Wordplay with languages

Arca Defectionis

Civis Illustris
On the way out of a Japanese discussion group I frequent, one of the members had a rather large umbrella, so he said 'mi casa es tu casa' and offered to let us stand under it with him. 傘 (kasa) means umbrella in Japanese. I thought that was pretty clever.

Also, in both Chinese and Japanese chatspeak, '3Q' means "thank you." Both languages have the same word for three (三, san), so '3Q' reads "san-kyu." Japanese also has '39,' since the Japanese word for nine is 九 (kyuu).

Finally, in protesting the proposed alphabetization of Chinese, an ingenious poet wrote a poem entirely composed of the syllable shi to illustrate the necessity of characters.

The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den (施氏食獅史, Shi Shi shi shi shi)

Shi Shi shi shi shi dixit:
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì. Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.
You can read more about this here.


New Member
I once wrote a silly song in Russian and English, with one stanza reflecting a disastrous little story involving wordplay.

What happens is that an American and a Russian end up in a bar-fight. Upon realizing that he is no match for his opponent, the American attempts to surrender by yelling "truce! truce!". In reply, the Russian only fights back harder, believing that the American had called him a трус, which is a coward.

Another more intentional bit of word play, but I must warn any Russian speakers that it is a bit vulgar: President Bush had once visited Latvia, which has a large Russian-speaking population. He was greeted with many signs such as this one that read "Welcome Peace Duke!"
For the English-speaking president this didn't seem like anything slanderous, but quite complementary. However he didn't decipher the double meaning. Пиздюк is a Russian word that sounds exactly like Peace Duke, and it is far less flattering.)))

Iohannes Aurum

Technicus Auxiliarius
In French, the current Russian president's surname is spelled the same way as Canada's unofficial national dish: Poutine.

This led to the joke about whenever Putin visits Quebec, he would eat himself.


New Member
The first quote is my French teacher, who in his younger years went on holidays to France. He met a lovely young girl there, and the evening was quite enjoyable. There was a pool near-by, so she asked him whether they would go and take a swim. Rather taken aback, he asked "Nu?". In Dutch, it means "Now?", but to the French ear it sounds like "Nude". Sadly, he never saw her again.

The second is somehow still stuck in my mind (many, many mistakes like this between Dutch and German). Hope I can do it justice.
There was a big symposium, and the speaker on stage wanted to ask the wife of an important German guest to join them on the stage; so he asked "Konnte ich versuchen um Ihre Frau auf das Podium zu kommen lassen?".
Confusing the meaning of Dutch verzoeken, "to request" and German versuchen, "to try", which sounds the same, and combined with the double meaning of "kommen"... Turns out it's a rather indecent request indeed. Fortunately, the German guests had previous experience with Dutch people trying to speak German, so they could laugh about it.
(It might make more sense if I phrased the German differently, but I think that's what he said; my German isn't good enough to mess it up properly).


Australian comedian Carl Baron gave an anecdote about a misunderstanding with an American. You can see it on Youtube if you type 'Carl Baron thong'.

'Flip flops', that footwear found through the rest of the world sound awkwardly childish to an Australian, who wouldn't know what they are. Australians of all ages in all parts call that footwear 'thongs'. What the rest of the world call 'thongs' are called 'g-strings' in Australia.

Etaoin Shrdlu

I grew up in NYC, and they were called thongs. 'Flip-flops' has always sounded awkwardly childish to me, along with 'pop' for a carbonated alcohol-free beverage.

David Anderson

New Member
Enjoying this thread immensely. The power of our words can be a lot of fun.
My mother has this gem for people she didn't like "You have a lot of class. Only trouble is, it's all third!"


In French, the current Russian president's surname is spelled the same way as Canada's unofficial national dish: Poutine.

This led to the joke about whenever Putin visits Quebec, he would eat himself.
The alternative would have been even funnier.


Civis Illustris
Obtenir la prononciation voulue peut s'avérer parfois difficile...

- À demain.
- A deux pieds

– Allô ?
– Non, à l’huile !


