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I don't know if triple entendres exist. I did a lot of online research, but I what I found were examples of double entendres. There were examples that claimed to be triple entendres, but they had one primary meaning and two secondary meanings, which is not a triple entendre (despite what Wikipedia may say). In a double entendre, the second meaning is hidden by the first. For a true triple entendre, the third meaning should be hidden by the second, not either. It's about the sequence of the layers to hide the meaning. Are there examples of triple entendres in English?

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    Is that what a true triple entendre is? I'm not sure the wording 'triple' is forced to imply nesting. I think both three meanings and a second meaning that itself has a second meaning could be implied.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 29 at 22:04
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    From Wikipedia, "Moving Pictures": "[The album cover] is a triple entendre; the front depicts movers who are carrying pictures. On the side, people are shown crying because the pictures passing by are emotionally "moving". Finally, the back cover has a film crew making a motion (moving) picture of the whole scene." Commented Jun 29 at 23:44
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    What do you mean by “...the second meaning is hidden by the first”? A double entendre can be interpreted in two ways, a triple in three. Commented Jun 30 at 0:22
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    Let's assume that by "triple entendre" you mean ""triple pun" - a phrase with three meanings. You should note that in English a "double entendre" is not just a phrase with two meanings, but means that one of the meanings is sexual/smutty/risqué. Commented Jun 30 at 3:01
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    A double entendre requires both meanings to exist at the same time. If you think "actually they didn't mean the first meaning", it's not a good double entendre. Ditto if you've forgotten entirely the first meaning. So the idea that it's about hiding meanings is wrong: it's about balancing meanings (often innocent and obscene).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 30 at 11:09

5 Answers 5

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This line from Prince's 1991 song "Cream":

"You got the horn, so why don't you blow it?"

The first interpretation is literally blowing a horn, i.e. playing a musical instrument. Dancing and playing a guitar are mentioned in the song, so the line could technically be about playing music. However, there is undeniable salaciousness to the song, and "the horn" and "blow" are patently meant imply a sexual act (the second interpretation). Most people don't seem to look beyond this. However, once you realise what the song is really about, Prince boasting about himself, you realise what was meant all along (the third interpretation): blowing one's own horn, i.e. boasting about oneself.

To sum, gloating hidden behind sexual innuendo set behind literalism.

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    @Lambie - Tooting is for little kids. Commented Jun 30 at 17:59
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    "You got the horn" = You are horny. "So why don't you blow it" = So why don't you fellate me.
    – ishtar
    Commented Jun 30 at 18:29
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    @anongoodnurse: to tell people about your achievements, especially in a way that makes you appear too proud of yourself:dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/… It's an idiom.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 30 at 20:48
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    @Lambie - My point being, you corrected the answer without acknowledging that "blow your own horn" was fine. As is "toot...". I hear the former more than the latter in the US. Commented Jun 30 at 22:17
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    It's arguably a quadruple entendre, as "blow it" means "fail". Commented Jul 2 at 0:20
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There certainly are phrases with triple meanings in English. As an example I present the lyrics of "Merry Xmas Everybody" the 1973 Christmas song by the British rock band Slade. (I never said it would be a deep or intellectual example).

Do you ride on down the hillside

In a boggy you have made?

When you land upon your head

Have you been sleighed?

"Sleighed" of course means "slayed" or killed as well as a pun on "sleigh"; but it's also a pun on the name of the band Slade.

"Boggy" means "toboggan" for those wondering.

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  • Shouldn't it have been 'Have you been slain' (past perfect)? I didn't expect grammar lessons from Slade then, and I don't now! Commented Jul 1 at 10:21
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    @MichaelHarvey: The past participle of slay is slain. The past participle of sleigh is sleighed. Commented Jul 1 at 12:20
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You can find any number of examples in song lyrics, what about some of the literally most famous lyrics in all of pop music,

Come together, right now, over me

means "achieve societal unity in our era due to the speaker's social influence" or "you two stop bickering and stand next to each other by where I'm sitting" or the XXXX version about a three-person sexual encounter,

"you two girls have a simultaneous orgasm whilst positioned over me"

Swapping from Mr Lennon over to Mr McCartney, one of the most famous lines in all pop music

And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make

means "you 'sow what you reap', when you die ("the end" literally) you'll only have gotten as much good out of life as you gave to others, be charitable, live this life preparing for the next", or, regarding the physical act, "(ingenious play on 'make love' -> 'love you make') if you treat the sexual act as just a physical thing, and you don't 'make love', you will get nothing out of it, don't watch porno, get married and be happy" or "summing up (common meaning of 'in the end' -> 'in summary' or 'summarizing...') some event or action in your life, don't expect to get out more than you put it."

Thus (in a few short words) the concept of "the end" is remarkably potently referring to all three of, the common sense of "summary, in the end, the song's ending, the album is ending"; cough a little death as our French friends say; existence itself, mortality.

(On top of that, it was extremely topical, as it was an "end of an era", contemporaneous listeners understood it was the last song, last moment, of the band. Actually there's an outstanding recent interview by poet Paul Muldoon with Ye Olde McCartney where Muldoon breaks down that song cycle very nicely in terms of sonnet form link.)


(Aside: in re Come Together, Lennon & McCartney are ridiculously good at "hiding in plain sight" absurdly filthy language, from early in their career until the end! In the sweetest 60s song ever, "Come on come on please me like I please you" - WTH!

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Let's look at what the Oxford Companion to the English Language has to say about the French phrase double entendre (literally double understanding but with the obvious pronounciation dooble for double.

[17th century from obsolete French, similar to double entente whose present day equivalent is double sens double sense/meaning. The phrase is often italicised.] an expression that can be understood in both of two ways one of which has (often coarse) sexual connotations or implications: a risqué type of double meaning. "Another [advertisement] warned 'it only takes one prick to give you AIDs.'" Although the accompanying picture shows a syringe about to be injected into an arm, the double entendre is obvious. <Michael Fiamento, 'Is it a Myth? Sunday Times 18 Mar 1990'.

From this it is reasonable to infer that the phrase has a specific usage involving pairs and having some sexual overtones. Clearly any compound word with a numerical component can be extended to infinity. But that does not mean that every possibility can appear in a dictionary as part of standard English usage. We can and do refer to bipeds, centipedes, millipedes etc.. because they refer to something. The word tesserakaidecapod could be invented to apply to a 14-legged creature in a a fictional world. But that does not render the word part of the standard English usage.

If someone makes a joke involving more than one or two meanings meaning (and a few have been tried) such a quip could be called a triple (preferably but not essentially pronounced in the French way) entendre. However, the question could be regarded a 'off topic' because not part of current standard English.

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A sequential possibility? Two rabbits are running from a pack of wolves. They hide in a haystack to catch their breath. One rabbit smiles knowingly at the other and asks, "Should we keep running, or stay here and outnumber them?" The other rabbit frowns knowing and replies, "Run, you idiot: we're brothers."

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    Commented Jul 1 at 21:12
  • I have rethought my answer in the light of your comments, which are fair. Should I delete the original and post my revision separately, or can I just revise the post itself. And can the 2 points be removed?
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    Commented Jul 3 at 22:51

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