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A play on words is a rhetorical figure that is mainly based on ambiguity , twisting, turning (in the sense) or other word changes and is intended to appear humorous and / or witty. For example, copyleft is a play on words about copyright .


Trash in Berlin with a pun on Corpus Delicti
Word game with listening device

There are several categories of word games. The most common are:

  • Homonymy : Different words that happen to sound the same, but have different origins and are often spelled differently
If it rains hides (today), the leather will be cheap.
  • Polysemy : the ambiguity of words is used
"Did you hitchhike?" - "Why?" - "You look so worn out."
Too many stop signs bring the driver to the lawn.
  • Paronomasia : the sound similarity of words is the basis
Hurry with a while - if you rest, you rust - Urbi et orbi
  • Paragraph : a word or a fixed phrase is modified by exchanging individual letters or sounds so that the model remains easily recognizable
People of poets and thinkersPeople of judges and executioners
  • A special case of this are spoonerisms - anagrams (also called inverted letters ): letters or sounds are swapped
Kentucky Fried ChickenKentucky screams to fuck
not bad eitherhose not real
As a game language , Verlan was created in France from spinning letters or syllables.
  • A special case of this are again shaking rhymes (for example: "Unfortunately, at this year's Bach festivals, the best in the field were not singing".)
  • Hyphenation : The syllables of several words are separated in such a way that these words make a new sense in writing. The new meaning comes from the context, although you don't hear the hyphenation.
"I'll buy you earrings from Christian Dior ... what happens to them then, honey? ... you Christian Dior" (→ you get them on your ears).
“In a moment you'll be rid of your head. Then are you headless? And I'll buy you a headless. "
"I like to listen to music in my Mercedes, I need more CDs for that." (→ Mer-ce-des)
  • It is played with the sound of foreign language words that are built into a sentence in one's own language
Hu Wäng, lang Jäng (is Kölsch and means: high walls, long corridors; sounds Chinese).
E weng too narrow means: a little too narrow - answer to the joke question: "What does Trabant (car brand of the GDR ) mean in Chinese?"
Tschann, did the sun seem already? - D 'Sonn' seemed already nice. (A play on words with the Chinese sound of the words: "Jean, was the sun shining? - The sun was already shining beautifully.")
Situs vilate in isse tabernit. (Looks like Latin, but doesn't eat. An example of kitchen Latin )


The word game is a term from general language and stands for a special way of dealing with language. This use can be witty, witty, sarcastic, but also teasing . The word game makes use of homograph or homonymous words and expressions. A variety of techniques are also used in the word game, such as the dissolving of compositions , the derivation , the "literal", the comparison , the letter rearrangement, the rearrangement of words (see below), accent shifting, slight change in the graphic or phonetic form or the suitcase word .


Word games are often in anagrams and Para grams , aphorisms , Echo poems , puns (jokes, which are often based on puns), trunk words , mnemonics and Zeugmata used.

Word games are common in children because the norms of adult language are not yet internalized. There are also unwanted word games almost every day (see literature: for example "30 kilos of fever").

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Word game  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. pronounced with a German accent like Kentucky freit send
  2. An alleged anecdote from the Boxer Rebellion from: Hans Ostwald (Ed.): Der Urberliner . Edition arani, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-7605-8631-7 .