"You see, AI: The Somnium Files; it's also AI, but it's also◊ an eyeball, but the "AI" is in the eyeball, and her name is "Ai" because Ai is a name, but "Ai" also means love. Geddit?"
When something is given a name which has more than one meaning or could be a reference to multiple sources. This may be deliberate, making an even stronger reference (or just a clever Stealth Pun), or accidental, which can lead to Analogy Backfire if other meanings make less sense or outright contradict the original.
For instances which occur in titles, see Pun-Based Title and Double-Meaning Title. Subtrope to Double Meaning and Riddle. If the pun takes place across multiple languages, that's a Bilingual Bonus.
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Anime & Manga
Anime and other Japanese media often has this in the form of a Bilingual Bonus, since the Japanese language in general lends itself well to this kind of wordplay thanks to its plentiful homophones, numerous pronunciations for each kanji, and the liberty of writing in alphabet, syllabary, or kanji, to the point where the difficulty actually lies in not making puns.
- The Thompson Sisters in Soul Eater could be a reference to the Thompson machine gun (since they can transform into guns) or, given the amount of musical references in the show, the Thompson Twins (who, ironically, weren't twins which also fits, since the sisters are opposites of each other).
- In Japanese, "Kami" can mean god, paper or hair (of the head). It's so easy to make wordplays of it.
- In Flame of Recca (the anime at least) there are at least two characters with a weapon/power called "Shikigami". One controls hair, the other paper.
- Death Note: Writing names on a notebook (full of paper) given to you by a god of death; the main character wants to become "God of the New World". You can make more puns from there.
- Osomatsu-kun: A one-shot character making Paper counterfeit money tells Hatabou to call him Kami-sama, which causes everyone who hears to think he's God.
- Tohno Akiha's ability, "Caging Hair", is called "Origami" in Japanese.note
- In YuYu Hakusho Yusuke's "Rei-Gun" can be interpreted as either "Spirit Gun" (what's used in the dub of the anime) or the English "ray gun"- which is pretty much what it looks like coming out of his finger.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has this for several characters. The best example is Chiri: her name can mean perfect, clairvoyance, to bury, or frizzy (hair).
- Eiichiro Oda, author of One Piece is very fond of this sort of thing. A notable example exists in one of Sanji's finishing moves, the Parage Shot, a kick that can literally beat people pretty. "Parage" is a French word meaning "Trimming", in keeping with Sanji's moves being named in Gratuitous French. There's also a Japanese brand of beauty products named "Perlage" that's pronounced as Parage. Another is Nami's hometown being named Cocoyashi village, which refers to the coconut trees but also sounds like Kokkaishi, or navigator (Nami's role in the Straw Hats).
- In Bakusou Kyoudai! Let's & Go!!, the title characters' names, Retsu and Gou, are a pun on "Let's go!" Combined with their friend Jun, the three are named for Jun Retsugou, the stage name of manzai comedian Yoshiji Watanabe.
- The opening for the anime Mouse is called "Mouse Chuu Mouse". This is a multiple pun: it is pronounced like "Mouth to Mouth", but chuu is the Japanese onomatopoeia for both mouse squeaks and kisses... which are, incidentally, an activity that is done "mouth to mouth".
- In Hellsing, Alucard refers to Father Alexander Anderson as "Judas Priest": a Shout-Out to the band of the same name and a reference to Anderson's organization, Iscariot: named after Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has a character named Viral, who fits with the DNA Theme Naming of many antagonists (Lord Genome, the Four Generals named after the Nucleobases, etc.); however, his name (following the Japanese rules of pronunciation) can be also spelt "Bilal", as in French comic book artist Enki Bilal. That's why Viral's mecha is named Enkidu and the song associated with him on the soundtrack is called "Nikopol". Then there's the connection to the English word "virile", which ties into the fact that Enkidu was a wild man from Gilgamesh who was tamed to civilisation with sex. (Not to mention how the Japanese pronunciation of 'Simon' sounds a lot like...)
- In Dragon Ball Z, Gohan and Videl's daughter is named Pan; the name may come from the word for "bread" in many languages, continuing Gohan's family's naming tradition, the mythological being Pan, continuing Videl's family's naming tradition, or the pan flute, continuing the naming tradition of Gohan's Parental Substitute Piccolo's family.
- Most characters in Monster Musume are named after what they are. One interesting example is Manako, the one-eyed girl: her name is a pun on her species, Monocles, and also sounds like a Japanese word meaning "eye," while to English speakers, it sounds like "monocle."
