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The Anatomy of Buns. P. (Can you translate that?). NBU seminar, March 2007 Presenter: Danya Doganova. A pun = paronomasia. a figure of speech which consists of a deliberate confusion of similar-sounding words or phrases for rhetorical effect, either humorous or serious. Definitions:.

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The Anatomy of Buns


(Can you translate that?)

NBU seminar, March 2007

Presenter: Danya Doganova

a pun paronomasia
A pun = paronomasia

a figure of speech which consists of a deliberate confusion of similar-sounding words or phrases for rhetorical effect, either humorous or serious

  • “To pun is to treat homonyms as synonyms.”

English writer and academic Walter Redfern in Puns, 2nd revised edition, Penguin, London, 2000.

  • “A pun is itself a second thought, overlaid on or coexisting with a first meaning.”


  • “textual phenomena contrasting linguistic structures with different meanings on the basis of their formal similarity”

Belgian academic Dirk Delabastita

inThere Is A Double Tongue

  • Etymology
  • History
  • Disruptive power
  • Typology
  • Translatability and translator’s strategies

 examples from popular sitcoms

  • Translation as transformation/adaptation

in the light of contemporary Translation Studies


pun… [17th c: perh. f. obs. pundigrion, a fanciful formation]

--<--<--< Latin punctus, past participle of pungere, to prick.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary

le robert dictionnaire historique de la langue francaise
Le Robert dictionnaire historique de la langue francaise

calembour - play of the mind (un jeu d’esprit) based on words of double meaning, that is equivocal words, or phrases of identical pronunciation

first accounted for in a letter by Diderot to S. Volland of 1768, probably derived through backformation from “calembourdaine” --< “calembredaine” (a comment extravagant and futile, or a comical pleasantry, or something trivial, or downright absurd)

history in the beginning was the pun samuel becket
History“In the beginning was the pun.” Samuel Becket

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church.

(Matthew 16:18)

Greek “Petros” ↔ petros(= “rock”)

attitudes to the pun through the centuries
“The pun is mightier than the sword.” James Joyce

“…, therefore, the foundation of all wit.” Henry Erskine

“The seeds of punning are in the minds of all men, and though they may be subdued by reason and common sense, they are apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that is not broken and cultivated by rules.” Joseph Addison

“A pun is the lowest form of wit.” John Dennis

“Puns are the last refuge of the witless.” Samuel Johnson

“To trifle with the vocabulary, which is the vehicle of social intercourse, is to tamper with the currency of human intelligence.” Samuel Johnson

Attitudes to the pun through the centuries
the disruptive power of puns he that would pun would pick a pocket alexander pope



The Disruptive Power of Puns “He that would pun, would pick a pocket.” Alexander Pope

Ferdinand de Saussure’s diadic model of the

linguistic sign


typology of puns according to the type and degree of the formal similarity they exploit
Typologyof puns according to the type and degree of the formal similarity they exploit
  • Homographic
    • Homonymic fair (adj. just) ↔ fair (n. amusement park)
    • Heteronymic minute (n.) ↔ minute (adj. small)
  • Homophonic I ↔eye knows ↔nose
  • Polysemic to pick (a flower↔your nose) ; to put out ↔to put yourself out
  • Conflating idioms ↔ non-idiomatic usage

He gave it to her.

  • Exploiting pragmatic functions can I (polite request) ↔you can’t (noability)
  • Reversing cultural stereotypes nurse (n. fem. ↔ n.masculine?)
typology cont of puns according to the type and degree of formal similarity they exploit
Typology (cont.) of puns according to the type and degree of formal similarity they exploit
  • Backronymsgolf ↔ GOLF (gentlemen only, ladies forbidden)
  • Malapropismhistorical ↔ hysterical
  • Proper noun ↔ common noun/adjective

Ernest ↔ earnest

translating the untranslatable
Translating the “untranslatable”

“Anything which can be said in one language can be said in another (unless the form is an essential element of the message).”

