ Superstar rhymes "Fire" with "Messiah", which only works if you're Epic Rocking. "FI-yah!"
- From My Fair Lady:
- Invoked in the song "Show Me", where one of the couplets ("Haven't your arms Hungered for mine?/Please don't explain, Show me!") only rhymes if Eliza briefly slips back into her Cockney accent (where "explain" is pronounced "expl'ine").
- Another curious example occurs in the song "The Street Where You Live", when Freddy sings the line, "People stop and stare, they don't bother me / For there's nowhere else on earth that I would rather be". The rhyme would completely fail in American English, where "rather" rhymes with "gather". Fortunately, Freddy is singing the Queen's English, in which "rather" rhymes with "father". They rhyme still fails in British English, because of the subtle distinction that Brits (and, indeed, most English speakers) make between the short "o" of "bother" and the long "a" of "father". However, most Americans make no such distinction (except for the traditional Boston accent): for them, "father" and "bother" are a perfect rhyming pair!note So the rhyme works — but only if it's said by a Brit and heard by an American.
- A lot of Shakespearean examples of Get Thee to a Nunnery are missed by modern readers due to shifts in pronunciation. For instance, there's these lines from As You Like It:
And so from hour to hour, we ripe, and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot, and rot,
And thereby hangs a tale.
And so from whore to whore, we rape, and rape,
- The lines make a lot more sense if you know that in Shakespearean English, they would sound something like this:
And then from whore to whore, we rut, and rot,
And thereby hangs a tale/tail (meaning the penis).
- When King Lear's Fool says "Sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace", this is a pun on how in 17th Century English "peace" sounded the same as "piss".
- In The Pirates of Penzance there is a rather lengthy joke in which different characters confuse the word "orphan" for the word "often." Needless to say, this doesn't come across in any accent besides very proper British English and some traditional Northeastern U.S. accents, and even then is a stretch.
- In the musical of Matilda, School Song features words which sound like letters of the alphabet in order (e.g. "I have suffered in this jail I've been trapped inside this cage for ages, This living 'ell") and ends with the warning about how Miss Trunchball teaches "Phys-ed", using Zed instead of Zee. Also, the word used for R is "asked", which doesn't work in any rhotic accent or, for that matter, in the north of England.
- Fallen London contains a quest where the player character finds out that ravings they took for "Heifer star" actually refer to a woman named "Hephaesta". '-a'/'-ar' only sounds the same in non-rhotic accents, like the Cockney and RP the characters are presumably speaking.
- Grand Theft Auto V has a jetski manufacturer named "Speedophile", a pun that only works with the British pronunciation of "pedophile".
- The 2015 reboot of Need for Speed has several events with a torque pun in their names, with one example being "Torque Of The Town". They don't work well with American or Canadian accents.
- Banjo-Tooie: Sergeant Jamjars' rhymes only work when saying the letter Z as "Zed" instead of "Zee".
- Rare is based in Twycross, UK, and Grant Kirkhope is Scottish.
- This is more obvious in the XBLA port, when the buttons are different from the original N64 version.
- This exchange from the Wallace & Gromit film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which depends on the second character's very posh RP accent.
Wallace: [on phone] Just stay right where you are, Your Ladyship, and we'll be with you in an... (gets yanked upstairs) Aaahhh!
Lady Tottington: In an hour?note But I can't wait an hour.
- Most Americans didn't get that Arthur Christmas was supposed to be a pun on "Father Christmas", partly because the words don't rhyme in most dialects of American English, and partly because most Americans are used to saying "Santa Claus".
- The name of Shaun the Sheep is much funnier in his producer's native accent, because it's a near homophone for "Shorn the Sheep".
- Yellow Submarine - the following pun only worked thanks to Ringo's Liverpool accent:
Ringo: Hey, I wonder what would happen if I pulled this lever.
Old Fred: You mustn't do that.
Ringo: Can't help it. I'm a born lever-puller.
- In the Animaniacs episode "King Yakko," Wakko rhymes "friend" with "hand." This works okay in his Liverpudlian cadence, but to his siblings it's a Painful Rhyme.
Wakko: "Hend"! "Hend"! It rhymes!
- A wee boy goes into a cake shop and points in the window and says "Is that a cake or a meringue?" "No, you're right" says the baker "It's a cake."
- Q: What should you do if you find a trumpet growing in your garden? A: Root it oot.