- Retsuko's name is this, as not only does the series center on her getting angry with her coworkers ("retsu" means "furious" in Japanese), but she's also a red panda. Yokosawa the axolotl is also likely one of these, as not only is her voice actor Natsuko Yokosawa, but the "sawa" in her name means "marsh" in Japanese, fitting for an amphibian.
- The title of the final episode of the original series of Neon Genesis Evangelion is the Japanese translation of "The Beast That Shouted Love at the End of the World," which is also the title of a famous short story by Harlan Ellison. However, as noted in the page quote, the word for "love" in Japanese is "ai," pronounced identically to the English pronoun "I," making an alternate reading of the title "The Beast That Shouted I at the End of the World," tying in with the series' themes of individuality and merging of egos. "Ai" is also written in katakana, usually used for foreign words, rather than the hiragana used for native Japanese words, to emphasize the alternate interpretation.
- All over the place in Watchmen:
- The title itself. It's based on the Latin phrase "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", which can be translated as "who watches the watchmen?" This phrase appears as a piece of graffiti throughout the book. The original phrase was about the dilemma of how to ensure that those who enforce the law are themselves answerable to the law, a dilemma that applies especially to vigilantes such as the main characters. Late in the story, Ozymandias provides an alternate explanation by referencing a line from the speech Kennedy planned to give in Dallas, about "watchmen on the walls of democracy", which Ozymandias considers himself. Doctor Manhattan's character arc provides two more interpretations: he used to be a watchmaker, and he sees himself and all other humans as machines that are no more in control of their actions than a watch is in control of its moving hands.
- Rorschach is named after a famous personality test. His mask resembles the popular image of the test (though not the test itself), which is also a series of black and white images, appropriate for Rorschach's worldview. Also, being named after a psychological test is perhaps appropriate for a character with the deep-seated mental problems Rorschach has. How you interpret Rorschach also reveals your mental processes, like the test.
- Adrian Veidt's codename Ozymandias is the name Greek sources give to the pharaoh Ramesses II, fitting to his obsession with both ancient Greek and Egyptian culture. It's also a reference to a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the main theme of which is futility, implying that Veidt's grand plan will not ensure world peace after all.
- The title of the chapter "Fearful Symmetry" is from the poem "Tyger, Tyger" by William Blake, and is a good description of Rorschach's mask, and the epigraph from the same poem, "What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry" could refer to the fact that Rorschach has just been framed for the murder of Moloch or, in the actual meaning of the line, the fact that he has been captured by the police after avoiding arrest for many years. On top of all that, the layout of the chapter is symmetrical as well.
- The first Nightowl's autobiography is titled Under The Hood, which refers both to his life as a masked superhero and to his career as a mechanic.
- The title of Chapter 10 is "Two Riders Were Approaching", a phrase from the Bob Dylan song "All Along the Watchtower". (The line is quoted in full at the chapter's end.) This phrase turns out to have five meanings within the chapter.
- The initial panels show the president and vice president arriving at the Cheyenne Mountain bunker, first on separate jet planes and then riding separate electric golf carts.
- In the parallel storyline of the "Black Freighter" pirate comic book, the protagonist encounters (and kills) two people riding horses.
- Two Jehovah's Witnesses riding bicycles stop at the newsstand to buy a newspaper and try to give a tract to the newsvendor. (This one gets bonus points, since the headquarters for the Jehovah's Witnesses' religious sect is known as The Watchtower.)
- The last few panels show Nite Owl and Rorschach on hover-bikes, approaching Veidt's Antarctic base. When Nite Owl tries to guess the password on Veidt's office computer, it responds to his almost-correct password with "Password incomplete: Do you wish to add rider?" The correct "rider" is the number 2.
- The song title "All Along the Watchtower" has an additional double meaning in Chapter 10. It evokes not only the series title Watchmen, but also The Watchtower, the religious magazine that the Jehovah's Witnesses try to give to the newsvendor.
- Also from Alan Moore, Top 10 has several:
- Two robots refer to a robot policeman as "spambo," which is both similar to a racial slur used for Black men, and a twist on insults like "oreo" or "banana": a can of Spam is metal on the outside, meat on the inside.
- The agency Mortadelo y Filemón work for is called T.I.A., which is an obvious reference to the CIA. Since "tía" in Spanish means "aunt", the name also works as a pun on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., fitting since it's a Spanish series about comedic espionage.
