Follow TV Tropes

Following

Visual Pun
aka: Sight Gag

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/spaceballs_combing.png
"We were told to comb the desert, so we're combing it!"

"Don't worry, bro, none of this is canon. But this is!" (pulls out an actual cannon)
Advertisement:

When a phrase which is usually used as a metaphor is shown literally. This can be because The Ditz didn't understand the statement, or can just be a simple gag. This kind of humor is considered dated and a bit old fashioned, so most audience won't do more than smirk — at least when adults are involved (children tend to be more easily amused). Occasionally this action can be performed literally without the verbal set up. It is a frequent pitfall when dealing with a Literal Genie.

Common versions include requests to "give me a hand" being met with disembodied hands and quotes of Marc Antony "lend me your ears" — well, use your imagination.

These can be quite a nightmare for translators: purely textual puns can be rewritten into something else, but when the pun has a visual component (which usually cannot be changed), it becomes much harder to come up with something that makes sense.

Advertisement:

B-Roll Rebus is when news and documentaries do this with Stock Footage. Compare Stealth Pun, which is sort of like a Visual Pun without the visuals; of course, sometimes a Visual Pun can be a stealth pun, but you know, they're stealthy about it. A Super-Trope to Metaphoric Metamorphosis (where road signs are literal, not figurative, depictions of what's up ahead) and Rules of the Road (same). Often a Sister Trope of Literal Metaphor.

When creatures, whether individuals or entire species, are designed as living visual puns, see Pun-Based Creature.


Advertisement:

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Used in combination with Gratuitous English in a Blu-ray commercial starring Kamen Rider Den-O's Momotaros, who refers to it as "Blu-Ray Disc". Cue a bunch of Blu-Ray boxes disco-dancing.
  • Axe's Clean Your Balls campaign.
  • The advert for the grand finale (For the Channel 4 series) of Big Brother UK had the text R.I.P. on a black background. Rather than an 'I', the show's logo was used in its place.
  • GEICO:
    • Can switching to Geico can really save you up 15% on car insurance? Did the caveman invent fire? Do woodchucks chuck wood? Does a 10 pound bag of flour make a really big biscuit? Is a bird in hand worth two in the bush? Did the Piggy go wee wee wee all the way home?
    • Yes! Switching to Geico will give you a smaller bill!
    • They ran a couple of commercials featuring these in 2020 for homeowner's insurance:
      • In one, a couple talks about the house they just bought. They mention a number of positive things but admit it has a clogging problem. Cut to a family clog dancing through their daily routine.
      • In the other, another couple sings the praises of the house they've just bought. They do admit it has a rat problem. Cut to the band Ratt repeatedly performing "Round and Round".
      • Another one has a couple praise their new house, but note that there are ants. Cue several aunts inspecting the house.
  • A commercial for EDS (an informations and technology company since acquired by Hewlett Packard) used the metaphor herding cats to describe their services in an beautifully shot tv ad.
  • The USA Network ads for Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe give a Title Drop right as Sam fallsnote . Doubles as a Stealth Pun.
  • The A&E Network blitzed all their commercial breaks with multiple promos for the second season of The Glades, most of which showed the mutilation of a blood orange with murder weapons, including a bullet, arrows, and a cleaver.
  • One Progressive ad involved a pair of representatives from another insurance company claiming to have one of the same services that Progressive does — as soon as they do so, their pants suddenly burst into flames. Also sort of a Stealth Pun, because no one actually calls out the "liar liar, pants on fire" thing.
  • The logo for the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant features a buffalo with wings.
  • An advertisement for a phone company had two girls promise a lap dance to two guys for Christmas (complete with a Something Else Also Rises Reaction Shot). Cut to the girls dancing a traditional Finnish dance and saying "This is how they dance in Lapland."
  • In the Farmers' Insurance "University Of Farmers" campaign, one class takes place on a collection of roofs. One agent finds a fiddler on the roof.
    • In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Farmers' Insurance sponsors Kasey Kahne's #5 Chevrolet. In another University of Farmers commercial, Kahne appears as himself and admires the insurance agents' custom-tailored fire suits. Another guy shows up late… wearing a black track suit that has flames painted on it. Everyone looks at him with disapproval, and he says, "Ohhh… fire suit." Kahne then sprays him down with the fire extinguisher.
  • Taunton Cider's Red Rock Cider was advertised on British television in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a series of spots paying homage to Police Squad!, directed by John Lloyd and featuring Leslie Nielsen reprising his role as Frank Drebin. Among the many stylistic lifts from Police Squad!, the adverts featured many visual puns (some recycled from Police Squad!). For example, upon entering a pub, Drebin passes a sign reading "Pool" and bumps into a man at a pool table — which turns out to be full of water.
  • Stan Freberg's advertising agency Freberg, Ltd. had "The Great Seal," which was a seal wearing sunglasses. (This parody of old-fashioned corporate symbols was designed by Saul Bass.)
  • One Honda commercial features a Honda Accord Coupe owner having a doctor examine his heavy and metallic right foot — a stealth pun of the term "lead foot".
  • Sir George Martin has his own coat of arms, with puns on himself, his career as a Record Producer, and rising to fame due to The Beatles: atop it is a house Martin with a recorder flute under his wing, and the shield has three beetles. To top it off, the motto is "All You Need is Love" in Latin. Also his badge is a zebra bearing a crozier.
  • Mountain Dew has a taste that will knock your socks off.
  • The poster for the eponymous The Runaways biopic features a cherry with a lit fuse instead of a stem — a reference to the band's hit "Cherry Bomb".
  • Blockers, a comedy film about parents trying to stop their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night, consistently places a rooster silhouette above the title in ads... It's a movie about a bunch of "cock blockers".
  • A site called careerbuilder.com ran an ad campaign about an exasperated office man literally working with a bunch of monkeys. For their Super Bowl XL ad, said man is on the phone with a woman friend of his who sympathizes with him...as she has to work (literally) with a bunch of jackasses.
  • In a commercial for Chunky Chips Ahoy!, a bunch of punks and an anthropomorphic cookie are sing a rock song about "Punky Chips Ahoy!", until a British monkey cop comes along and corrects them.
  • The logo for GIT (the versioning software) is "GIT" written 90° sideways. Or a plus, a minus and a rotate arrow. Whatever you noticed first.
  • A series of commercials for the Nynex Yellow Pages featured a scene showing some odd happening, then an entry in the phone book where the scene was a visual pun based on it:
    • An armchair is seen and pieces of fabric start to fly off as burlesque music plays. Cut to an entry for "Furniture Stripping".
    • We see someone casting a hook on a fishing line offscreen. The person finally hooks a fish and reels it in, only for a football player to pounce on the fish. Cut to an entry for "Fishing Tackle".
    • The camera moves past a group of pretentious snobs talking about their First World Problems and issues. Cut to an entry for "Vanity Cases".
    • We see a series of auditioning actors acting out death scenes. Cut to an entry for "Die Casting".
    • We see a receptionist arguing with her offstage boss, sung operatically. Cut to an entry for "Opera Companies".
    • We see a group of train engineers drinking tea together and conversing politely. Cut to an entry for "Civil Engineers".
    • We see a group of men who all introduce themselves as "Herbert". Cut to an entry for "Herbs" (silent "H").
The print ads followed suit, for instance a chicken playing tennis was listed as "Chicken Ready to Serve" and Barbie and Ken dressed as doctors was "Plastic Surgeons." The ads even ran without the listing for the first week so those looking at them would guess the pun.
  • Frequently found in McDonaldland commercials from The '80s.
  • A cinema advert for Silk Cut cigarettes in The '80s ends with a giant curtain of silk getting torn. This was done to circumvent British tobacco advertising laws.

