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  #1  
Old 08-30-2002, 12:19 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Do puns exist in all languages?

The question stems from a conversation I had with a close friend. She has been studying Arabic for several years, lived in Morocco for a spell and has been living in Egypt for three years now. Proficient in a few dialects (if that is the right word) as well as classical/ formal Arabic, she has never come across a pun.

The If Chinese Already Uses Accent for Something Else, Then How Do They Show Emotion? thread reminded me of that conversation. So now I'm turning to the TM. Does anyone know of an Arabic pun? She'd get a kick out of it if I could send her one. But what about Chinese? Japanese? Are there any languages that don't lend themselves to puns? Thanks!

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  #2  
Old 08-30-2002, 01:22 AM
Osakadave Osakadave is offline
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I can't speak for all languages, but Japanese certainly has puns. In fact Japanese may even lend itself to puns more easily than English (IMHO). Some examples of "dajare" (Japanese puns):
"futon ga futon da" meaning "a futon is a futon" or "a futon flies" (da is an emphatic, futonda=fly)
"Ikura wa Ikura desuka" meaning "How much is the salmon roe" or "Is the salmon roe salmon roe?" (Ikura means salmon roe and how much? Desuka is a be question)
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Old 08-30-2002, 01:22 AM
jovan jovan is offline
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I wish I knew all languages so I could answer your question, but I'll have to limit myself to French, Japanese and Spanish.

Yes, puns exist in all three of these. In French, calembours (puns) have been brought to the level of an artform, almost. They're a staple of Belgian humour and a fixture in comic books; the names of characters in most dessins animes are puns -> Abraracourcix, Iznogoud, Phil Defer, etc.

Japanese, with its inane amount of homophones lends itself particularly well to puns. Hell, sometimes you almost have to make an effort to avoid them. In my experience and from what I've been told, older men seem particularly fond of puns which make them somewhat less than cool. As a matter of fact the most likely reaction you are to get from younger folks after having made one is "samui!" (cold!) - a reference to the fact that your joke wasn't too hot.

In Japanese, there are also litterary puns that show up often in classical poetry. Those are usually not meant to be funny but to carry two meanings in a single text, and considering the length of haikus and tankas, it's something that's surely nice to be able to do.

Hamaguri no, futami ni wakare, yuku aki zo!
Matsuo Basho

In Spanish also, word play shows up very frequently in humour, and since I've heard some in Italian too, you might want to add that language to the list too.
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Old 08-30-2002, 03:18 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Hungarian's got 'em. One popular one during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal went like this: What does Monika Lewinsky's answering machine message say?

Foglalt a smám

Meaning, either "The number is busy" or "My mouth is occupied."
(Szám = "number" or "my mouth/lips")
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Old 08-30-2002, 03:19 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Um, Foglalt a szám for those who keep track of such things.
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  #6  
Old 08-30-2002, 05:15 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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>> Do puns exist in all languages?

Your guest is as good as mine. (Good morning major!)
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  #7  
Old 08-30-2002, 05:29 AM
Urban Ranger Urban Ranger is offline
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Yes we have puns in Chinese. Can't recall any off the top of my head now. though. Sorry.
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Old 08-30-2002, 10:01 AM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
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There are puns in Esperanto, due to collision in form between some root-words and other words built out of smaller components.

Example: the root koleg. Koleg/o as one word means 'colleague' (with the noun ending o). Kol/eg/o built out of smaller words means 'big neck': kol = neck; eg = big; o is the noun ending.

So if you had a colleague with a big neck, that would be kolega kolego. (a is the adjectival ending.)

Then there's the root koler which means 'anger'. But er by itself means 'small part of': akv/er/o = 'a drop of water' and mon/er/o means 'a coin' for instance. Kol/er/ doesn't really make that much sense ('a part of a neck'?), but then you can say kolerega kolega kolego 'very angry big-necked colleague'...

