My friend and I (may or may not be the same one from my other question) were chatting the other day and we came to a discussion about the idiom tit-for-tat.

tit-for-tat (informal)
a tit-for-tat action is something bad that you do to someone because they have done something bad to you (always before noun) Six of the victims died in tit-for-tat attacks. (informal)

In the middle of said discussion, my friend suddenly swerved into a discussion about his new business idea.

tat-for-tit (business model)
I'll ink some stuff on you for boob pics.

Don't worry, I've given him several pieces of my mind on why that business model won't work (such as pics don't pay bills and you can't draw anything to save your life). My actual question is:

Is there a word/phrase for either:

  • an act of butchering a language for the sake of a joke


  • a person who does said act
  • 2
    I was about to suggest pun, but someone beat me to it :) FYI, TFD is actually very good. Your friend didn't "butcher" the language, he merely swapped a tit with a tat, a play on words.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 6:29

3 Answers 3


I think you may be referring to a pun:

  • play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.

  • (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) the use of words or phrases to exploit ambiguities and innuendoes in their meaning, usually for humorous effect; a play on words. An example is: "Ben Battle was a soldier bold, And used to war's alarms: But a cannonball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms." (Thomas Hood)

Source: www.thefreedictionary.com

  • 1
    Yeah, I suppose "a really bad pun" or "how droll" ... I don't think there's a term for "achingly bad pun" is there?
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 6:28
  • 2
    @JoeBlow For an achingly bad pun, should I offer a PUNgent pun? Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 1:00
  • heh ! good one Story!
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 6:23

People laugh because their defense mechanism is interrupted; if one eliminated all jokes that someone finds in poor taste, you'd wipe out 90% of them.

The general term for jokes that butcher the language is humor and the person performing such an act is a comic.

All puns butcher the language, but not all jokes which butcher the language are puns.

  • Puns don't necessarily butcher the language; some are very elegant and clever, and don't (as you imply) force the hearer to cringe. The same applies to jokes in general.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:02

I think the word you are looking for is: malapropism (also called a Dogberryism).

For some really great ones, Google Yogi Berra's malaprops.

  • 2
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    – user140086
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 14:42

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