    Animation 
  • In one episode of Happy Heroes, Big and Little M. use a Trojan horse in Doctor H.'s Internet router. The Trojan horse is literally a giant rocking horse.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 7, Paddi has his pet egg Eggy sneak into Mr. Slowy's laboratory to find him something to eat, and Eggy retrieves an egg that Paddi, after eating it, finds out is actually an egg-shaped bomb. The Chinese words for "egg" (蛋, or "dan") and "bomb" (炸弹, or "zhadan") have Chinese characters that are pronounced the same but are different (蛋 and 弹 both being pronounced "dan", in this case).
  • The Simple Samosa episode "Sabse Sweetest Kaun?" depicts Mayor Royal Falooda as a medieval king — in other words, a literal "royal" falooda.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Several works, including Sailor Moon and Here is Greenwood, have used the joke of showing or referencing a type of carp known as koi when matters of love are being discussed because another koi (in a different kana) refers to love.
  • If something startling happens, and the screen is suddenly filled with fish. Understand that the onomatopoeia for surprise is "gyoh", which is also one of the words for "fish".
    • There is actually a Yu-Gi-Oh! card named "Gyoh!" in Japan; its effect involves Fish-Type monsters and its art depicts a shark bearing down on a surprised monster. The US name is "Oh F!sh!"
  • Quite frequent in the Asteroid in Love manga (but not in the anime), usually due to Mira misunderstanding a new scientific term.
    • In the fifth chapter, Ao mentions the asteroid Vesta. Mira somewhat immediately switched to a "Western-style" school uniform with a vest (Hoshizaki uses Sailor Fuku), and asks whether Ao means a vest.
    • In the eighteenth chapter, Mikage raises the term "boring" (as in drilling). Mira immediately pretends to be bowling. Japanese approximates "bowling" in a way that's identical to "boring".
  • When Charmy from Black Clover first unlocks her Food Magic, the giant sheep she summoned sheds the wool to reveal a giant, monstrous wolf. It's a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.
  • This composed a significant portion of the anime Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, resulting in it being nigh-incomprehensible when translated.
  • Cells at Work!, which features an abstract depiction of life for cells in the human body, features a number of puns.
    • Virii are depicted as various inanimate objects that attach to Ordinary Cells and turn them into Plague Zombies; the virus that causes dengue fever is depicted as tengu masks.
    • Purine compounds are depicted as stacks of pudding cups, a play on the Japanese word for pudding, purin.
    • The Boot Camp Episode shows the Macrophages and Dendritic Cells helping train thymocytes (developing T cells) by holding up cardboard cut-outs, representing their role as antigen-presenting cells.
  • Cells at Work! CODE BLACK, Cells at Work!'s Darker and Edgier spinoff, has the Leukyocytes grab assault rifles and rocket launchers when their usual attacks fail to destroy a purine crystal. They're literally breaking out the big guns.
  • In Code Geass, the Siegfried, the Knightmare that Jeremiah (alias Orange-kun) ends up piloting...is a giant orange.
  • Dororo: When Hyakkimaru's fake hand falls off after he grows a real one, he decides to bury it to show the limb respect, to which Dororo says, "hey, it's a hand-grave!" The joke, explained in the English version with an asterisk, is that the author Osamu Tezuka's surname can be broken down into "Te," meaning hand, and "zuka," meaning grave.
  • In Eureka Seven's soccer episode, Eureka wears number 7.
  • The girls from Magical Pokaan realize the girls from the Hot Springs Episode are not biologically so. Cut to a huge phallic rocket taking off.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Near the end, Greed destroys Father from the inside.
    • The phrase "paying an arm and a leg" is taken very literally in this show.
    • Or a certain big green monster.
  • Girls und Panzer:
    • Among the tanks of an utterly trashed Japanese-based team, you can briefly see an incredibly anachronic FT-KO.
    • In a more noticeable example, Riko "Erwin" Matsumoto from Team Hippo has her hair constantly sticking out from beneath her hat in a manner reminiscent of fox ears, a reference to her namesake's nickname The Desert Fox.
    • Katyusha of the Pravda team travels to meet the leader of the Ōarai team in a BM-13 "Katyusha".
  • Goldfish Warning!: Any time Chitose says "my school" (Watashi no gakuen), cue the school for scrubbing brushes (Tawashi no gakuen), although that may just be Wapiko not being able to hear properly.
  • In Episode 13 of Guilty Crown, you see Ayase reaching for a shoe on the floor. It becomes significantly funnier when you remember that the main character's name is Shu.
  • Haganai presents us with Maria Takayama who is a child, and a nun, who sees the main character as an older-brother type person in her life. That would make her his little sister. Long way to go for such a groan worthy pun.
  • The opening of Haruhi Suzumiya has Yuki ("snow") standing in the middle of the snow (though for the record, Yuki is actually written as "hope"). The light novels explain that it had been snowing when Yuki was given permission to have her own name, although this is kinda vague as it's described in really vague poetic symbolic odd prose written by Yuki during the short story.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler gives us "Suzumiya Haruhi no U2"note .
  • Highschool of the Dead: In episode 8, Saeko narrowly avoids two shots from a sniper rifle. The first one passes directly between her legs in Bullet Time, allowing for a gratuitous close-up of her panty-covered crotch as the bullet just misses grazing her. Making it a literal Panty Shot.
  • In the first opening for Inazuma Eleven GO, we get a close-up of Matsukaze Tenma both times the line "Ten made todokeyou" occurs in the lyrics.
  • In Episode 12 of Interviews with Monster Girls, Takahashi sees a photo of Hikari at night, noticing that her eyes flash like animals' ones, and explains her why they do this. Several animals have a membrane in the back of their eyes that reflects back the light, and this is shown with an animation of super-deformed smiling Hikari faces bouncing against said membrane. Hikari means "light" in Japanese.