How do you sort this kind of thing out? The usual way: context.
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Old 08-30-2002, 10:05 AM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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I don't speak or read Chinese, but I have studied Chinese literature in translation. There are many, many puns in Chinese, both spoken and written. It's quite easy to make one, since the only difference between some words is the tone or written character. They appear very frequently, which often makes translation difficult because there's usually no way to convey the same joke or double entendre in English.
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  #10  
Old 08-30-2002, 10:47 AM
pldennison pldennison is offline
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There's a good pun in the New Testament, in Greek: "Thou art Peter (Petros), and upon this rock (petra) I shall build my Church."
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  #11  
Old 08-30-2002, 12:29 PM
Richard Richard is offline
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I once saw on Dutch television a Danny Kaye show. He was telling a very long joke which involved a bilingual pun in French and English. The program was subtitled in Dutch. It was very amusing to see the efforts of the subtitle editor to explain the pun in two other languages.
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Old 08-30-2002, 12:39 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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I have a friend who is deaf and very fluent in American Sign Language (even taught one year at Gallaudet). I once asked her if ASL has any puns, and she said definitely yes. She gave me one example, but I've forgotten it. I think it had something to do with the ASL name for "Las Vegas".
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Old 08-30-2002, 01:29 PM
Savaka Savaka is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Keeve
I once asked her if ASL has any puns, and she said definitely yes.
I've worked in deaf education for 15 years, and this was my initial reaction, as well. But so far, I've been unable to come up with any examples of true ASL puns myself. I can think of scores of very clever language-based jokes, but nothing that could properly be called an ASL pun.

I am not familiar with the Las Vegas joke you mention, but ASL has many place name puns. The one I've seen most often has the punner making the letter "O" with their left (or non-dominant) hand, and moving the letter "L," made with the right hand, past it. This is the pun for El Paso. Get it?

Problem is, this isn't really a pun in ASL; it's a pun in English. And all the “ASL puns" I can think of off the top of my head are like this. The most famous one is probably “understand.” You sign “stand” upside down. But this is really a play on the English word “understand.” The sign “understand” is a one-handed sign made on the forehead and is irrelevant to this pun.

I need to ask some of my deaf co-workers if they know any ASL puns that don’t involve English. There is one joke I can think of that may be a truly self-contained ASL pun, but the punchline involves a deaf person trying to communicate via written English with a hearing person, so I need to think about this one a little more. Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to post an explanation of it—maybe after work.
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  #14  
Old 08-30-2002, 09:29 PM
xicanorex xicanorex is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by jovan
I wish I knew all languages so I could answer your question, but I'll have to limit myself to French, Japanese and Spanish.

Yes, puns exist in all three of these. In French, calembours (puns) have been brought to the level of an artform, almost. They're a staple of Belgian humour and a fixture in comic books; the names of characters in most dessins animes are puns -> Abraracourcix, Iznogoud, Phil Defer, etc. .. In Spanish also, word play shows up very frequently in humour. . .
In Mexico, this is an art form. We call it "albur" or "alburear". Here is a quick one:

Entonces, huey, que te gusta ver? Ver gotas o ver gotitas?

There are a lot of movies-straight-to-video that have mostly dialogue consisting of albur jokes.

It's very common amongst friends to alburear and even more so in Mexico City, which is the capital of the albur.

XicanoreX
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  #15  
Old 08-31-2002, 12:04 AM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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A Mexican-American friend told me of a joke in Spanish.

"What do you say to cow that fell into the river? Nada, buey! (which means both Swim, cow! and Nothing, fool!)" He gave me the impression that buey is a good deal ruder than "fool."

--Nott, who is slowly relearning to speak Spanish
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  #16  
Old 08-31-2002, 12:24 AM
syncrolecyne syncrolecyne is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by AskNott
A Mexican-American friend told me of a joke in Spanish.

"What do you say to cow that fell into the river? Nada, buey! (which means both Swim, cow! and Nothing, fool!)" He gave me the impression that buey is a good deal ruder than "fool."

--Nott, who is slowly relearning to speak Spanish
buey, or phonetically written...huey, güey, or wey did originally mean 'ox', but has become slang for fool. Huey also mean almost the same as 'dude' among friends..."sabes que huey..." is more like "you know man...".


Huey sounds more or less like English "way". I remember many bilingual puns on huey, I had friends saying "yes way" (meaning yes huey) in response to an English "no way" years before Wayne's World accidentally happened upon that. Any English phrase with "way" is fair game for a bilingual joke.

Another one is: what did the Mexican biker say to the Geisha?

