Bilingual pun

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A bilingual pun is a pun created by a word or phrase in one language sounding similar to a different word or phrase in another language. Bilingual puns are often created by mixing languages, and represent a form of macaronic language.

A general technique in bilingual punning is homophonic translation, which consists of translating a passage from the source language into a homophonic (but likely nonsensical) passage in the target language. This requires the audience to understand both the surface, nonsensical translation as well as the source text – the former then sounds like the latter spoken in a foreign accent.



"What did the computer order from the vending machine?" "Saftware." Saft is the German word for juice. By replacing the O in "software" to an A, it becomes saftware, literally meaning "Juiceware"


An updated version of the famous Who's On First? comedy routine by Abbott and Costello called "Hu's on First"[1] is based on confusing Chinese and other names with English words.


Luis van Rooten's English-French Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames (1967), translates the beginning of "Humpty Dumpty":[2][3]

Un petit d'un petit / S'étonne aux Halles

The original English text reads:

Humpty Dumpty / Sat on a wall.

while the translation, which imitates the sound of someone reading the English text with a French accent, literally means:

One little [one] from [another] little [one] / was astonished at Les Halles.[clarification needed]


At the beginning of his short story "The Dead Lady of Clown Town", science fiction author Cordwainer Smith wrote:[4]

Go back to An-fang, the Peace Square at An-fang, the Beginning Place at An-fang, where all things start. Bright it was. Red Square, dead square, clear square, under a yellow sun.

In Chinese, An-fang can mean "Peace Square", while Anfang is the German word for "beginning."


- I run each teen me?

(Ayran içtin mi?) Did you drink ayran?

- A wet each team.

(Evet, içtim) Yes, I drank it

- I run each make is tea your sun each.

(Ayran içmek istıyorsun...?) Do you want to drink ayran?

- Hire them in each team.

(Hayır, (...) içtim) No, I have drunk

- Catch bar duck each teen?

(Kaç bardak içtin?) How many glasses did you drink?

- On bar duck each team.

(On bardak içtim) I drank 10 glasses.

-Why High One Why

(Vay Hayvan Vay) Whoa, you're crazy


In the documentary Gaijin, a Brazilian Odyssey[5] directed by Tizuka Yamasaki, newly immigratated Japanese agricultural laborers struggle to adapt to Brazilian culture. At mealtime, the Brazilian cook serves up a stew of feijoada to Japanese more used to rice:

Japanese: Kome! (Kome (?), Japanese for rice)
Cook: Come! (Portuguese for Eat!)


Pierre Clouthier, Moncton NB, 1968; in Spanish class.

English: An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Spanish/Latin: Manzana (mens sana) in corpore sano (Manzana is apple in Spanish; mens sana is a healthy mind)[original research?]


Indonesian bilingual puns are abound, due to the syllabic-nature of the language:


  1. Lari Tidak Mobil Tidak (run-no car-no), reads Rano Karno, the name of an Indonesian veteran actor
  2. Menjadi Muda Peduli Rock (be-young care-rock), reads biang kerok, or the troublemaker
  3. Ketakutan Baru si Saya adalah Pohon (new-fear the-me is-tree), reads nyupir demi istri, or driving for the sake of the wife
  4. Pergi Muda Dungu Merah (go-young dumb-red), reads goyang dombred, a type of dangdut dance
  5. Nge-Dunk Bisakah Aku nge-Rock (slam-dunk can I-rock), reads selendang Ken Arok, or Ken Arok's scarf (Ken Arok is a semi-mythical figure in old Javanese history)
  6. 2121 2 Mobil Warna [Adalah Pohon] (two-one two-one two-car color [is-tree]), reads tuan-tuan tukar kolor [istri], or "the masters are exchanging shorts (or [wife])"
  7. Berkata Penuh Lompat Sakit (say-full jump-ill), reads "Saiful Jamil", the name of an Indonesian dangdut musician
  8. Tidak Tahu, Tunai Aku Tahu, Dalam Menggambar (don't-know, cash-I-know, in-draw), reads Dono, Kasino, Indro, trio famous Indonesian comedian (the first two already deceased now)
  9. Habis Terjual Zoom Keluar (sold-out zoom-out), reads solat Jumat, or the Friday Islamic worship

Other than Indonesian/English bilingual puns, Chinese and Japanese puns are also popular, by playing on stereotypes of (mostly made-up) Chinese and Japanese sounds/syllables.[9] The Indonesian words equivalent are often replaced with Javanese language,[10] or other languages of Indonesia. Other foreign languages that get the same treatment includes: Dutch (because of Dutch history in Indonesia), Arabic (because of Arabic influence in Indonesian loanwords), Korean, German, Indian, Spanish/Portugues, etc.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ George Bush - Hu's on First. 10 November 2006 – via YouTube. 
  2. ^ van Rooten, Luis d'Antin (1980). Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames. ISBN 978-0-14-005730-0, originally published London, Angus and Robertson, 1967. 
  3. ^ "Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Humpty Dumpty". The Guardian. 27 November 2009. Archived from the original on 23 December 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  4. ^ Smith, Cordwainer (1993). The Rediscovery of Man. Framingham, MA: The NESFA Press. p. 223. ISBN 0-915368-56-0. 
  5. ^ Yamasaki, Tizuka (1980). "Gaijin, a Brazilian Odyssey". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  6. ^ Rizki Ramadan. "Bahasa Indonesia-Inggris-Ception". 
  7. ^ Indonesian bilingual puns
  8. ^ (Indonesian) Funny English
  9. ^ (Indonesian) Bahasa Kocak: Chinese, Japanese
  10. ^ "Dunia Kita". 
  11. ^ "Dunia Kita".