Visual pun

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Batenburg ("profit castle") gevelsteen, Amsterdam

A visual pun is a pun involving an image or images (in addition to or instead of language), often based on a rebus.

Visual puns in which the image is at odds with the inscription are common in cartoons such as Lost Consonants or The Far Side as well as in Dutch gable stones. For instance the "Batenburg" stone from Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, shown here, puns on the words baten (to profit) and burg (castle) which together make up the name of a village near Nijmegen. European heraldry contains the technique of canting arms, which can be considered punning.


  • In The Muppet Movie, while Kermit and Fozzie are driving. Kermit looks at the map and says they need to turn at the fork in the road. At this point he lowers the map and they see a giant fork (the cutlery) in the middle of the road.
  • In Spaceballs, Dark Helmet tries to order his troops to comb the desert for his adversaries. The next scene depicts troopers with giant combs, literally combing the desert.
  • In Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, when Mario picks up a "fire flower", he becomes fiery. "Fire flower" in Japanese is literally 火花 (hi-bana; fire-flower), meaning spark, hence he is picking up a "spark".
  • In Alice by Jan Švankmajer, there are a number of visual puns, including: socks in holes (socks crawling into and out of holes, punning on "holes in socks"); Alice opens a sardine can to reveal a key, punning on the key used to open a sardine can.
  • In the 1976 version of The Omen, after speaking with Mr. Thorn (Gregory Peck), a nun steps into a paternoster lift - the name meaning "Our Father".
  • The logo of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is a stylized 月 (Chinese character for "moon"), but is also a pair of human feet, surrounded by a crescent moon, symbolizing "walking on the moon".
  • In the 2015 film Inside Out, Riley Andersen's train of thought is literally a train. In another scene, as Riley's dad is about to give her broccoli, Anger is reading a newspaper titled "The Mind Reader". In the film Anger is a hothead and has a hot head that explodes.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the final scene of Luke Skywalker standing on a cliff is a cliffhanger.[1]


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Christian Hempelmann and Andrea C. Samson. “Visual Puns and Verbal Puns: Descriptive Analogy or False Analogy?” In: Diana Popa and Salvatore Attardo (Eds.), “New Approaches to the Linguistics of Humor.” Galati: Dunarea de Jos. 2007. 180-196.
  • Heller, Steven (12 April 2012). "The Object Poster, the Visual Pun, and 3 Other Ideas That Changed Design". The Atlantic. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Shnidman, Ronen (8 February 2012). "Dror Karta's Play With Visual Pun". Algemeiner Journal. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Mendoza, Manuel (28 January 2017). "Bridgman|Packer creates visual puns, evokes sensuous mystery by blending dance with video imagery". Dallas News. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Mufson, Beckett (21 December 2015). "Korean Artist Makes Visual Puns from Pop Culture | Monday Insta Illustrator". Creators. Vice Media LLC. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Wilson, P.F. (25 January 2016). "Can you guess Matthew Broussard's visual puns?". City Pages. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Trask, Steven (2 December 2016). "Ridiculous visual puns that will make you laugh or make you groan". Mail Online. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Keegan, Natalie (18 March 2017). "Are YOU smart enough to figure out all of these visual puns?". The Sun. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Boyd, Chris (18 January 2018). "La Vie Dans Une Marionette: visual puns, no strings attached". The Australian. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  • Abed, Farough (March 1994). "Visual Puns as Interactive Illustrations: Their Effects on Recognition Memory". Metaphor and Symbolic Activity. 9 (1): 45–60. doi:10.1207/s15327868ms0901_3.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "An Hour with Mark Hamill Panel | Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016". YouTube. 16 July 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016. It's really literally a cliffhanger. The visual pun of [Luke Skywalker] standing on a cliff. Subtle.