Hop on esa!

(booooo!)

Also there are the piropos, or sexual puns (I think they are puns). The cliched one is "ˇay! tantas curvas y yo sin frenos".


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  #17  
Old 08-31-2002, 01:27 AM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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There are a humongous amount of puns in Chinese, including the various dialects. With some many words having tthe same pronounciation and even the same tone, it's really easy. Names are very commonly pun-ed. You have to be really careful to pick a Chinese name that sounds good across multiple dialects (eg British govenors pre-1997 handover).

Give you one example. The Volkswagon Passat is produced in China and quite popular. In Shanghaiese, "Passat" sounds like "swat flies".
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  #18  
Old 08-31-2002, 10:51 AM
andygirl andygirl is offline
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When I took a course in Native American languages my instructor told us puns in Salish (found in the Pacific North West), Navajo, and Mohawk. He said that they were common in every Native language he was familiar with.
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Old 08-31-2002, 11:11 AM
xicanorex xicanorex is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by cuate
Huey sounds more or less like English "way". I remember many bilingual puns on huey, I had friends saying "yes way" (meaning yes huey) in response to an English "no way" years before Wayne's World accidentally happened upon that. Any English phrase with "way" is fair game for a bilingual joke.
These are very common in the Chicano community. Two oldies:

1)While driving, one compadre goes to the other, "Look, compadre, it says, one way/huey, which one of us?!"

2) The Judge - So, sir, what is your excuse for stealing the car.

The Burglar - Well, yer honor, it wasn't my fault. It was the owners.

The Judge (in indignant voice)- Juat! What do you mean the owners faulg!?

The Burglar - Well, chingao, he put a sign that said "For Sale" pos I did!

For sale sounds to "forzar" or "forzale" which is "to force".

badabing!

XicanoreX
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  #20  
Old 08-31-2002, 09:07 PM
White Lightning White Lightning is offline
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There are puns in Russian. None of which I can recall off the top of my head, but jokes based on plays on words are quite common there.
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  #21  
Old 09-01-2002, 05:11 AM
Lodrain Lodrain is offline
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Same with German - they love their puns. I can make up a few right off the top of my head, but the only ones my early-morning-fogged mind can come up with are various plays on schiessen (to shoot) and another very similar word with a similar, but more visceral meaning.
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  #22  
Old 09-01-2002, 10:26 AM
xejkh xejkh is offline
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Japanese puns:

A: Fuji-san ni nobotta koto ga aru?
(Have you climbed Mt Fuji?)

B: Iiyamada.
("Ii yama da" It's a fantastic mountain.
OR "Iiya, mada", No, not yet)

The following were taken from http://members.aol.com/japanyuumoa/dajare.html

Seifu na noni, abunai
(The government, though, is dangerous) The pun is on seifu "government" and seifu - "safe"

A: Nihongo de "A fly" shitteru?
(Do you know the Japanese word for "a fly"?)
B: Hai (yes)
A: Iie, hae (hae is the word for "a fly")

Chinese puns:

Literary puns are termed "shuang guan" and the normal ones are simply known as "xie yin". Shuangguan are more metaphorical - think along Shakespeare's "You'll find me a grave man". Xieyin can border on crudeness, eg "Wo gen ta shangchuan!" (I boarded the ship with him!) elicits giggles as shangchuan ("to board a ship") is a close homophone of shangchuang ("to go to bed with").

Shuangguan examples:

"Dongbian richu xibian yu, dao shi wuqing haiyou qing"

The sun rises in the east, the rain falls in the west,
The path may be dim and gloomy (lack of ("wu") brightness "qing") , but there is sunshine ("qing) ahead.


The pun here is between "qing" sunshine and "qing" emotions/love. The last line is supposed to read:
"The path is lonely/merciless, but there is love ahead."

Puns in poetry/literature are used in replacement of words previously deemed scandalous/controversial eg love, emotions, reference to non-officially sanctioned topics.