  • In Japan, Inc., Ueda admits he likes America, and his female boss comments: "He must be an alien." In this panel, he is drawn as The Alien.
  • The opening sequence of Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood includes a quick series of cuts that show the three main executioners in settings that fit their surnames:
    • Sawa Yukimura (yuki meaning "snow")" is shown walking in a snowy landscape.
    • Makoto Tsukishiro (tsuki meaning "moon") is shown standing in the light of a full moon.
    • Elena Hanakaze (hana meaning "flower") is shown applying her lipstick with some flowers prominently in the foreground.
  • In the animation of The King's Avatar, after Excellent Era forcibly retires Ye Xiu, they literally throw him out into the cold; it begins to snow when he leaves the building.
  • The Pursuit of Harimao's Treasure: In the scene where Goering shreds Lupin's hang glider, Lupin saves himself by quickly stripping down to his boxers, then pulls them off just as a parachute deploys from between his ass cheeks.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam has the White Base stop at the neutral Side Six. As a condition of entry, its weapons are literally secured with red tape. For those who missed it the first time, Bright complains in the next episode about the abundance of red tape getting in the way of repairs.
  • Oi-chan from Mononoke Sharing is a nurikabe (basically a living wall) and is the only yokai in the series whose human form doesn't have large breasts, even when she's seen as an adult in the epilogue. She's flat as a board.
  • Naruto: The Akimichi clan have access to a super form that gives them incredible strength and they gain butterfly wings made out of chakra. Like with Sailor Moon above, the Akimichi clan have the butterfly motif because "butterfly" and "super" are both read as "chou" in Japanese.
  • Ninja Nonsense had truly terrible one involving "a furo" getting filled with an "afro". Even the characters point out how bad the joke is.
  • One Piece:
    • Donquixote Doflamingo ate the Ito Ito no Mi (String-String Fruit). It allows him to create lethal Razor Floss which can cleave through most materials, do Building Swing using the clouds, and more. He also controls a massive Underworld empire, with moles in the Marine and involved in various weapons trafficking while maintaining a public persona of a benevolent king of Dressrosa. He's the man pulling the strings, figuratively and literally.
    • There's a spider in the Thriller Bark arc. It had the head of a monkey and a verbal tick of 'Monkey.' Does this pun even make sense without knowledge of English?
  • Last Period: The Journey to the End of the Despair: After an android is revealed to be evil and plotting to take over the world, a side character who's been distant and cold towards the android the whole time refuses to help. Her reason? "I don't like Androids." She then takes a bite out of her apple and holds it up — creating the Apple logo.
    Choco: So that's what this is about.
  • Dia and Pearl's manzai verses from the Pokémon Adventures manga occasionally incorporate a visual pun for the punchline. This makes things even harder to translate to English in the fan translations.
  • One example that does translate, if not incredibly accurately, is in the third episode of Pokémon: The Original Series. Kasumi (Misty), who is afraid of bugs, spots a Caterpie, and screams "MUSHI!" (bug). Satoshi (Ash), mishearing her, pops up in a cow suit, and comments "Ushi?" (cow). The English dialogue opted for, after Misty's scream, having Ash (in the cow suit) comment "Maybe it's a... Cow-terpie!."
  • Sailor Moon: Super Sailor Moon has a butterfly motif. The Japanese word for "butterfly" is "chou" which also is a homonym of "chou" the Japanese word for "super".
  • After Kaede wordlessly laments her lack of chest in one end-of-episode short of Sakura Trick, this title card is seen.
  • Shirokuma Cafe, at least the anime version, combines visual puns and Chain of Corrections into a Once per Episode gag. Polar Bear will misunderstand a word another character says, then rapidly appear in different costumes and scenery that suggest similar-sounding words. The extreme reliance on the Japanese language for these jokes probably means the series will never be dubbed.
    Penguin: Seconds, please. [Okawari]
    Polar Bear brings sunflowers.
    Penguin: Those would be sunflowers (himawari).
    Polar Bear returns as a chef with a labeled three-course meal.
    Penguin: That would be the daily special (higawari).
    Polar Bear returns with an axe and firewood.
    Penguin: That would be splitting logs (makiwari).
    Blindfolded Polar Bear menaces a watermelon with a stick.
    Penguin: That's splitting a watermelon (suika wari). Seconds, please.
  • One Shugo Chara Chan! comic has the Guardian Characters wondering what the prince of flowers ("hana" in Japanese) looks like, and one of the princes is a nose (Also "hana" in Japanese). Ran says "That's not the right "hana" we're talking about!"
  • Welcome to Lodoss Island, a series of omakes parodying Record of Lodoss War, has explanations underneath some of the comics, because puns in Japanese have a bad habit of turning into nonsensical absurdist gags when translated into English. For example, in one, Slayn tells Ghim that he's looking for his star, whereupon the dwarf produces a small lump on a stick and replies, "Your pickled plum?" Which is funny in English if you're into completely random shit happening because of translation, and funny in Japanese because "hoshi" (star) sounds sort of like "umeboshi" (pickled plum).
  • Yotsuba&! does it from time to time, but whether she truly doesn't understand or is making a joke is up in the air:
    • In one, she draws a tsukutsukuboshi as a little guy wearing a cap (because in Japanese, "boshi" is a homonym for "cap").
    • When Miura identifies the groupings of stars as "seiza", Yotsuba kneels, because it's a homonym for both "constellation" and "kneeling position". In one translation the joke becomes about how the names of constellations sit well.