- An American is in a pub in Scotland chatting to some of the locals and the topic of hunting comes up. The American boasts about having shot a moose, at which point the guy he's talking to looks at him like he's mad and says, "You shot a mouse? You don't shoot a mouse, you'd blast a hole in the floor." (variants include "You don't shoot a mouse, you stamp on a mouse" and "You don't shoot a mouse, you set a trap for it you gun-loving maniac.")
- Another variant: A Scotsman visits Canada and is astonished at the sight of an enormous animal with a hump and antlers. "What sort of creature is that?" he asks. "That's a moose," his Canadian friend replies. The Scotsman is silent for a moment and returns, "If that's a Canadian moose, I dinna want to see one of your rats!"
- Star Trek: The Original Series "The Trouble With Tribbles": Scotty beams the tribbles off the Enterprise into the Klingon engine room, "where they'll be no tribble at all!"
- An Irish mother is teaching her son her recipe for bean soup. She tells him to add exactly 239 beans. He asks her why. "Because if you add just one more bean, it'll be too farty."
- An African-American guy is walking down the street and asks an Irish fella how much further he must go to get to O'Reilly's Pub. He answers "You're a block past it!". Cue one punch in the nose.
- Whale oil beef hooked◊ is either a random slew of words or a swearing Irishman (actually, since the traditional Irish accent pronounces "whale" as "hwale" [as do some old-fashioned Southern U.S. accents], that might not work.)
- O'Grady needs some help taking down trees for his lumber yard, so he puts up a sign saying "Tree Fellers Wanted." Later that day, Tom and Patrick are walking by and see the sign. "See that, Tom?" says Patrick. "Sure, Pat," Tom says, "but it's a pity there's just the two of us."
- Hot Shots! Part Deux: Some merchandise was advertised in a home video version of the film, with the narrator mispronouncing "Deux" with an American Accent to sound like "dew" (or "do"). One of the merchandise had the writing "Just Deux it!", while it was pronounced "Just do it!".
- In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion's assertion that Courage "puts the ape in apricot" only works if you pronounce it "APE-ri-cot".
- In Duck Soup, Chico's pun that confuses "Dallas, Texas" with "dollars, taxes" is dependent on his non-rhotic accent.
- An interesting inversion of this trope occurs in Shrek with the character Lord Farquaad. that is, "fuckwad" In a rhotic American accent (or indeed, the Scottish one put on by Mike Myers), his name sounds perfectly innocent.
- "You know the thing about nacho cheese? It's not your cheese!" This doesn't stop endless Brits attempting this joke. A forced pun, as Americans (at least those that speak with a General American accent) don't actually say "not your" as anything remotely like "nacho" unless they're trying to sound "hood" or are making the joke.
- A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." (In the US "foyer" is usually pronounced foh-yer, but in Canada its pronounced "foy-ay" due to French influence, which makes the connection to "fire" less obvious.)
- A French dignitary went to America and was asked what was the greatest thing in the world. She set everyone aghast when she said "A penis." When she saw their looks, she asked "What is wrong with a penis?" Her assistant then reminded her that in America they pronounce their "H"'s.
- This trope ruins, for many American listeners, a popular Dutch joke/anecdote about one of the country's past prime ministers, who supposedly, in a meeting with President Kennedy, brought up his avocation of breeding horses. "I fuck horses", he proudly tells Kennedy, who responds "Pardon?". Since the Dutch word for horses is "paarden", the prime minister says "Yes! yes!". However, Americans know even if they weren't alive then that Kennedy had a strongly arhotic Boston accent, part of every impression of him, and if he had said "Pardon?", it would have sounded like "paadn?", which probably doesn't work in Dutch.
- An inverted example. In The Lord of the Rings one of Sam's relatives is "Halfast Gamgee"note . American commentators suggested this was a pun drawing attention to the character being a little bit of a dolt to his Shire neighbours. British readers went "huh?" as they couldn't see it (Halfast = Half-assed) not realising we don't have quite the same pronunciation in British English, nor would J. R. R. Tolkien.
- Though Tolkien does make that joke - with the name of Sam himself - "samwise" meaning "half-wise" in Old English. In fact LOTR is stuffed with obscure philological puns which go right over the heads of readers who don't have Tolkien's level of expertise.
- Shel Silverstein's poems have this issue sometimes, such as a joke based on the words "ant" and "aunt" sounding identical, and the poem "Fancy Dive" relying on the words "quarter" and "water" rhyming.note The title of Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book also sounds a lot less strange if the Z is pronounced as "zee".
- To Americans, World War Z is an obvious pun on "World War 3". English speakers from any other country won't get it instantly. To them it would be "World War Zed".