Xieyin examples:
(In a toilet) "Lai ye congcong, qu ye chongchong" (You come in a hurry, flush when you leave)

This is a modification of "Lai ye congcong, qu ye congcong" - "how quickly we come and how quickly we depart", ie we all lead a fleeting existence. However, in this pun the second part, "qu ye chongchong" exhorts the person to flush "chong" when he leaves "qu".
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  #23  
Old 09-01-2002, 10:57 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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There are lots and lots of puns in classical Arabic. A very old Arabic pun involves the name of an ancient pre-Arabic town in Iraq, Samarra. One of the ‘Abbasid caliphs was so happy with the place, he called it sarra man ra’âh, 'he rejoices who sees it'.

A lot of Arabic wordplay comes from the accidental similarity of words derived from two different roots. In Arabic, each word is derived from a root of three consonants. Different words from the same root are considered to be related in meaning.

So insân (human being) is nisyân (forgetful). It looks as though they're from the same root, although they're not.

A phrase I once came across in an Arabic books was al-‘ayn lâ tará ‘aynahâ (The ‘ayn does not see its ‘ayn.) This word means 'eye' but also means 'self'. So it's saying 'The eye does not see itself'. But a clueless translator didn't get the pun and translated it as "The eye does not see its eye," which makes no sense. Arabic puns are often used by Sufis to get you to look at things from another perspective, making connections between unrelated words to open up new neural pathways in the brain.
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  #24  
Old 09-02-2002, 11:23 AM
Meliadus Meliadus is offline
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jovan said:
Quote:
In Spanish also, word play shows up very frequently in humour, and since I've heard some in Italian too, you might want to add that language to the list too.
(bolding mine).
I would like to hear some Italian puns. I have asked Italian colleagues for examples, and so far only received only one example in a regional (and to me incomprehensible) dialect.

There do exist words thich are written identically, but they are almost always pronounced with a differing vowel accent. For example, "Ancora" can mean "Again" or "Anchor", but it is pronounced in two distinct ways. I supose there could be written puns...

The only example I can think of is the word "Sei", which can mean "Six" or "You are", but I have yet to hear a successful pun using this word.

There is also the case of double consonants being the only difference between two words, but Italians still insist that there is a difference in the pronunciation, e.g., "Cappello" (hat) and "Capello" (hair). I, personally, can distinguish between a single and double "L" (you prolong the sound slightly), or “N” (eventually: see below), but have trouble with a single or double "P". I sent a postcard last year whilst on holiday to a niece of mine, wishing to say that the excessive sunlight had caused me to finally buy my first hat (I am balding), and instead wrote that I had bought my first hair (singular). The shame. When confronted later, I tried to claim subtle humour and fiendish wit, but was not believed. I also rendered myself immortal by once (only once!) confusing "Scoraggiare" (to discourage) with "Scoreggiare" (to fart), in a context where it had meaning, but that is a memory I dare not revive. My wife remembers it, however. Every time. She still cannot finish recounting the story without sputtering in what I consider a most un-ladylike way, and causing similar disruptive social upheavals among her listeners. For her own dignity and reputation, I think she should forget about it. I have ever since avoided both verbs scrupulously. In my early years, I pronounced the word “Anno” (year) as tough it were “Ano” (anus). I will leave it to each person’s imagination and conscience to picture the possible confusion I may have created. Luckily, a colleage took me aside to explain my perfectly understandable and trivial error, although he too, at the time, seemed to be suffering from the same distressful speech impediment that my wife exhibits when she recounts the “Scoreggiare” episode. It being difficult to avoid using the word “year”, I have learned to pronounce it as if it had at least five “N”s, as in “Quest’annnnno” (This yeeeear”). One can only strive to adapt.

However, all is not lost. There is a recent TV advert for coffee, where they do perpetrate a successful pun, based on the words "La pianta" ("the plant", or "stop it, cut it out"). I was both surprised and delighted upon hearing it. I actually exclaimed "A pun! A pun!", and behaved irrationally for a short period.

So, jovan, please, give me more examples, so I can make my co-workers suffer the horrors of "the lowest form of wit".
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Old 09-02-2002, 01:06 PM
jovan jovan is offline
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I will be honest, the last time I studied Italian seriously was almost 16 years ago and I'm in my mid twenties. I might have been talking through my hat, maybe. The only Italian pun I know is a litterary expression that goes "traduttore, traditore!" It's a play on words that means "translator, traitor!" i.e. any translation betrays the original text to some extant.