Civis Illustris
Robert McNeil’s TV series on the history of the English language gives this example of the relationship of English to Friesian: “Good butter and good cheese is good English and good Friese.” Different as the two languages may be, having grown apart over the course of some 1,500 years, in this sentence every word is perfectly correct and understandable in both languages.
This may have been true about 750 years ago, but the Friesian today is: Goede bûter en goede tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. Now, any reasonably well-educated English speaker could understand that, or work it out, but it is not, of course the same.


Civis Illustris
there are some words in Czech language that are considered funny in Polish language like

Mám nápad! ( I have an idea) - in polish "I have an attack/ seizure"
porouchaný (adj. broken-down) - in polish "screwed" (slang)
porouchat (to brake something/ damage something) - in polish "to fornicate"
Porouchalo se nám auto. (Our car broke down) - in polish (our car fornicated)

nepřítomný (not present) - in polish "unconscious"
Dva studenti nejsou přítomni (two students are absent) - in polish "two students lost consciousness"
dívka (girl) - in polish "prostitute"
divadlo (theater) - in polish "weird thing"
divák (spectator) - in polish "a weirdo"
odchody (departures) - in polish "excrements"
rypadlo (excavator) - "f*ck machine"
rýpat se (to pick / grub ) - in polish "to fornicate (slang)"

Zachód (in polish "Weast" )- in czech "Tolitet - záchod"

also some russian words sound funny to poles like
жалоба (zaloba - a compliant) - in polish "mourning"
стыд и срам (styd i sram ) - in polish "sram" is slang term for "I am taking a dump"
сутки (sutki - a day) - in polish "nipples"
спички ( spíčki - matches) - in polish sounds like "z piczki" (from pussy)
Зажигалка (zažigálka ) - in polish sounds like "zarzygałka" (womiter)
зажигать (zažigátʹ, “to ignite") - in polish sounds like "zarzygać" (to puke all over)


Civis Illustris
Paar kleine Wortspiele in deutsch (für denen die verstehen..)
"Gibt es Inzest in deiner Familie? " - "Mit nichten!"
"German culinary classified" - "Topf Secret"

Een beetje Nederlands
Fruit de ui en het eekhoorntjesbrood in een pan, voeg op het einde de salie toe en blus met witte wijn.

Etaoin Shrdlu , Kun je de eer bewijzen en vertalen? Bedankt.

Dies ist ganz lustig, ein kleier Zungenbrecher

Etaoin Shrdlu

Etaoin Shrdlu , Kun je de eer bewijzen en vertalen? Bedankt.
Not really, because my Dutch isn't really up to much. But the internet tells me that eekhoorntjesbrood means porcini mushrooms, which is not something I'd have easily guessed. The literal meaning 'squirrel's bread' – is obvious enough from German.

GT seems quite good with the translation, apart from the unidiomatic 'quench'. But I'm stumped at the moment to think of the best English verb in the context..

https://translate.google.co.uk/#view=home&op=translate&sl=nl&tl=en&text=Fruit de ui en het eekhoorntjesbrood in een pan, voeg op het einde de salie toe en blus met witte wijn.

Hadn't heard the mit n[N]ichten one, which I like. Two similar Cold War jokes:

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen den Schweinen im Westen und den Schweinen im Osten?
Im Westen werden die Schweine gegessen; im Osten werden die Schweine g[G]enossen.

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen Erich Honeker und einem verwählter Anruf?
Nichts! Aufhängen und neuwählen!

The first: 'What is the difference between the pigs in the West and the pigs in the East? In the West pigs are eaten; in the East they're enjoyed (without capitalisation)/in the East, pigs become party members (with capitalisation).

The second: 'What is the difference between Erich Honeker and a wrong number? Nothing – hang up and dial again/hang and vote again.


Civis Illustris
Oh dear, I am sorry I put you up to this (I assumed from one of your threads I think you mentioned that dutch was your native language, ot perhaps I misread).
Yes, my point was the dutch expression for porcini mushrooms (eekhoorntjesbrood - lit. little squirrel bread)
Dutch has also some funny words and expressions like luipaard - leopard , lit. " lazy horse"; Papegaaiduiker - a puffin, lit. "parrot diver" , Paardenbloem - dandelion, lit "horse flower",
I remeber my first visit to Holland Toiletbril . Sorry what ? Toilet Glasses?? Brandweer ?? Fire weather ?