- In The Multiversity, the Captain Ersatz of Spider-Woman from Earth-8 is named Ladybug, which is both a reference to the insect of the same name and the fact that she is the Distaff Counterpart of Bug, the Spider-Man ersatz from the same universe.
- Vow of Nudity: Fiora's self-made cantrip, draught pitch, is a combination of two words also commonly seen in baseball, befitting a spell involving hurling a potion bottle at someone.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Trek (2009)'s scene with The Beastie Boys' song "Sabotage" can refer to the director going against Star Trek tradition by using a radical approach that may unsettle fans, Kirk's rebellious nature that could endanger his chance of reaching the iconic status he's known for eventually, and it's a reference to William Shatner's trouble pronouncing the word sabotage without a Canadian accent. That said, the director maintains that he hadn't been thinking of the infamous "sabataage" outtake when he chose that song.
- The return of it in Star Trek Beyond is not only a Call-Back to the first film, but it also comes at the exact moment in the film where the crew is actively sabotaging the enemy.
- The above mentioned issue with puns being difficult to avoid in Japanese was invoked with the title of Shin Godzilla, which was left untranslated in English due to being readable as "New Godzilla", "Pure Godzilla", "True Godzilla", or "God Godzilla".
- The idiom "A friend in need is a friend indeed" has four potential meanings based on the interpretations of "in deed/indeed" and "friend in need";
- A friend who is "in need" is a good friend (because they need your friendship).
- A friend who is "in need" will do their best to remind you that they're your friend ("in deed").
- A friend who remains a friend in your time of need is "indeed" your friend.
- A friend is someone who reminds you of their friendship in your time of need (once again; in [their] deed[s]).
- DSS Angleton of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross is a Many-Angled One reinvented as an Englishman.
- In Galaxy of Fear: Eaten Alive there is an establishment called the "Don't Go Inn". Aside from the obvious, it is part of a trap.
- A subtle one in Blood Rites: Harry Dresden trains at a gym called Dough Joe's. Or, dojo.
- Pat Buchanan's autobiography Right from the Beginning has three meanings: he has been a right-wing conservative from the beginning; his views have been correct (in his eyes, at least) from the beginning; and he is telling his story straight from the beginning.
- In the Discworld novel Jingo, Lord Vetinari, Sergeant Colon and Nobby Nobbs go undercover as a Klatchian entertainment troupe called Gulli, Gulli and Betti. In addition to the reference to the psueudo-Arabian music hall act Wilson, Keppel and Betty, Nobby's identity as "Betti" also ties in to the moment when Colon, trying to think of a Klatchian first name, tells the caravanserai "You can call me Al."
- Top Gear, during the Alfa Romeo challenge James May and Richard Hammond have (as is customary) betrayed Jeremy Clarkson's genius idea to avoid being overtaken. Both suffered breakdowns shortly after leading to this comment from Jeremy.
Clarkson: Brutus Hammond was out with a broken water-pump and then it was the turn of Cassius May.
- John Sheridan's nickname in Babylon 5, Starkiller. This is both a, in-universe reference to him destroying a ship named the Black Star, but it could also foreshadow him later destroying another ship called the White Star, and a writer's reference to Star Wars.
- In Stargate Atlantis, the ships that the Atlantis expedition use when travelling through space gates (or when they need a tactical advantage) are called Puddle Jumpers. This is both a reference to the ship's ability to fly through stargates, as well as to a nickname among pilots for smaller aircraft that make short connecting trips to smaller airports.
- Saturday Night Live had an Albert Brooks sketch that was a promo for a fake TV show called "Black Vet", the entire premise of which was that the main character was both a black veterinarian, and a black veteran.
- Blake Snyder, in his screenwriting book Save The Cat warns against titling anything this way, citing "Black Vet" as an (admittedly fictional) example. His basic point is "don't mistake a clever title for a good story," and don't bend your story to make the title seem clever.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Magician's Apprentice," the Doctor rides a tank into a medieval arena while playing an electric guitar (It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context). He asks his friend if he likes the tank. He got it for his fish, you see. Since the man he's talking to is a few centuries away from the idea of a fishtank, he reacts with utter bemusement.
- Sound Horizon's Märchen album gets a lot of mileage out of "ido", which can refer to, among other things, a well or the Freudian concept of id. There's a point in one song where the word is used four times in a single sentence - and it means something entirely different each time.
