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There are four categories of jokes which cross languages. The first class consists of jokes told fully in one language, but with a pun or punchline that requires knowledge of a different language to recognise it. These jokes may or may not remain funny in their translated form. The second class consists of jokes which require at least rudimentary knowledge of two or more languages to understand multiple components of the joke. In these jokes, the interplay of two languages is only half the humour; the other half comes from the great potential of situation comedy that occurs when people attempt to communicate with others who do not speak their native language. The third class of multilingual joke consists of jokes which, on their own, do not actually cross languages, but which maintain their meaning when translated into multiple target languages. This is usually accomplished through puns which arise from phonology and etymology that the target languages have in common. The fourth class consists simply of mundane or inoffensive phrases in one language which, when pronounced identically in the context of another language, produce obscenities and innuendo. This fourth category, unlike the first two categories, relies more on the speaker not understanding the target language, in order to produce situation comedy, consequently making the speaker the butt of a joke that only bilingual speakers of both the source and target language can appreciate.

1
Lacertus ingens insulae, monstrum gilam venari docebat. “Vides,” inquit, “Modo morde, et venenum praedam necabit!” Monstrum gila statim lacertum ingentem mordebat. “Quomodo, Dragon?”

A giant island lizard was teaching a gila monster how to hunt. "You see," he says, "merely bite, and the venom will kill the prey!" The gila monster immediately bit the giant lizard. "Like this, Dragon?"

2
A Spaniard, speaking no English, went into a department store and approached the help desk.

"Quiero calcetines," said the man.

"I don't speak Spanish, but we have some very nice suits over here." said the sales associate.

"No, no quiero trajes. Quiero calcetines."

"Well, these shirts are on sale this week," the sales associate said, beginning to get frustrated.

"No, no quiero camisas. Quiero calcetines," repeated the man.

"I still don't know what you're trying to say. We have some fine pants on this rack."

"No, no quiero pantalones. Quiero calcetines," the man insisted, his frustration beginning to match that of his helper.

As they passed the underwear counter, the man spotted a display of socks and happily grabbed a pair. Holding them up he proclaimed "Eso sí que es!".

"Well, if you could spell it, why didn't you do that in the beginning?"

3
¿De dónde van los gatos cuando mueren? PurGATOrio.

Dove vanno i gatti quando muoiono? Nel purGATTOrio.

Où vont les chats quand ils meurent? Au purCHAToire.

Para onde os gatos vão quando morrem? Para o purGATOrio.

Ble mae cathod yn mynd pan fyddant yn marw? AnnGRŴN.

Where do cats go when they die? PURRgatory.

4
Finnish Katso merta, "look at the sea," sounds like Italian Cazzo, "dick," and merda, "shit."
Italian Panna montata, "whipped cream," sounds similar to Finnish Panna, "fuck, lay" and motata, "punch, slug, sock."


Iron Noder 2018, 17/30

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