- Pam Houston's short story "Highwater" has a character who claims that a hedonist is someone who gives good blow jobs. Whether that's incoherent or merely groanworthy depends on how the reader thinks "hedonist" is pronounced.
- P. G. Wodehouse pulls this in Pun-Based Title of his short story Aunt and the sluggard (which is set in New York) in the Jeeves and Wooster series.
- Seinfeld: Dolores rhyming with a part of the female anatomy, or anything else, depends on regional pronunciation.
- The Daily Show's Most Immature Montage Ever revolves around the fact that in cot-caught merging American accents, the word "caulk" (as in, the stuff you use to seal up cracks in your walls) sounds exactly like the word "cock" (as in... you know). The montage probably seems doubly immature in other English-speaking countries, where "caulk" doesn't sound at all like "cock", and may, in fact, be a homophone for "cork".
- QI has Stephen Fry jokily responding to Rich Hall talking about his aunt with "I didn't know you had an ant." Since in most dialects of British English "aunt" is pronounced to rhyme with "aren't" (in a few dialects of American English, "aunt" is pronounced as "ahnt" too), that particular pronunciation sounds much closer to "ant" than anything else, even if they're pronounced slightly differently.
- The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers episode "Rita's Pita" only works if those two words rhyme.
- The first season of 30 Rock features Jenna working on a small film called "The Rural Juror", with a running gag that nobody can work out what "rerl jer" means. The joke only works for rhotic American dialects, where it is pronounced "RER-uhl JER-er" (collapsing to "rerl jer"), and not for accents where it's pronounced "ROO-ruhl JOO-rer" (or "JOO-ruh" for accents that drop the R).
- The last line in "The Alphabet Song" only rhymes if you pronounce Z "Zee", as the Americans do, instead of "Zed", as Canadians and most Europeans do.
- Some British children are taught, "W, X, Y, Zed, you see..." which will work with the closing lines.
- Joanna Newsom has a song called '81 (referencing a year from a recent century), but when spoken in the song itself, the lyrics book says "A.D. 1". This pun only works in American English, since in British English, the D and T sounds would be completely distinct.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- Calvin writes for a homework assignment that lords and vassals lived in a "futile" system, only for Hobbes to point out that it's spelled "feudal". This pun doesn't work in British English where "futile" is pronounced as "few-tile".
- One of Calvin's poems rhymes "macabre" with "job", which only works in dialects that have the father-bother merger.
- To a British person, the name of the game Bananagrams sounds like a very strained pun on "anagrams", as the middle vowel of "banana" is lengthened.
- In The Sound of Music, Maria's song "Do-Re-Mi" teaches musical notes using homophones for the syllables. The line for "Fa" is "Far, a long long way to run", which relies on non-rhoticity (the lyricist was Oscar Hammerstein II, who had a non-rhotic New York accent). The original production had Maria played by Mary Martin, who had a rhotic Texas accent, but still pronounced "far" as intended. The film adaptation had her played by British actress Julie Andrews, whose accent naturally works for the line.
- Related to the nacho joke above. In Sam and Max Season 1, Bosco's Incovenience has a poster for Not'chos.
Max: "They're mine, not'chos!"
- A minigame in the Mario Party series is called "Twist and Route". The pun on "Twist and Shout" is lost in regions that pronounce route like "root".
- A few English Pokémon names are like this. The Ghost-type Gastly, for example, loses the pun on "gas" in regions that pronounce it "Garse-tly".
- The English fan translation for Mother 3 makes a brief quip about a sparrow's fluency in game lingo being "rarrow", before correcting itself to "rare". This gag makes no sense to accents without the Mary-marry-merry merger.
- The episode entitled "The Grapes of Wrath" features a family of very angry grapes. At the end of the episode, they decide to forswear their choleric ways and turn to academic pursuits, renaming themselves the Grapes of Math. The rhyme is a stretch in varieties of English where "wrath" is pronounced "rahth", and completely fails in the U.K. where the appropriate word is "maths".
- Another episode is called "The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's"note . "Ha's" and "Oz" rhyme in non-Bostonian American English, but would make a queer pairing 'most/almost everywhere else.
- Similarly to the example given above, the titular pun in The Simpsons episode "The Crepes of Wrath" makes little sense to anyone who pronounces "crepe" as "crep" (as the original French word crêpe is pronounced).