    Card Games 
  • Dang You To Heck is essentially an unofficial, mormon-themed version of Cards Against Humanity. The creators had to change its name from Mormanity for legal reasons but kept a visual reference to the original name in their logo: A sea cow playing a trumpet in the manner of most depictions of the Angel Moroni, or a "mormon manatee".
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The symbol for Phyrexia sets greatly resembles the Greek letter Phi. As in, Phi-rexian.
    • Look at the illustration for Bronze Calendar. It's a bronze colander.
    • The Revised Edition game manual included Richard Garfield's account of the creation of the game. He mentions that the pre-release version used placeholder art for the cards, including a few of these. For example, "Heal" was a photograph of someone's foot, while "Power Sink" showed Calvin sitting in a toilet, "because what is a toilet except a power sink?"
    • Foresee depicts a four-eyed woman.
  • Munchkin is rife with these. For example, the card "Steal a Level", where the card's effect is that you steal a level, as in the gaming term, from an opposing player. The illustration is someone stealing a level, as in the tool.

    Comic Books 
  • In All-New Marvel NOW! Point One #1, a short vignette shows the Silver Surfer taking Dawn Greenwood to Planet Nautikos to see their centennial Festival of Light. Silver Surfer describes it as an event where the skies are filled with cosmic rays that are "[unlike] anything on Earth". Indeed, those cosmic rays were quite impressive.
  • Archie Comics: Moose Mason is a gold mine for these gags. Here are a few:
    • Girlfriend Midge is away on vacation, and Moose is depressed because she hasn't written to him yet? Archie tells Moose to make Midge jealous by sending her a picture of him surrounded by chicks. When Midge sees the picture, it's Moose surrounded by...baby chicks.
    • When his car was elected for carpool to take to the beach, Moose turns his car into a pool (by filling it up with water).
  • The Beano: In a Fatty Fudge strip, some outlaw cowboys say "we've got prices on our heads" whilst literally having some prices drawn onto their heads (well, hats).
  • Blacksad: Ivo Statoc makes a big point to Blacksad about how much of a "cold-blooded" bastard he truly is. He's a toad.
  • By Wilhelm Busch: Cousin Franz is drawn blackhanded in the picture with the Chocolate babies and their not-father. "Your wife, my kids" indeed.
  • In "Capt. Sprocket Meets His Greatest Foe Dr. Neutron" in Mad House Comic Digest #5 Captain Sprocket remarks that with simple types like him, everything goes in one ear and out the other. When Super Sally asks how he can be sure, he shines a flashlight into one ear and the beam comes out the other one.
  • The Incredible Hulk: When Rick Jones marries his girlfriend Marlo shortly after she comes Back from the Dead, DC Comics' Death makes a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, crashing the reception and giving Marlo a silver hairbrush.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Dredd never being seen without his helmet. "Justice is blind", anyone?
  • Nero also enjoys making such jokes. Examples are Nero literally rolling up a gang of thieves (in a carpet) or seeing a head on a desk with the caption "head of the police". When Nero went in space he always saw a bunch of milk bottles flying around (the Milky Way) and a great bear floating in space (named after the star sign).
  • Olivier Rameau: There's an anthropomorphic frog wearing a scuba diving suit, hence the name "frogman".
  • Pop Gun War had something approaching but not quite being a visual pun. The character Sunshine, a little person, informs another character that he will tell her a story along their trip. Upon being informed it's a short walk, he replies, "It's a short story." Thus, we have a short man on a short walk telling a short story. If nothing else, it was visual wit.
  • Suske en Wiske: Wiske literally "burning with curiosity", Suske and Wiske followed by swans ("swans" is a nickname for police on motorcycles in Belgium),...
  • Tintin: The cover for The Calculus Affair has one related to the original French: the cracked yellow glass somewhat resembles a sunflower, as in Professeur Tournesol (Sunflower).
  • The Uglydolls comic has the story "Climb, Wage, Climb!", where Wage gets groomed into being the replacement manager...by getting his head shampooed and getting a facial.
  • V for Vendetta: At a certain point, V is breaking into the television station to have his own recording broadcast. In the background, you see a number of other TV shows playing. One is a sitcom with lots of innuendo, including a woman commenting on her (literal) melons.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Issue 2 proudly declares itself the fall issue, with the cover colors in oranges, yellows and blacks which are colors associated with the fall and depicts Diana tipping Mars off a wall, with him falling.
    • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Phobos and Demios are minor war gods and the children of Ares who often manifest as monstrous dogs with skeletal heads or a pair of doberman pinschers. They're war gods pretending to be war dogs.
  • Zenith Phase II sees a henchman, observing the main character, commenting "Strange... he has his mother's eyes." The Big Bad comments wryly, "Really?... I thought that we did." Cue shot of a glass jar, with... well, guess what suspended in it.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: An early strip features Calvin showing Hobbes an "antelope"... by taking him over to an anthill, pointing to one, and saying "See, she's climbing down the ladder to her boyfriend's car!" Hobbes is not amused.
  • Dykes to Watch Out For #346, before the 2000 election:
    Ginger: Vote for Nader and you'll get what you deserve. Bush.”
    Which is exactly where the croquet ball ends up.
  • The Far Side: One strip shows a couple driving around with a map of Nowhere, approaching a sign that reads "Now Entering The Middle."
  • Garfield: This strip features Frank, a friend of Jon's, meeting Garfield for the first time and rubbing him. Garfield reacts violently and states "Some people rub me the wrong way".
  • Inside Woody Allen: One strip features a store which runs on this trope. Suitcases are shaped like hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds; hand mirrors have a thumb and four fingers, etc. When Woody says he'd like to complain to the manager because it's "too literal" the clerk points to a door labeled "Head Office" which is shaped like a person's head.
  • In this The Wizard of Id strip, Blanche writes a check to pay for her groceries. But when she tries to hand it to the cashier, it jumps out of her hand and bounces away. She ends up paying cash instead.