- A line in the The Beatles' "Back in the USSR" goes "That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my my my mind." It's a Shout-Out to "Georgia on My Mind", a reference to the then-Soviet republic of Georgia, and an allusion to Georgia as a woman's name.
- The Thomas Dolby Greatest Hits Album Retrospectacle. The most obvious source of the Word Purée Title is "retrospective" + "spectacle", as in a showy performance... But also, part of Dolby's trademark image was thick, nerdy glasses, or "spectacles". The front cover even fashions the "o" in the title into a monocle lens to emphasize the reference to glasses.
- One Deathworld in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is called Phyrr. On one hand, it is an obvious pun on fear. On the other, the Trope Namer for Deathworlds is Harry Harrison's Deathworld trilogy, where the planet in question is called... Pyrr.
- Genya Arikado from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. "Arikado" means "to have horns", implying some relation to demons. More importantly, his name is one vowel sound away from the Japanese pronunciation of Alucard.
- Sunny Day of Backyard Sports has a name that is both a reference to "sunny day," reflecting her personality, and to the co-founder of Humongous Entertainment, Shelley Day.
- Xion and Vanitas from the Kingdom Hearts series. Let's see...
- Xion: She's named after a flower (shion) that symbolises remembrance. Not only is Xion made of someone's memories, but she's eventually erased from the mind of everyone who knew her. 'Shio' also means "tide" in Japanese, tying her into the Theme Naming of Kairi, Namine, and Aqua. Oh, and, like the rest of the Organization, her name is an anagram with an "x" added: No. i, meaning an imaginary number.
- Vanitas: It means "emptiness" (and can even be defined by the appropriate kanji), and sounds similar to vanity and Ventus, his rival. To make it even better, the kanji for "emptiness" can also be used for "sky", hinting at their shared connection to Sora.
- The χ-blade is named for the Greek letter "chi". But it is also pronounced just like "Keyblade," the main weapons in the series.
- In the fan translation of Mother 3, Fassad's name is the Arabic word for "greed", it also sounds like the word "facade", both of these are apt summations of the character who uses an overly nice face to hide all his Kick the Dog moments done to further his and his master's desires.
- In TearRing Saga, Enteh is named after the German world for duck, while her true name, Maeve, means seagull in the same language. In Japanese, duck is "kamo" and seagull is "kamome", the words being separated only by the character "me", which is Japanese for "eye". According to the creator, Shozou Kaga, this represents her awakening to her true purpose.
- One of the villagers in the Animal Crossing series is a white tiger named Bianca. Not only is her name the Italian word for white, but it sounds very similar to Byakko, the white tiger of The Four Gods. What makes this more interesting is that her name is not Bianca in Japanese.
- Left 4 Dead has the achievement "Cr0wned", earned by killing a Witch with a headshot. The top of the skull is called the "crown" (and getting "crowned" is old slang for a head injury); "0wned" is typical Leet Lingo for scoring against an opponent; and if you pronounce "cr0wn" as if you were using that second meaning, it sounds like "crone", as in an old person or a witch.
- The chapter "Surface Tension" refers both to the player fighting their way across the surface of Black Mesa and the surface tension of liquids, with a large setpiece involving the local dam (in keeping with the series's overall trend of titles referencing terms from physics.)
- The expansion Opposing Force references both an "opposing force" from military simulations, and the opposing force from Newton's Third Law.
- The expansion Blue Shift could alternately refer to the work shift of the blue-clothed guard who serves as player character or the blueshift of light.
- Ryu from Street Fighter does one to Ibuki in New Generation when he defeats her. "Your Ninja style is different from Bushin style. But that's because you're not a guy!". Indeed Ibuki isn't the Ninja called Guy nor is she a 'guy'.
- Escape from Monkey Island has the villain Ozzie Mandrill, whose name includes a nod to his Australian origins, has another reference to monkeys (a mandrill is a very large primate), is a pun on Ozymandias (which he himself references in one of his quotes) and sounds just like the Star Wars character Ody Mandrell, i.e. yet another Lucasfilm reference.
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Midbus' name in the Latin American localization is "Cervil", a pun on "cerdo" (pig), "vil" (vile) and is pronounced as "servil" (subservient). A fitting name for Fawful's right hand Pig Man.
- Vampire Survivors has the Belpaese family of vampire hunters (though there are no vampires in the game...). The game's graphics and setting are clearly based on the Castlevania franchise, so "Belpaese" is a nod to the Belmont family... but "Bel Paese" is also a semi-soft cheese, which fits with the Edible Theme Naming of other characters named after Italian cheeses (Giovanna Grana, Pugnala Provola, etc.). And "Bel paese" is also the appellation for Italy used ever since Dante and Petrarch, in reference to the game's Italian setting and the developer poncle's Italian origins.