"One" isn't exactly "some", I'll concede.

Googling "gioco di parole" yields 8020 results, however on inspection most of those deal mith crosswords and anagrams and the like. Word play for sure, but not necessarily pun.

It's 2:30 am but I am determined to find at least one more...

Ok... it is now 2:50, I've googled in three languages, and I have probably read dozens of puns without knowing it. The best I can offer is:

Sono Pazzi Questi Romani, which only makes sense if you're familiar with Asterix.

There's alsothis puny url.

Quote:
Balocchi, bisticci, indovinelli, beffe, scherzi, battute... Whether it's a game, a pun, a riddle, a hoax, a prank, or witty remark, Italians enjoy humor in all its forms(...)
That's hardly the only similar remark I found though, and it thus appears that I was right after all, maybe.

I will go sleep now.........
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  #26  
Old 09-02-2002, 02:08 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Meliadus
In my early years, I pronounced the word “Anno” (year) as tough it were “Ano” (anus). I will leave it to each person’s imagination and conscience to picture the possible confusion I may have created.
So, Meliadus, quanti ani ha Lei?
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Old 09-02-2002, 07:04 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quoth pldennison:
Quote:
There's a good pun in the New Testament, in Greek: "Thou art Peter (Petros), and upon this rock (petra) I shall build my Church."
That's not a pun, it just looks that way because it's not fully translated. The man Jesus was addressing there was named Simon; Peter is a nickname derived from the word "petra". So a fuller translation might be something like "You are Rocky, and on this rock I build my church.".

There are a good many puns in the Bible, though. In general, whenever you see something like "And she named her son ____, because he would be _____", it's usually a pun. The name has one literal meaning, but the "because" is generally something which sounds similar in Hebrew, but comes from a different root and has a different meaning.
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Old 09-02-2002, 08:18 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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There are even puns in Ameslan (American Sign Language, used by the deaf).

Here's one. Read my hands:
.
.
.
.
.
.
{groan}

Good one, eh?
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  #29  
Old 09-02-2002, 09:56 PM
Osip Osip is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by White Lightning
There are puns in Russian. None of which I can recall off the top of my head, but jokes based on plays on words are quite common there.
V.Mayakovsky Punned Trotsky once:
1922 Trotsky was then People's Commissar of War.

Trotsky once summoned Mayakovsky into his office. He was writing a book titled "literature and revolution" Mayakovsky described his colleagues, then Trotsky repeated his account after him, in his own words. "what do you think? how was that for a first try?" Mayakovsky answered with his "historic" pun.
"The first pancake falls like a peoples commissar."(pervy blin lyog narkomom), a play on the saying "The first pancake falls like a lump,"(pervy blin lyog komom)
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Old 09-03-2002, 03:21 AM
Meliadus Meliadus is offline
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Jomo Mojo:
Quote:
So, Meliadus, quanti ani ha Lei?
Exactly. Something like that almost certainly happened. Try "Quest'ano č stato veramente divertente". Or "Abbiamo diviso i risultati secondo i loro ani".

jovan: thank you for searching. I should have thought of doing so myself. In your link, the joke:

Quote:
Cosa fanno sotto l'albero di Natale il Re di Spagna e la Regina d'Inghilterra? I regali!
- is a real, genuine, bona fide Italian pun. I take my hair off to you - I mean my hat. You have made an old man very happy.
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  #31  
Old 09-03-2002, 04:38 AM
sirjamesp sirjamesp is offline
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Neulich wurde ein Anschlag auf mein Handy verübt. Es war total tot - nichts ging mehr!

Ich bin der Meinung, es ist der Bruder von Bin Laden.

Es war ein Bekennerbrief kurz vor dem Attentat dabei... auf dem Display stand: "Akku Laden".

(Don't know if that really counts - though it's certainly corny enough.)
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  #32  
Old 09-03-2002, 07:56 AM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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Here's one a Mexican perpetrated on me once: we were saying our goodbyes, and I called out, ˇLlámame! (Please call me!)

He said, ˇFelicitaciones! (congratulations). The joke was to interpret what I'd said as the homophone "Ya mamé" (I've already given a blowjob.)

Needless to say, I got a lot of mileage out of this when I was in Spain.
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