    Fan Works 
  • A Different Professor:
    Sirius: That was beautiful, Madam Bones. I don't think I have ever seen anyone cut a politician off at the knees with that amount of skill and so little bloodshed. In fact the last time I saw anyone cut off at the knees I actually saw my cousin Bellatrix cut someone's legs off at the knees.
  • AMV Hell 3 has a "MULTI KILL!"... only it's not three players being fragged in quick succession as per Unreal Tournament but rather Multi from To Heart killing.
  • In Altered Histories Harry casts a disarming spell on a Polish thug with a rather literal result.
  • In Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante, a major theme is letting your emotions out, as many of the Kamen Riders in the fanfic are tied to an emotion that fuel their Elemental Powers. All of Dante's armors have pipes or vents to air out flames, with his core emotion being anger. The one exception to this is his Yellowstone Mount which has none and just lets the heat accumulate, which consequentially causes Dante's user to get more and more angry. In other words: Dante's armor vents out his own grief save for one that just bottles it up.
  • In A Collection of Harmonious OneShots Hermione gets annoyed at Ron dating Lavender to try to make her jealous and Harry comments that a ton of shit is going to drop on Ron if he keeps up this sort of thing. Hermione then decides to get revenge by conjuring a brown cloud which drops a literal ton of shit on Ron immediately after the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff Quidditch game.
  • In Completely Bludgered after Ron and Ginny give Harry and Hermione a Love Potion, Hermione decides to use them as human Bludgers. In other words, this is a story which contains actual Weasley bashing.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Used by Discord a few times in the sequel Diplomat at Large.
    • In chapter 6, he pops in and claims "My ears are burning" (because he was being talked about). They're literally on fire.
    • Twice in chapter 7. First, when he says he needs to cause more chaos to get back in shape, he's enclosed in a dodecahedron-shaped bubble. Second, when he tells Luna that "The timing is key", his head morphs into an old-style skeleton key.
  • Later, Traitor: Maloof's mental world is populated by invisible mafia mooks wearing suits, making them literal Faceless Goons.
  • In Put a Taboo to Use after Professor Sprout is wrong about something, the house elves make her "eat crow" for a week by transfiguring all her food to look like a dead crow.
  • Horrortale: A penny is shown dropping as Undyne realizes Papyrus's claim of being Aliza's uncle means that by implication, Sans is (supposedly) her dad.

    Jokes 
  • A classic joke on the internet goes like these: A pussycat and a cockerel are walking by the stream when the pussycat slipped and fell in the water. The cockerel starts to laugh.
    Why? Because when the pussy is wet, the cock is happy.

    Literature 
  • Amelia Bedelia lives and breathes this trope; the titular maid is Literal-Minded, so every request made of her invariably results in an end product constituting a visual pun on the desired result. For example: Dress the chicken. Draw the shades. Dust the furniture (Amelia Bedelia even finds Dusting Powder in the bathroom!).
  • The Cask of Amontillado: Fortunado asks if Montressor is a Mason (of the Freemasons), Montressor says he is. Fortunato asks for proof, and Montressor produces a trowel.
  • Catbirds And Dogfish, which is supposed to be about animals with portmanteaus for names, actually depicts said animals as Mix-and-Match Critters (for example, the catbirds are all portrayed as cats with wings, and the dogfish are all portrayed as fish with bulldog heads instead of medium-sized gray birds and small, speckled sharks like in real life).
  • Council Wars: The teams responsible for infiltrating and securing potentially hostile beaches are primarily composed of Changed Selkies. In other words they are SEAL Teams.
  • Discworld:
    • Guards! Guards!: When the Watch are arresting a villain, Vimes tells Carrot to "throw the book at him". Carrot, who doesn't understand metaphor, lobs The Laws and Ordinances of Ankh-Morpork in the villain's direction, causing the villain to lose his balance and fall five stories to his death.
    • Feet of Clay: Vimes is introduced to the tradition of canting arms mentioned under the Real Life section. The Heralds, in creating arms and mottos for newly-rich tradesman, use boxing gloves for a man named Sock and so on, which Vimes is duly unimpressed by. However, one coat-of-arms proves to be a confession Hidden in Plain Sight: Arthur Carry the candlemaker is given a traditional lampe au poisson, and his family motto "Art Brought Forth the Candle" is Ars Enixa Et Candldeabrum... though in true Discworld fashion, the "Eureka!" Moment doesn't hit Vimes until after he's worked that out already, and it only serves to further enrage him as he's apprehending the perpetrators.
    • Pyramids: Whenever Pteppic tries to read hieroglyphs he reads them out literally (i.e. reading an ancient king's name as "thin eagle, eye, wiggly line, man with stick, bird sitting down, wiggly line").
  • Franny K. Stein: Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid has a chapter where Franny is let down by her family and friends showing little interest in her inventions. She attempts to talk to a friend from school named Percy over the phone about a machine she made that can bring pictures to life, but Percy doesn't pay attention and only babbles about how much he likes corn chips. An illustration shows Franny glaring and hanging up the phone while imagining that Percy has a safety pin for a head, making him a literal pinhead.
  • The Golden Oecumene: The laws of the Oecumene are carved on the floor of the courtroom — they're set in stone.
  • Paul Jennings, Ted Greenwood and Terry Denton produced a series of Where's Wally type books called Spooner or Later, Duck for Cover and Freeze a Crowd. All of them, especially in Duck for Cover, ran on visual puns. The worst offender is the three-page spread involving gnus, with each one involving a "new" or "news" pun. Second place goes to the two pages of kings, each of which was a pun on the gerund form of a verb ending in "k" or "ke".
  • The King's Avatar: After Excellent Era forcefully retires Ye Xiu against his will, they literally throw him out into the cold as it starts snowing as soon as he leaves the building.
  • The books A Little Pigeon-Toadnote , The King that Rainednote , The Sixteen-Hand Horsenote , and A Chocolate Moose for Dinnernote , which are all about visual puns.
  • Monday Begins on Saturday: The protagonist is sent to a world of fantastic literature and is surprised to see Technobabble-speaking engineers... reinventing the wheel.
  • The Naked Sun: In a rare serious example, at one point Baley the detective asks his partner, R. Daneel Olivaw (the "R." means he's a robot) to "give me a hand". This results in Olivaw briefly giving a puzzled look at his own hand, as if being asked to unscrew it and give it to Baley. This proves to be an important clue to solving the murder.
  • The Where's Waldo? books have plenty of Visual Puns, which are spelled out in the checklists at the end of each book.
  • X-Wing Series: In Wedge's Gamble, there's a bar on the lower levels of Coruscant called the Headquarters. Its marquee features a stormtrooper's helmet being torn into four pieces.

