Friday, 8 May 2015

Double Entendres - Do They Have to Be Rude?

Two polar bears on tundra (the double on tundra)
I don't know who came up with this, but I'm barely smirking ...


Noun phrase. Plural double entendres (pronounced same). Late 17th century.
[Obsolete French (now double entente) = double understanding.]

A double meaning;
an ambiguous expression;
a phrase with two meanings, one usually indecent.
Also, the use of such a meaning or phrase.

Double entendres are fun, but they're also pretty easy; my first notion when thinking about this post was just to write the entire thing in double entendres - "You want a double entendre? Well I'll give you one!" - y'know the sort of thing. The problem is, it wouldn't be original, and it really wouldn't be funny either. And while it's undeniable that a good, well-timed and well-chosen double entendre can be funny, very often they're rather witless, cheap and worthy of little more than a roll of the eyes.

But ... here's a novel concept ... double entendres don't have to be rude! In fact, it is my firm assertion that many of the very best double entendres aren't in the least bit bawdy, and these are of a higher calibre than their tit-and-bum counterparts because they're significantly more difficult to come up with. The US sitcom Frasier is particularly full of such witticisms - an example being when Niles meets the weird and creepy members of Frasier's fan club (all three of them), and remarks that meeting them makes him wish he had a club himself.

Political wit at its most laudatory

Other ones that tickled me include the Conservative campaign poster that declared "Labour Isn't Working." That was definitely a good one. And the Toronto Star headline: "Marijuana Issue Sent to a Joint Committee." Classic. And what about the controversial PETA ads? Y'know, where a nude model grins at the camera: "Want my body? Go vegetarian!" Well, maybe that one's a bit rude. And .. umm ... maybe my self-righteous quest to purify the double entendre is a bit of a lame duck. Maybe the rude ones are funnier. 

Well, OK, fair enough. But if the funniest double entendres are rude, then I make this final contention: the funniest ones are those that are unintentionally rude. Yes! That's it. And as evidence, I give you two of the finest examples of double entendres, made by the inimitable Jonathan Agnew, which are so funny that (for a moment) they even managed to to make cricket entertaining.


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