Nida, E.A. and Taber, C. 1969. The Theory and Practice of Translation.

homographs homonyms
Becker, NBC, ep. #37: $All the Rage”

JOHN:Excuse me. Why do I have to stand when everyone else gets to sit down? I mean, that’s not fair.

RICHARD:Doctor Becker, remember what we say. “Fair” is a place where hogs compete for ribbons.

ДЖОН: Всички седнали, а само аз стърча. И аз имам право!

РИЧАРД: Доктор Бекър, помните ли какво казахме? “Право..е добичето, докато го водят към дръвника”.

Homographs: homonyms


screen translator s choices
Screen translator’s choices

0) footnote

1) PUN  PUN

2) PUN  NO PUN (explicitation)

3) NO PUN  PUN (compensation)

possible solutions in dealing with wordplay according to dirk delabastita
Possible solutions in dealing with wordplay according to Dirk Delabastita

1) pun  pun 7) footnote

2) pun  non-pun 8) ‘direct copy’

3) non-pun  pun 9) semantic calque

4) pun  punoid

5) zero  pun

6) pun  zero

DELABASTITA D. There’s a Double Tongue

example of semantic calque
Good Morning, Miami, NBC

PENNY: So your girlfriend has been promoted from hair and makeup to producer? That is total nepotism.

JAKE: Wait, no it’s not.

PENNY: You’re right. Nepotism’s with your family. This is humpatism.

ПЕНИ: Значи издигна гаджето си от гримьорка в продуцентка? Това е шуробаджанащина.

ДЖЕЙК: Не е така.

ПЕНИ: Прав си, тя не ти е шурей. Това е “гадженащина”!

Example of ‘semantic calque’
examples of non pun pun solutions
Donuts filled with liquor? This one is whiskey with rainbow sprinkles, and this with cinnamon.

The red-haired fiend


…понички с уиски и със джин-джифил

“Онази с косата”


Examples of non-pun  pun solutions
examples of non pun pun solutions19
Seinfeld, #7-01, “The Engagement”

GEORGE: What happened to the pact? We were both gonna change. We shook hands on a pact. Did you not shake my hand on it uh?

JERRY: You stuck your hand out, so I shook it. I don't know about a pact. Anyway, you should be happy you're engaged. You're getting married.

ДЖОРДЖ: Дадохме обет! Да се променим! Стиснахме си ръцете! Не ми ли стисна ръката?!

ДЖЕРИ: Ами ти ми я подаде и я стиснах. Беше обед, не обет. Както и да е, радвай се, че си сгоден, че ще се жениш!

Examples of non-pun  pun solutions
homographs homonyms20
Wings NBC, ep. # 121 “Boys Just Wanna Have Fun”

JOE: Helen - I - I - can't promise anything. It's a bachelor's party. It could get pretty wild.

HELEN: All right. A bunch of boobs lookin' at a bunch of boobs.

ДЖО: Не обещавам нищо. На ергенско парти става щур купон.

ХЕЛЪН: Да. Група задници гледат задници.

Homographs: homonyms


homographs heteronyms
My Hero, BBC, ep.#3



Of course it's small! It says on the menu: Minute steak.

АРНИ: Нормално е да се нервираш. В менюто пише – ‘нервозно кюфте’!

Homographs: heteronyms
Becker, #103

CLIFF:You know, handwriting says a lot about a person.

MARGARET:Oh, really? What does mine say?

CLIFF:That you’re sweet and stylish.

MARGARET:Where do you see that?

CLIFF:(pointing to her writing)Uh, right there, in your i’s.


КЛИФ: Почеркът говори много за човека.

МАРГАРЕТ: Така ли? Какво ти казва моят?

КЛИФ: Че си много мила и..си много секси.

МАРГАРЕТ: Къде пък го видя?

КЛИФ: В извивката на Дъ-то.


homophones cont
Wings, #053: “Nose off”

(Brian has gone to a clinic to have nose surgery and has sworn Antonio to keep this a secret from his brother Joe.)

