The Power of Puns

A pun is a joke that exploits the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings. Puns are rife in languages that have words called homophones, or multiple words that have the same or similar pronunciation but have different meanings. English is rife with puns and many standup comedians use puns and these double entendre to their advantage.
Puns can come in many forms and also include proper names. The pun in the post picture is based on the song 'What is Love' by Haddaway.Since puns depend heavily on pronunciation for their double meaning, puns can often work in one variant of a language, but not in another. For example:
I enjoyed my 1st time ever bobbing up and down in the sea today. It's been my dream ever since I was a little buoy.
This pun depends very much on the pronunciation of buoy. If you have learned American English, this pun won't make much sense when it is said aloud because the American pronunciation of buoy is /ˈbuːɪ/ (boo-ee for those who do not know IPA) while the British pronunciation is /ˈbɔɪ/ (which is very close to the pronunciation of the word 'boy'). While Americans could read the joke and understand it, they would probably not understand the spoken version.
A more universal example of a pun would be the following due to a lack of variation in pronunciation:
The funghi pizza wasn't very good. There's mushroom for improvement.
The term 'mushroom' has a similar pronunciation as 'much room' ('much room for improvement' is a set phrase) and its unexpected substitution for the set phrase makes this one liner chuckle-worthy.
As I stated above, English is not the only language that has puns. Spanish also has some great ones, such as the following:
¿Cuál es el vino más amargo? (What’s the most bitter wine?) Vino mi suegra.(When my mother-in-law came to town.)
The joke exists because there are both a noun and an inflected (conjugated) verb that has the form vino and is pronounced the same way. The noun means wine and the inflected verb means 'he/she/it came'.
Romance languages aren't the only ones. German and German-based puns also are a hoot!
What language do you speak in a German sauna? Schwitzerdeutsch

Schwitzerdeutsch has two distinct meanings: the first is how the Swiss refer to their variation of German (in their own pronunciation. The standard German name for their dialect is Schweizerdeutsch). The second is the verb 'schwitzen', which means to sweat. Either sauna-goers speak Swiss German or Sweaty German.Puns are a great way for language learners to improve their knowledge of the language. Not only does it help you with pronunciation (incorrect pronunciation means that the joke is not funny), it helps you understand the nuances of your target cultures' humour (or maybe it's not nuanced).
Puns usually have a hard time crossing language barriers, but occasionally there are exceptions, although what makes the joke funny might change, such as the following example (with cats!!!):
English: Where do cats go when they die? Purrgatory (purr is the sound that cats make in English)
 Spanish: Adónde van los gatos cuando mueren? Purgatorio (gato is the word for cat in Spanish)
Italian: Dove vanno i gatti quando muoiono? Nel purgattorio (gatto is the word for cat in Italian)
French: où vont les chats quand ils meurent? Au purchattoire (chat is the word for cat in French)
Portuguese: Para onde os gatos vão quando morrem? Para o purgatorio (gato is the word for cat in Portuguese)
Hindi: Billiyan marne ke baad kahan jaati hain? Purrlok (Parlok is the afterlife, purr is the sound a cat makes)
While this perhaps isn't a universal pun, it does at least reach across the Indo-European Language Family. Do you have any puns? I would love to hear them in the comments below!
July 17, 2018
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Hi, my name is Jamie, I'm from London and I am an English and German teacher! I have been teaching conversational English and German since 2016. In that time, I have taught a range of classes in a range of settings, from conversation classes in a cafe-style atmosphere to business German/English classes in companies. I have taught in both Spain and the UK. I like to have more informal classes in order to create a comfortable environment where students feel more comfortable speaking. I also like to teaching using audiovisual materials, such as with music. I belief is that students who are interested will be more engaged to learn and will enjoy doing it! It won't be a chore, but rather something that students look forward to. While I personally don't like giving homework (I understand that everyone is busy), I do have materials that students can look over, fill out and submit back to me if that is desired. I also prefer to have conversations with my students where possible, meaning that the students talk as much or more than I do, when possible (naturally this can be a bit hard with grammar!) In addition to my teaching experience, I also have a scientific/technical background with degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences. I also used to work as an engineer for a biomedical company that specialised in neurosurgical devices, so if you are interested in learning about more scientific or technical fields in English, or would like to learn the language using scientific-based materials, get in touch! I really love teaching, travelling and translating! I am an avid reader, a bit of an adventurer, and I enjoy being very social, including going out at night. I also like to learn something from my students, so let's get in touch!
Flag
English
globe
United Kingdom
time
New!
Speaks:
German
C2
,
Spanish
C1
,
American Sign Language
B2
,
French
B1
,
Portuguese
B1
,
Catalan
B1
,
Japanese
A2
,
Mandarin
A2
,
Chamorro
A2
,
Welsh
A2
Hi, my name is Jamie, I'm from London and I am an English and German teacher! I have been teaching conversational English and German since 2016. In that time, I have taught a range of classes in a range of settings, from conversation classes in a cafe-style atmosphere to business German/English classes in companies. I have taught in both Spain and the UK. I like to have more informal classes in order to create a comfortable environment where students feel more comfortable speaking. I also like to teaching using audiovisual materials, such as with music. I belief is that students who are interested will be more engaged to learn and will enjoy doing it! It won't be a chore, but rather something that students look forward to. While I personally don't like giving homework (I understand that everyone is busy), I do have materials that students can look over, fill out and submit back to me if that is desired. I also prefer to have conversations with my students where possible, meaning that the students talk as much or more than I do, when possible (naturally this can be a bit hard with grammar!) In addition to my teaching experience, I also have a scientific/technical background with degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences. I also used to work as an engineer for a biomedical company that specialised in neurosurgical devices, so if you are interested in learning about more scientific or technical fields in English, or would like to learn the language using scientific-based materials, get in touch! I really love teaching, travelling and translating! I am an avid reader, a bit of an adventurer, and I enjoy being very social, including going out at night. I also like to learn something from my students, so let's get in touch!
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