    Magazines 
  • New Scientist: One cover feature about how we don't know what most of the chemicals in food actually do is illustrated by a picture of a lettuce, with 90% of it hidden underwater. An iceberg lettuce.

    Pinballs 
  • Dr. Dude: Done with the Gift of Gab, which is a gift-wrapped box with a mouth on it.
  • In Bally's Capt. Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, one of the triangle bumpers has a large-breasted woman holding a sign that reads "Feel Them Bumpers".
  • WhizBang Pinball's Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons has several:
    • A horse on the playfield gets its flatulence lit by a match, making it a hot ass.
    • On the backglass is a collie dog playing with a melon; maybe he's feeling melon-collie?
  • Fish Tales shows a string of six fish, each holding rulers, pencils, and textbooks — in other words, a school of fish.
  • The backglass for Earthshaker! shows a yuppie being ejected out of his car; "YUP E" is written on his tie.
  • In Scared Stiff, the television set on the backglass has a rabbit on top of it, with its rabbit-ears antenna.
  • A fairly obvious one shows up in Guns N' Roses (Data East), as the left plunger is shaped like a blooming rose, while the right plunger is a pistol gun grip. In other words, a gun and a rose.
  • The various activities of Silverball Mania occur under the watchful eye of a Wizard Classic, shown holding a pair of pinballs in his outstretched hands. This makes him a Pinball Wizard.
  • In Capcom's unreleased Kingpin, using an extra ball is accompanied by the display showing a tiny mobster with butterfly wings, a.k.a. a "Fairy Godfather."

    Puppet Shows 
  • In one scene in The Muppet Movie, Kermit instructs Fozzie to "turn left at the fork in the road". Kermit is quite surprised to see a literal giant fork stuck in the road at the turn-off.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Roleplay 

    Software 
  • Beta versions of Windows 7 had a wallpaper with a fish (a betta to be exact) blowing 7 bubbles. This is a pun on Windows 7 beta. This wallpaper also sneaked its way into some of the final versions as well.
  • This same fish was used for the Consumer Preview edition of Windows 8. The bubbles here form the number 8, as a pun on Windows 8 beta.
  • Also in Windows, the button to close an open window is a red button with an "X" in the middle. So to close the window, you have to "X"-it.

    Theatre 
  • In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), two of these are thrown in near the end: Pontius Pilot and the Axe of the Apostles.
  • Spamalot has one during this musical number at around 4:31.
    • What's the... oh, "Hay". Duh.
  • The SpongeBob Musical has the number "Poor Pirates", where Patchy sings about the poor life pirates face alongside some other pirates- and a baseball player from Pittsburgh, a "Pittsburgh Pirate".
  • The Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening has an actor-specific example during "The Bitch of Living":
    • The line referencing a girl named Marianna Wheelan has Anna — played by wheelchair-using actress Ali Stroker — wheel by with a bit of a sassy flourish.

    Theme Parks 
  • In Animal Actors, one of the show's birds is taken off the stage by a "stage hand" — a human hand sticking out of a part of the set.
  • The Haunted Mansion has the opera singers as a visual pun on The Phantom of the Opera, and the Grand Ballroom scene contains a ghost of Caesar, as in "Great Caesar's ghost!"
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic used to have a smell pun. During the "A Whole New World" sequence they would pump in the scent of Jasmine's perfume, which, naturally, smelled like jasmine. Unfortunately, too many people were allergic to the scent, and so the scene is now odorless.
  • Muppet*Vision 3D has Waldo, the new 3D Muppet, allowing his nose to jump off his face, grow legs, and start dashing in circles. "Don't cha just hate it when your nose runs?"
  • A hidden detail on the pathway surrounding Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure shows a different kind of "school of fish" — a small schoolhouse sitting on top of water.