Joe: Where’s Brian?

Lowell: We promised not to tell.

Antonio: Well-l - perhaps we could tell him without really telling him. Where's Brian? [beat] Nobody knows.

АНТОНИО: Къде е Брайън?Не знам... Някъде се носсси.

homophones cont24
My Hero, BBC, ep.#F5

MRS RAVEN: Horse pills.

JANET: On horses?

MRS RAVEN: They didn't specify.


PIERS: Thank you for the enormous cup of tea, Mrs Raven.

JANET: How are you feeling?

MRS RAVEN: Not too hoarse?

PIERS: Perhaps a little.

ГАРВЪН: Конски хапчета.

ДЖАНЕТ: Върху коне?

ГАРВЪН: Не казаха изрично..


ПИЪРС: Благодаря Ви за конската доза чай, мисис Гарвън.

ДЖАНЕТ: Как ти действа?

ГАРВЪН:Течностите са закон!

ПИЪРС: Облекчи ме малко.

the visual constraint
JANET:D'you know I was thinking we could get a take away tonight.

GEORGE: Ta daa.


JANET: Oh well done George.

GEORGE: Oh and I also brought your nan.


JANET:No A nan! A nan bread.

My Hero, BBC, D5

ДЖАНЕТ:Мислех да вземем храна за вкъщи.


ДЖАНЕТ: О, браво, Джордж.

ДЖОРДЖ: А за теб съм взел и леля.

ДЖАНЕТ: Не “леля”, Джордж – “паеля”!

The Visual Constraint
Wings, ep. 40: “Marriage Italian Style”

INSPECTOR:Uh-h when is the wedding?

HELEN: Oh! It's this Saturday.

INSPECTOR:Uh, so you're planning on-on-on doing it up right, uh, music, champagne, flowers?

ANTONIO: Yes. Lots of flowers. A feast for the nose. Hand picked - - the flowers, not the nose...


ИНСПЕКТОР: А кога е сватбата?

ХЕЛЪН: О.. Тази събота.

ИНСПЕКТОР:Планирате голямо тържество – музика, шампанско, цветя?

АНТОНИО: Да. Купища цветя. Радост за носа. На пъпки.. Цветята, не носът.

idioms non idiomatic usage
Wings, ep. 141

(in the exposition)

MR. DE CARLO: Paoli was with me for fifteen years. I loved him like a son. Broke my heart when he bought the farm.

ANTONIO: Bought the farm?! Uh-huh, I see. Okay. Accident, huh?

MR. DE CARLO: No accident. I arranged it myself. I didn't want to, but when he decided not to work for me anymore, I had no choice.

(later - in the resolution)

ANTONIO: What about your last driver, Paoli, the, the one who, the one who bought the farm. And what does that mean?

MR. DE CARLO: It means he bought a farm. He bought a little dairy farm in upstate New York. It was his dream.

Idioms ↔ non-idiomatic usage
idioms non idiomatic usage cont



АНТОНИО: А предишният шофьор, дето се отправил към вечните полета? Как да го разбирам?

ДЕ КАРЛО: Ами той си купи ферма. Купи мандра сред едно поле в северните щати. Беше му мечта.

Idioms ↔ non-idiomatic usage (cont.)

ДЕ КАРЛО: Паоли беше с мен 15 години. Обичах го като син. Плаках, като се отправи към вечните полета.

АНТОНИО: Към вечните полета?! Аха. Разбирам. Ясно.. Удар на съдбата?

ДЕ КАРЛО: Ами, съдбата. Аз го уредих. Не ми се искаше, но след като реши да ме напусне – просто нямах избор.


Becker, ep.37“All the Rage”

Richard: Okay. Now, let’s get on track. Do you know why I said “get on track” that way?

Lenny: Brain tumor?

