The question is about multilingual jokes or puns, and if there is a word for them in English. Some examples:

A German-English friend sometimes says Senkfuss instead of “thank you.” Senkfuss means “flat foot” in German, but the joke is that it sounds a little like “thank you” said with a German accent.

A French-English family I used to know would say “quel smell!” The French quel and the English “smell” rhyme, and put together, if you understand both languages, they mean “what a smell!”

In this documentary, Hélène Cixous describes how her non-German-speaking father used to say in French, en dessous du bras (“under the arm”) in reply to a question to which he did not know the answer. Under the arm, you would find Schweiss (sweat in German), which to HC’s father’s untrained ear, might have sounded like the German Ich weiss nicht (I don’t know).

There are thousands of these jokes that require a knowledge of two or more languages to make sense. In my observation they tend to arise within families or small communities where the knowledge of multiple languages is shared.

Is there a name in English for this kind of multilingual word play? I Googled “multilingual puns” and “multilingual word games” without a lot of success, neither in finding a more concise or descriptive term or phrase, nor in actually finding more of what I’m talking about.

(I know extra questions are discouraged -- and this part'll get shot down for being off-topic -- but if anyone knows of any sites where these jokes are shared, I would be very much indebted to you if you could leave the addresses in the comments!).

  • You might try searching for "bilingual wordplay" instead of "multilingual." You will see such links as this. Actually, there are usually only two languages involved in these types of jokes.
    – JLG
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 3:23
  • 1
    That's interesting- when I was in high school French class we would say "Good idea!" which translated into French as "bonne idée" which sounded like "bunny day" which we then translated into French to be "jour lapin"
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 3:34
  • 3
    The French eat a small breakfast. They believe one egg is un oeuf.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 4:07

1 Answer 1


Interlingual pun seems to be quite common in Google search results.

  • Would downvoter most kindly offer a constructive suggestion for improving the answer?
    – MetaEd
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 19:25

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