    Web Animation 
  • Black Rhino Ranger: In "Now That's What I Call Skylanders Polka", during the "Wrecking Ball" portion of the song, the Skylander named Wrecking Ball is the one breaking the walls.
  • DEATH BATTLE!:
    • In the battle between Wario and King Dedede, when Wario's and Dedede's Paper-Thin Disguises (Wario-Man and Masked Dedede respectively) fall apart, a Waddle Dee and Goomba discuss it, before doing a jaw drop before exploding. In that sense, they quite literally had their minds blown.
    • This happens twice at the same time at the end of Deadpool vs. The Mask, where after reducing Deadpool to a head, The Mask pulls out a comically large nuke named "Fat Lady" to finish him off with.
    • And again in Venom vs. Crona, where Venom, hiding in the rafters of the church they're fighting in, grabs Crona's ankle with his Overly-Long Tongue and subjects them to Metronomic Man Mashing. In other words, he's giving them a literal tongue-lashing.
  • Fred Again: One man called Fred a road hog while driving. Fred is seen as a pig driving his car.
  • FreedomToons: "Journalism in 2018" has two reporters literally patting themselves on the back repeatedly while engaging in a bloviating and self-aggrandizing speech about the moral fortitude of the fourth estate.
  • Combined with a Lame Pun Reaction in Brain POP's Hiccups video, after Moby gets the hiccups.
    Tim: They're gone, huh? I didn't even know you had a vagus nerve!
    [Moby reveals a Las Vegas slot machine in his compartment]
    Tim: And that is quite possibly the worst joke we've ever done.
  • How to Kill a Mockingbird uses a pickle to represent Dill.
  • Taiyang, the father of Ruby and Yang, in RWBY is a good father who clearly cares for his daughters and has a spiked heart tattoo on his arm. He literally has his heart on his sleeve.
  • In the web animation StarCrafts based on StarCraft, the Terrans dress up for Halloween. Guess which unit dresses up as a ghost?
  • "Super-Showdown-Bowl!":
    • To get the being shaped like an Oscar statue out of his sphere and into the arena, the heroes and villains resort to... an Oscar Bait. A literal one, by having several characters quote lines from their respective award-winning movies.
    • In The Stinger, the "Super-Cereal-Bowl" isn't a showdown between cereal mascots, but actual frosted cereals... in a milk bowl.
  • The Welcome to... series has a lot of these. Boobies are represented by the birds, and the user in the Facebook video is a duck named "Duck Fayce".
  • The snarky video game reviews of Zero Punctuation consist of an almost constant string of these.
    • During the God of War: Chains of Olympus review, he subverts it. When describing Kratos' behavior as "incongruous" the screen cuts to the text "A word I can't fucking illustrate."
    • The previous image for this page illustrated his comment that Super Mario Galaxy had "many interesting levels" with Mario looking at a pile of spirit levels and saying "How interesting." This was such a groaner that Yahtzee lampshaded with a big sign reading "VISUAL PUN".

    Web Comics 
  • Blood Reverie: In the second episode, Cassia is describing her night of passion with Grey to her friend. When she gets to the *ahem* climax, the condiment packet she's trying to open spurts out mustard into her eye.
  • Girl Genius has, among others, a Battering Ram. And in a holiday filler page, Santa Klaus.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: In the side-story City-Face 2, the titular pigeon, who believes he is turning into a human businessman, is told "Every human businessman needs one of these" and given a blackberry. Which he eats. Gunnerkrigg Court also features a decidedly non-humorous example in the main storyline. Mort's death is depicted with an exploded diagram of a bomb.
  • The Heroes Of Middlecenter: "Could somebody give me a hand?" while fighting zombie ninjas (sadly apparently lost forever like the rest of the site). Was included in the amateur video that spawned the comic.
  • Homestuck has one in Act 6 for John and Nanna. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, after all. A number of things Rose writes (on Pesterchum, in Complacency of the Learned, etc.) are in purple text, because she literally and figuratively (or the other way around for both) writes in Purple Prose.
  • Huckleberry:
  • Irregular Webcomic!: There's a recurring strip with the (literal) Writer's Lego Block.
  • Life and Death has a long history of puns, visual and otherwise. Even several characters owe their mere existence to visual puns, like "love is blind," and such. Lampshaded as often as not, but hey. Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Lightning Made of Owls: This strip has Ambrose on a line that is tangent to a cubic function, while talking to a calculus class about something irrelevant.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    Redcloak: Just hang it anywhere.
    • This strip (caution; it is full of spoilers) has Elan combining this with a non-visual pun: in response to the question "Are you enjoying the parade?" he states "I'm on the fence" while fencing with Tarquin and also literally standing on a fence.
  • In Rusty and Co.:
    • When Gelatinous Cube seizes the Belt of Genre Changing, the result in the next panel is naturally... Cubism.
    • Schmetts, the alcoholic fairy, is found in a bottle, making her a "bottle fairy". She's also a green fairy.
    • Level 6 ends in a cliffhanger... with Rusty catching Madeline falling down as he's climbing a cliff.
    • In Level 8, the "8-bit 8-ball" is quickly identified as an artifact. What does it do? Artifacting, Dirk muses. Indeed, the comic's picture all around is getting low-resolution, as in an 8-bit picture. Which in computer parlance is called... artifacting.
    • Level 9: The artifact Rusty, Madeline, and Y.T. are sent to retrieve is a device that can cast magic, providing its own verbal components so long as the correct words are typed into it. It's a Speak & Spell.
    • Also in Level 9, Y.T. is pursued by zombies and thinking that she'd need someone good at fighting undead, at healing her, and willing to help. Then she bristles at the idea that she's "putting paladins on a pedestal"... right next to a fountain where Madeline, turned to stone, had been put on a pedestal.
  • Three of these in a single strip of Sandra and Woo, all involving Woo's name in conjunction with movie or TV series titles.
  • Unsounded: The lady acting as General Bell's arm candy during the Treenahin festival is dressed in a candy costume.
  • Vampire Cheerleaders at one point has Captain Nemo captaining a submarine in the shape of a giant spiral shell.
  • VG Cats once dropped a very literal F-bomb.
  • The Whiteboard: Like many a Time Travel story, a time travel arc in May 2011 contains a pair o' Docs.note 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • 5 Second Films: "Drafty".
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd does a few from time to time.
  • The Cartoon Man: Several in Return of the Cartoon Man when Peter tries to question Roy and Karen. Among other puns, they produce a literal "elephant in the room."
  • Channel Awesome:
    • The Nostalgia Critic once is reminded to bring up the suicide of The Neverending Story 2's lead actor by someone who he's been ignoring for a while, who's been in the room for a while, and happens to be an elephant. An elephant in the room, if you will.
    • The Nostalgia Chick's Showgirls review has a running gag of censoring the movie's frequent breast shots with, well, boobies.
    • In the Crisis Crossover storyline Kickassia, the Critic assures his "army" that "I got you all a hotel room." Cut to the large group of people — in A hotel room.
      Phelous: Well, gee, I didn't see that one coming.
    • In the Nostalgia Chick's Labyrinth review, to point out a Running Gag (namely, Hoggle's name being pronounced incorrectly), the word "Gag" on legs runs across the screen.
    • In the review of The Room, a picture of a donkey's face is used to censor a shot of... you guessed it, an ass.
    • In Spoony and Linkara's review of the Warrior #1 comic, one scene shows them sitting in their hotel room with all of the on-screen colors inverted, leading to this exchange:
      Spoony: Man, this dimension sucks!
      Linkara: Oh, don't be so negative.
  • In the CollegeHumor sketch "The Matrix Runs in Windows XP", which is a spoof of both The Matrix and Windows XP (and thus contains many computer-related jokes), the Oracle welcomes Neo into her kitchen while she's holding a plate of freshly-baked cookies, and tells him that she hopes he has "cookies enabled".
  • Dad: In "Dad Is The Best YouTuber," Dad sets up a pie with a figure of Felix the Cat on top, before proceeding to smash it all with a hammer. This is a pun on him wanting to smash PewDiePie, also known as Felix, to take his place as the best YouTuber.
  • Danny Gonzalez:
    • One Vine has the mail-man deliver a "letter", as in a paper letter "A", complete with wacky music to emphasize the point. Immediately subverted, as the "A" is an actual letter — a "Dear John" Letter, to be exact.
    • "Your destination is ahead on the right." Cue Danny looking out the window to see a disembodied head on the curb.
    • In being told that he, the owner of a "White Explorer", left his lights on...he goes out and yells at a literal Caucasian explorer, holding a light.
  • In Doom House, the dying terrorist declares, "I'm so bored", while clutching a wooded board.
  • Double Life SMP: Joel and Etho, being soulbound to each other, have built a large ship as their base called the Relation-ship. Scott burns half of it to ashes on Day 5; combined with Joel's resultant Madness Mantra of "If the ship burns, everything burns", it ends up as unintentional foreshadowing to Joel and Etho's final death on Day 6 by burning in lava.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Dr. Horrible uses a trans-matter ray to steal some gold "in bar form" that got liquefied in transit and ends up in a freezer bag, looking like nothing so much as soup broth. That smells like cumin, no less. (They never say it out loud, but what he's got is a bag of "gold bouillon.")
  • The Game Overthinker often uses this, though he does this in combination with Running Gag, such as using a picture of The Question when he uses the word question, using Shigeru Miyamoto for God, using a picture of a butt for but and others.
  • "Incredible Rickroll" features Kirby rolling on a hamster named Rick.
  • Linus Tech Tips:
    • In "The BEST Keyboards Under $75!", Linus sets down the keyboard boxes and says "Now let's see how they fall into place", then knocks them down like dominoes.
    • In "This GPU SLIDES into this Case!", Linus tests cooling configurations of a graphics card in a small case. The testing with and without a plastic shroud shroud respectively show a green checkmark and a red X over the profile picture of Polish-Canadian esports gamer Michael Grzesiek, better known as Shroud.
  • Matthew Santoro:
    • In Triumphant Return!, Matt says, "Me being the smart guy I am, I decided to do a little digging." He then picks his nose, and says, "No, not that kind of digging."
    • In 40 Fascinating SEX Facts!, Matt says, "That's a cock in the background", and points to a picture of a rooster.
  • During Necro Critic's review of the Fanservice anime Call Me Tonight, there is a very suggestive scene of a girl out in the rain with her wet, now-transparent clothes clinging to her body. Cue Necro enjoying a piece of cheesecake.
  • Tom Scott: This video, "Appalling Visual Puns #1", one of four. Did you get it before the caption?
  • Vaguely Recalling JoJo: When a Star Platinum gets a Strike in Telence's baseball video game, a Scyther note  appears.
  • In an Eons of Battle video (a Youtube channel devoted to wargaming and miniatures) that had paid promotion for Manscaped (makers of razors and accessories geared towards cutting pubic hair), the host demonstrated the electric razor by cutting a tuft of model grass that was attached to the genital region of a Troll Warhammer miniature. Yes, he was trimming the creature's bush.

