I've seen people write (usually in a humorous way) a 'code-like' message where parts of words are replaced with a pictogram that sounds like that word-part. E.G.:

(eyeball) (tin can)(rope knot) get the (hole in ground) (earth) in my head, yet.


I cannot get the whole world in my head, yet.

I once saw this used in a fictional book, and wonder if it has an actual name.

Edit: the answer also helped by re-find this wonderfully imagined race that communicates via rebuses.

  • 1
    Huh. I was going to say this is probably GR, but most of the search terms I tried ("pictures replacing words" and things like that) don't turn up a ton of easily visible results that say "rebus". Interesting.
    – alcas
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 18:36
  • 4
    possible duplicate of What is XLNC an example of?
    – Hellion
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 18:39
  • @Hellion very similar, and thanks for the rebus/grammatagram index in the answer. Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 19:01
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    @Hellion: having the same answer doesn't necessarily imply that the questions are duplicates of each other. If I were looking at a picture puzzle and trying to figure out what it's called, never in a million years would (or should) it occur to me to check out a question about telegram-style abbreviations.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


This is called a rebus:

A rebus is an allusional device that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. It was a favourite form of heraldic expression used in the Middle Ages to denote surnames, for example in its basic form 3 salmon fish to denote the name "Salmon".

Here is an example:

enter image description here

  • 2
    Actually, heraldry that makes a visual pun on the bearer's name is called canting arms. Yes, you could make the argument that a cant is a type of rebus, but it's still not correct to imply that the word "rebus" is widely used in heraldry.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 19:51
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    Also, where do saw and sore sound at all similar?
    – Marthaª
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 19:53
  • 5
    @Marthaª: In Britain, at least. Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 19:56
  • 3
    @Marthaª In most of England, Wales, South Africa, Australia and most of New Zealand, I would not expect to be able to distinguish saw from sore at all. Most Americans, Canadians, Irish and Scottish will pronounce these two words differently.
    – user16269
    Commented Sep 15, 2012 at 7:47

It is called a rebus.

a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters; for instance, apex might be represented by a picture of an ape followed by a letter X.

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