- A gag in Family Guy has Peter told that "mom" is on the phone, and eagerly mutters to himself "Please be Somerset Maugham!" The words only sound the same in some dialects of American English (those with the cot/caught merger); in the UK the joke is further obscured by the fact that "mom" is spelled/pronounced "mum" (as it is pronounced [but not written] in the traditional Boston accent of U.S. English), though Eagleland Osmosis makes up for that.
- Another one, where Lois suggests that Brian join up with PETA, which sounds exactly the same as the way she pronounces Peter's name in her thick New England accent. Hilarity Ensues.
- An unintentional example: Dinosaucers has the word "dinosaur" in the title if pronounced with a non-rhotic accent (Dinosaur-cers), but the narration is done in a rhotic accent, where the pun doesn't appear.
- A classic American reclining chair, as seen in Frasier, loses some of its ring in Britain. "La-Z-Boy" only makes sense in American English. Over here it's "La Zed Boy". Weird name. What's it meant to mean, then?
- The fact that a long "a" or an "aw" turns into an "ar" or "or" on the end of certain words in some American dialects (mostly East Coast areas like New York and New England) wrecks several jokes that use this in wordplay. For instance, the fact that the "law" of "law enforcement" turns into a "lar" or a "lore" is used in a Dropkick Murphys song for a rhyme.
- The name "Herbal Essences" is probably meant to sound alliterative, but it only works when said with an accent that drops the H in "herb"; in other accents, "herbal" has a voiced "H" in it.
- The riddle "What do the words polish, job, and herb have in common?" They all have a different pronunciation with a capital first letter. To non-Americans (and Americans who pronounce the H), this does not apply to the last one.
- Many consumer products in in the United States are sold with the label "EZ", which sounds like "easy" to Americans but is lost elsewhere.
Southern US English
- The Realtor took the Southern Belle to see a house. Before they went inside he spoke at length about the many amenities the house had. He mentioned the central heating/air conditioning that had just been installed. He boasted about the professional quality kitchen. He went on about the huge closets, vaulted ceilings, and the built-in sauna and hot-tub. "Why," he said proudly, "This house hasn't a flaw!" "It hasn't a flaw?" The Belle drawled. "Well then what do y'all walk awn?"
- Also works in an English accent.
- A Southern belle, having moved to a big city in the north, visits a stationary store and asks for some rotten pepper. The owner tells her that he doesn't carry that sort of thing and directs her to the nearest grocery store. She thanks him and is about to leave; but then he asks, "If you don't mind the question, why do you specifically want rotten pepper?" "To raght home on."
- The Southern Belle is chatting with a group of Yankee lawyers. "So, where did y'all go to school?" she asks. One of them answers, "Yale." So she takes a deep breath, and bellows, "Where did y'all go to school?!"
- A New York businessman has to make a trip to South Carolina around Christmastime. As he's driving through the state, he notices Nativity scenes in front of the many churches he drives past. In each of these, the Three Wise Men are wearing firemen's hats. Finally his curiosity gets the better of him, and he stops at a church, walks in, and asks the pastor why the Wise Men are wearing hats. The pastor replies, "Ain't you read the Bible? It says, 'Three Wise Men came from afar!" (In a heavy Southern accent, "fire" is a homophone of "far".)
- The Killer Angels. A Union soldier asks an imprisoned Confederate soldier why they are fighting. The Union soldiers are confused because the Confeerates say it's for their "rats" (rights).
- The Muppet Show had an entire sketch centered around guest star Jim Nabors' thick southern accent, which included such jokes as:
Nabors: What right do you have to be here?Rowlf: What rat? This rat (Produces rat).Nabors: Put up your hands!Rowlf: Put up my hens? Sure (Places a pair of chickens on the counter).
New Zealand/Australian English
- This supermarket advert for Wine and "Bear" Week. The jokes don't make much sense without New Zealand English's beer/bear/bare merger.
- In the audio commentary to The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson jokes that orcs should not be confused with people from Auckland. Cue head-scratching from North American viewers and groans from most others.
- New Zealanders (as well as Australians and the British) pronounce "Auckland" the same way North Americans pronounce "Oakland", so they were thinking of the city on San Francisco Bay rather than the one on Waitemata Harbour.
- An Australian is travelling through New Zealand, and notices a farmer having sex with a sheep. He asks, "Shouldn't you be shearing that sheep?", to which the New Zealander replies, "Fuck off, I'm not sharing it with anyone!"
- A man traveling in the Australian outback takes a bad fall off a cliff, and awakens to find himself in the house of an old rancher. "Was I brought here to die?" asks the man. "No, mate," replies the rancher, "you were brought here yester-die."