Richard: No. It’s because “TRACK” is an acronym for remembering the steps to managing anger. Take behavioral inventory. Reduce emotional investment. Aspirate slowly. That means breathe. Circumvent conflict. K, you’ve beaten anger. Any questions? Not about the missing “O” in “okay.” Okay…

РИЧАРД: О-кеей.. А сега – да “тракаме” напред. Знаете ли защо казах тъй: “да тракаме” напред”?

ЛЕНИ: Тумор на мозъка?

РИЧАРД: Нее. Защото “ТРАК” е съкращение от стъпките, които трябва да запомним. Търси позитивни поведенчески модели. Редуцирай емоционалния заряд. Аспирирай бааавно (това значи ‘дишай’)..в случай на конфликт. И о-Кей – гневът е овладян! Има ли въпроси?/ Но не за липсващото “о” в “окей”./.. Оке-ей..

Married with Children, #916

(Kelly Bundy is performing in The Phantom of the Opera)

KELLY: Thanks. Of all the opera joints in all the world he had to walk into mine… I care not that his face stoppeth a clocketh….. Tis the heart that beats beneath the face that I desire to see. I would not forsake you, oh my ghostly one. I shall search for the E..

BUD: That’s thee, you idiot!

KELLY: Oh. I shall search for thee, you idiot!

(see video clip)

proper names
BBC, My Hero,

Character list:

Mrs. Raven 

ep. D5


….. The whole resort was carried here by what looked like a huge black bird. The locals call it drovodnya. In English - the Raven!

мисис Гарвън


… Дизниленд бе пренесен тук една гигантска черна птица – на местния диалект “дроводня”, което означава “гарван”!

Proper names
“Objectionable as it may seem to some readers to link the serious discourses of language and literature with the trivia of humour and abuse, the persistence of playful uses of language suggests a present need.”

Guy Cook in Language Play, Language Learning, OUP, 2000.

Polysystem Theory – a perspective in literary analysis informed by the fact that any literature comprises not only the traditional (canonic) genres but many other popular forms ranging from sacred texts to soap operas

(as defined by Basil Hatim in Teaching and Researching Translation, Longman, 2001.)

discussion to what extent may the source text be altered in the process of translation
DISCUSSION: To what extent may the source text be altered in the process of translation?
  • Can a translator take so much licence?
  • Is such unabashed manipulation and re-writing permissible?
  • What about faithfulness?
  • In departing from a source text, how far can you go?
  • And if you go too far, would that still be a translation as opposed to original text production?
  • …………..
  • ……………
translation equivalence the dichotomies an overview
Translation Equivalence: the dichotomies(an overview)

Literal translation Free Translation

Formal equivalence Dynamic equivalence (Nida)

Semantic translation Communicative (Newmark)

Documentary Instrumental (Nord; Skopos Theory)

Overt translation Covert translation (House)

Foreignisation Domestication (Venuti)

Transformation (Derrida)

Re-writing (Lefevere)

translation as transformation and re writing
Translation as Transformation and Re-writing

“… for the notion of translation we would have to substitute a notion of transformation…of one text by another. We will never have to do with some ‘transport’ of pure signifieds from one language to another that the signifying instrument would leave virgin or untouched.”

Derrida J. (1981) Positions


Cook, Guy. Language Play, Language Learning. OUP, 2000.

Delabastita, Dirk. Word Play and Translation. St Jerome Publishing, 1996.

Delabastita, Dirk. There Is a Double Tongue. Rodopi, 1993.

Delabastita, Dirk, ed. Traductio: Essays on Punning and Translation. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1997

Hatim, Basil. Teaching and Researching Translation. Longman, 2001.

Koller, Werner. ‘The Concept of Equivalence and the Object of Translation Studies’. Target 7(2) (1995):191-222. 

Nord, Chistiane. Translation as a Purposeful Activity. UK: St. Jerome, 1997.

Nida, Eugene A. Toward a Science of Translating. Leiden: Brill., 1964.

Redfern, Walter. Puns, 2nd ed. Penguin, London, 2000.

Wordplay and Translation, special issue of The Translator, St Jerome, 1996.

NBU seminar, March 2007

Presenter: Danya Doganova