Language, its origins, intricacies, its beauty and its potential, has always been a huge part of what we do at Ariel Media. And, when we say language, we refer to all the languages we work with. This post originally appeared on our Facebook page back when the social media platform was more content-friendly.
Someone asked us recently if there is a Spanish equivalent of the (mostly American) English phrase “Pun intended.” After some thought, we concluded that there isn’t one because Spanish doesn’t have the same exact concept of “pun” as English, nor does it have a word that can express such concept. The closest to “pun” in Spanish are the word “retruécano” and the phrase “juego de palabras.”
Retruécano is a literary device by which the order of the words in a phrase is altered or inverted to change its meaning. This is easy to do in Spanish since there are many words that have multiple meanings. However, this is not “pun” because the order of the words has been altered, and most “pun intended” constructs are not structurally altered.
“Juego de palabras” is even more vague. It can be any number of word plays (juego de palabras = word play). In fact, retruécano is a word play, but not all word plays are retruécanos.
English pun is the use of the multiple meanings of a certain word (or words that sound similar or the same (homophones)) in a phrase or sentence without altering its order. Therefore, it is not a retruécano, and although it is a word play, it is its own kind, and can be defined in one word. The concepts in Spanish, again, do not come quite close.
The phrase itself (“pun intended”) is a cultural singularity. It is intended to let the audience or readership know that they author is using these words in this sense in a completely intentional manner. Such nicety does not exist in Spanish where word plays are left unexplained, and it is up to the reader or listener to “get it” or not.
Do you agree with us on this? Let us know!
P.S.: We’ll continue our series on social media targeting and audience crafting soon.