- In Everyday Heroes, Mr. Mighty has been known to exclaim "Great Siegel's Ghost!" This is based on the phrase "Great Caesar's Ghost", commonly used by Daily Planet editor Perry White in The Adventures of Superman... which starred a character created by Jerry Siegel.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Rash. One of the symptoms of the disease's full-blown version is getting skin irritations. One of the other definitions of "rash" is to qualify something done without much thought, leading to common use as "something done too fast". Since the disease victims have a small chance of becoming Plague Zombie monsters that seem to act entirely on instinct at the beginning of the story and the disease itself spreads very fast, both of the other definitions apply as well.
- A staple of the Superhero Web Serial Novel Gamer Girl. Kazé/Fangirl is a superhero fangirl who uses an electric fan gun, and the Canine is a literal canine covered in canine teeth. Ba dum tsss!
- TierZoo has an unintentional example in its own name. The show is about putting animals in Character Tiers depending on how well they survive in real life. "Tier" also means Animal in German which means that it essentially means "Animal Zoo" in Germans
- Some of the headlines in David Langford's sf newsletter Ansible. For example, the news that a review of the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones describes them as "like something you’d expect to see in a dystopian sci-fi movie, maybe even on the head of a Batman villain" has the headline "Lord Dyson's Bane", a play on the novel Lord Foul's Bane that also references Bane, a Batman villain who does indeed wear headgear that — especially in The Dark Knight Trilogy — looks not unlike a Zone.
- Futurama's Bender, referring both to his function as a bending unit and to the fact that he's constantly drinking alcohol (which he needs as fuel).
- As noted on the Meaningful Name page, in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph's name has a sextuple meaning: it is a kind of sandstone reflecting her element, a Hebrew word for "drum" referring to her ability to sense with vibration, a play on "tough" for her attitude, and a homonym of "toff", British slang for an upper-class person (which she is). On her passport in "The Serpent's Pass" her name is written to mean "supported lotus", which is indicative of how her parents saw her, as a fragile china doll. Conversely, on the title card in "Tales of Ba Sing Se" her name is written to mean "entrusted man". Even if a couple of them are accidental, the fact that most of them are quite punny, and all of them reference some element of her character is quite impressive.
- South Park, in "Smug Alert", probably has one. The Smugs all drive Hybrid cars. (As in combined gas/electric engine.) The obvious pun is with "hybris" (or "hubris", the usual spelling). The stealth pun is that in biology, a hybrid is a bastard. There is another pun in the brand of car they drive, the Pious, which referenced that they are pious in attitude and Toyota's hybrid car, the Prius.
- Gabby’s Dollhouse, DJ Catnip invokes this trope in "DJ's Glow Ride"
DJ Catnip: Hey, Gabby, do you wanna play us some...(looking at the audience) Tracks note
- Dinosaur Train: Probably unintentional, but Regina Regaliceratops' name. At first it sounds like a regular Alliterative Name, but regina is also Latin for "queen" (which she is depicted as), as well as a city in Canada, the country where Regaliceratops fossils were found in real life.
- Most of the place names in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic have the basic form of a real world place name turned into an equine pun. Appleloosa, however, not only has the real world name (Appalachia) and the pony reference (Appaloosa is a breed of horse), but also puns on "Apple", because Applejack's family have a branch there.
- What exactly does the "hood" in "hood rat" refer to? Most likely, it's the fact that they live in the hood (ghetto). But it could appropriately refer to the fact that they might well be a Hood Ornament Hottie. Or, they are also rather likely to be wearing a jacket with a hood. All of these references are, at least, consistent with the meaning of the stereotype.
- Oscar Pistorius, the first ever double amputee to compete in the Olympics, has the nickname "Bladerunner", referencing both his prosthetic legs (blade-shaped springs) and the movie Blade Runner.
- The post-game aftermath of the 2013 World Series had David Ortiz being awarded the MVP trophy and a new car. He exclaimed in response, "This is our BEEP city!", not only being a censored version of his famous speech in response to the capturing of one of the terrorists responsible for the Boston Marathon Bombing that had occurred earlier that year but was also imitating a car honking sound effect. It’s also a subtle jab about how Boston has some of the worst traffic in the country.