What Is Double Entendre?
A double entendre is a phrase that has a double meaning. The first meaning is straightforward and literal, but it suggests another meaning by association. Often, this second meaning is sexual, ironic, or inappropriate. Double entendre can be either deliberate or unintentional. For instance, the headline "New Obesity Study Looks for Larger Test Group" did not intend for the word "larger" to be a double entendre; nevertheless, the reader sees the second meaning readily in this context.
How Do You Identify Double Entendre in Writing?
Intentionality is one way to know that someone has created a double entendre. Another is by showing the character’s reaction. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio says he knows it will be a "good morrow" when "the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon," and the Nurse responds as follows: "Out upon you! What a man are you!" His use of bawdy punning also helps us to understand Mercutio’s irreverence. Characters who frequently use double entendre are sometimes untrustworthy or don’t take things too seriously.
Examples of Double Entendre
1. "Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again." L. Frank Baum’s quip plays on the double meaning of "blue," which can be both depressed and oxygen-deprived.
2. Dorothy Parker’s double entendre is pretty clear when she says, "If all the young women from all the seven sisters academies were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”
3. The Belamy Brothers have a song entitled "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me."
4. Mae West uses double entendre when she says the following: "Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution."
5. Rodney Dangerfield’s famous opening line is a double-entendre: "Take my wife. . . please."
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