This is mirrored to the question: "Jokes where you replace a word with something unrelated but similar sounding" (Jokes where you replace a word with something unrelated but similar sounding).

Basically, instead of employing a pun to jokingly exploit words that sound alike but have different meanings, is there something of an anti-pun that exploits words that have the same functionality but do not sound alike?

I became curious while watching my friend's Snapchat story, in which she posted a video of the sky with a song called "Flamin' Hot Cheetos" playing in the background, then a few videos later she posted a video of herself feeding carrots to a horse. The thumbnail of her story was a carrot, so I thought she was going to make a _______ (not a pun... not quite a snowclone... maybe an eggcorn... still something of a joke, but there must be a more accurate word) about "Flamin' Hot Carrots," but she didn't.

(also, in the question, the relation to which I am referring could even simply be due to the nature of its replacement in the phrase, like the fact that Cheetos and Carrots do not sound similar not share similar meanings/functions aside from those highlighted in the joke/pun/snowclone/eggcorn/wordThatIAmTryingToFind)

  • I'd say your example is a (very weak) pun. Cheetos and Carrots don't sound very similar, but they both start with the same letter, and end with different arrangements of the same three letters (and the remaining three letters include a repeated vowel in both cases). Are you suggesting your friend's "pun" (or whatever you want to call it) would be equally funny (and the same specific type of "wordplay") if she'd written Flamin' Hot Lips, for example? Apr 11, 2019 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


You're describing a kind of catachresis, which most generally involves using an unexpected (or wrong) word. Puns, malapropisms, and the like are catachreses that rely on using similar-sounding words with different meanings. However, catachresis can also involve using words that sound more different, like the categorical confusion of calling the dead bodies in a graveyard "inhabitants."

Bad usage is merely confusing or awkward. However, catachresis can be generative, inviting a comparison between the out-of-place word and the context in which it's placed. Catachreses can form metaphors, act as euphemisms, or otherwise jar the attention of a reader.

Catachresis plays off of the incongruence between what the reader expected and what was actually said, and part of the humor would be situational, in the semantic dissimilarity between the two. Here's an example from Arrested Development:

Michael : It's like we finish each other's...

Lindsay : Sandwiches?

Michael : Sentences. Why would I say...

Lindsay : Sandwiches?

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