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. For example, Luis van Rooten's English-French Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames (1967), translates the beginning of "Humpty Dumpty":
- 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 from little / was astonished at Les Halles.
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... In a Tamil/Punjabi pun Tamil person Tamil teri ma? Punjab person Punjabi tera baap, oye! The Tamil question translates to "Do you understand Tamil?" However, in Punjabi it ...
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“A pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.”
—Charles Lamb (17751834)