    Real Life 
  • Sign language allows for this quite literally. For example, signing the word "milk" in front of your face is "past-your-eyes" (pasteurized) milk.
  • In heraldry, this is known as "canting arms" where the design references its owner's name in some way. For instance, the arms of the Spanish region/historical kingdom of Castilla y León (whose name, in Spanish, means "Castle and Lion") are a castle and a lion. Similarly, the arms of the Bowes-Lyon family (the family of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) features bows and lions. This has also led to a saying in the Society for Creative Anachronism, that "Heralds don't pun, they cant."
  • This is one of the traditional reasons given for why fish became an early Christian symbol. In Greek the acronym for "Jesus Christ, God's son the Saviour" was coincidentally also the word for fish. It was just obscure enough (you had to know the phrase was a thing) to use fish symbolism as a secret sign during times of persecution.
  • Some people has did this with the literal meaning of their own names :
    • Japanese voice actress Sakura Nogawa took a photo of her watching the cherry blossoms (Sakura) at the side of the No River (No-gawa in Japanese) in Tokyo.
    • Another Japanese voice actress, Kujira, did the same in her Twitter account: She took a photo of herself with a bucket full of plush whales in her hand. Keep in mind her stage name means "whale" in Japanese.
    • Tara Strong also pulled a similar one, when she is seen in a photo with boxing gear and punching a sandbag. You know, Tara is... strong.
  • In the Soviet Union, it was typical to display images of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin just about everywhere. In 1994, the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia issued a postage stamp featuring Marx and Lennon.
  • At a November 2017 NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, a Bears fan waved a sign featuring the Mozilla Firefox logo as a way of expressing dissatisfaction with Bears head coach John Fox ("Fire Fox").
  • An unintentional example happened in April, 2022, when footage recorded by the Russian intelligence agency FSB claimed to show evidence recovered at the scene of a raid on a terrorist cell. The evidence was apparently manufactured by a very confused spy who misunderstood his orders. Among the guns, brand-new Neo-Nazi paraphernalia, and a book signed by someone named "Signature Unclear" were several hard copies of The Sims. Journalists puzzled over why video games were being shown as evidence of terroristic intent until someone figured out that they were supposed to be SIM cards, but someone misinterpreted the memo.


Alternative Title(s): Sight Gag, Visual Gag

Top

"It's a Literal Cliffhanger!"

The Paramount characters are literally hanging on a cliff.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / Cliffhanger

Media sources:

Report