- The children's rhyming picture book Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas has the titular fruit rhyming with the fish type. This is not achieved with an American accent, but rather the native Australian accent of the book's author. The book also uses the term "silverbeet" as a rhyming produce item, where it is called "Swiss chard" elsewhere.
- Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby offers a jargon-dependent joke when Gormsby calls himself an "utter relief teacher". Since what New Zealanders call a "relief teacher" is a "substitute teacher" in North America and a "supply teacher" or "cover teacher" in Britain, the joke is lost.
- Full House: Stephanie and Michelle board an imminently departing airplane so Stephanie can flirt with a handsome young New Zealander. Since she thinks that the boy just told her that the plane is going to Oakland (across the bay from their San Francisco home), she is not particularly concerned about getting off before takeoff. Cue the flight attendant announcing that they're on a 14-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand instead. The rest of the episode revolves round them getting back to the USA.
- Courtney Act from season 6 of RuPaul's Drag Race is from Australia and admits that her Punny Name only really works in Australian English, where it sounds like "Caught in the act." To make the pun more obvious Ru introduces her using a fake Australian accent.
- Kath and Kim frequently speak of their desire to be affluent - which, in a broad Australian accent, sounds very similar to "effluent".
- Speed Zone has this exchange taking place on a plane:
Randolph Van Sloan: I wonder if they're going to feed us on this flight.
Passenger: I...do not speak English...too good.
Passenger: Oui, oui. Francais.
Randolph: Je ne parla...uh, je ne par...je ne parle...no speaka French.
Passenger: You would like my penis?
Passenger: You would like my penis?
Randolph: Uh, I'm going to L.A. to meet with my wife and two kids, uh, three kids. And we're going to have a nice family reunion.
Passenger: You would like my penis?
Randolph: Look, I don't have a problem with it. It's just not my thing, okay?
(The French passenger takes a bag of peanuts out of his jacket.)
Passenger: You wouldn't like?
Randolph: Peanuts! Peanuts! (takes peanuts) Oh, thank you! Sorry, I thought you were saying something else.
- Jimmy Carr has a stand-up bit where he talks about accents. The culmination of the bit is when he points out that saying his name with a Jamaican accent sound the same as "Jamaica" in a Jamaican accent.
- Most "Uranus" jokes don't make much sense if you pronounce the word "YOU-ran-us" or "OOH-ran-oos".
- Similarly, most "Pianist" jokes don't make much sense if you pronounce the word "PYAN-ist".
- A joke that works best in a non-rhotic accent:
Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes.
A: No idea.note
- "Italian man went to Malta". (He wants a fork. He wants a sheet. Etc., you get the principle. He gets thrown out of the hotel at the end.)
- "Chile" jokes make no sense if you pronounce it as "Chill-ay".
- "My wife went to the West Indies. "Jamaica?" "No, she wanted to go." She also went to the "East Indies". "Djakarta?" "And to Northern Italy." "Genoa?" "Of course I do, she's my wife".
- Apparently, in South Africa, sex is whet you cerry coal in.
- A common joke is to get someone to say "Mike Hawk" out loud. This only works as intended if done with a cot-caught merging accent. The same goes for any joke that relies on "caulk" sounding like "cock."
- A similar one, more common in the UK and Australia, is getting them to say "Mike Hunt", which doesn't work in RP English but does in other accents.
- Robots and Empire has one about accents of different planets:
"That is a non sequitur."
"A what?" She could make nothing of the last sound at all.
"It has no connection with my question."
"A non sequitur, you mean. You said 'a nonsense quitter'."
D.G. smiled. "Very well. Let's quit the nonsense."
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker contains a joke where the characters nickname Big Boss 'Vic Boss' (short for 'victory') due to him being The Ace. This works a lot better in the Japanese pronunciation of English loan words (where there is no distinction between 'b' and 'v') than in the American English the characters are actually supposed to be speaking, making it come across in the English translation as bizarre.
- At one point in Metal Gear Solid 3, Big Boss howls "Ocelot!!" at the character in question, in a way intended to be the exact same manner that Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2 yelled "Liquid!!". Hideo Kojima points out in the director's commentary that it works so well because the names even rhyme (O-se-ro-to, Ri-ku-i-do). In English, though...
- Coach Z of Homestar Runner tends to make rhymes with his bizarre fictional accent. For instance, in the Strong Bad Email "rampage", he rhymes "sport" with "The Cheat" (which he consistently pronounces as "The Chort").