If you’re a more advanced learner of English, you probably have been looking to find a way to step up (increase, improve) your language skills and sound more like a native English speaker. Learning different ways of speaking could just be the challenge you’ve been looking for, which is why this week, we want to focus on how to use innuendos in English.
What exactly is innuendo? Innuendo is when you say something that sounds polite, innocent, and above board (neutral, not offensive), but there’s a different meaning to it below the surface. This second meaning is usually a dirty joke, a rude comment, a social or political joke, or an insult. Innuendo is a way to say something that may not be acceptable in a certain situation, in a socially acceptable way.
There are lots of examples of innuendo in literature and pop culture, and we’re sure that after reading this blog you’ll see or hear them all over the place!
Difference Between Innuendo, Double Entendre, and Euphemism
Double entendres and euphemisms are similar to innuendo, but different at the same time. All three devices are used to veil (hide) your actual meaning in a more innocent, socially acceptable way. However, there are some important differences to be aware of.
A double entendre is always used in a funny way, and is not necessarily meant to hurt anyone. Innuendo, on the other hand, can be used in a negative way to poke fun at (make fun of, tease) someone or something.
A euphemism is a polite term used to refer to an impolite term. This makes sure that impolite topics can be spoken of in a polite way. Think of something that people may be uncomfortable talking about in polite company (people you should be more formal with), for example sex, death, or going to the toilet- we can guarantee that there’s an euphemism for it.
Examples of Innuendo
Innuendo is everywhere once you start looking for it. Like the Seinfeld episode “The Contest,” innuendos in English are placed everywhere to add a little “wink wink nudge nudge” to movies, TV, and even literature (we’re looking at you, Shakespeare).
For example, Hollywood puts tons of innuendo in children’s movies in order to make them more entertaining for adults. As an adult, have you ever watched a movie you loved when you were a kid and realized that it was much funnier than you remember? That could be due to innuendo.
The Shrek and Toy Story movies are great examples of this. Here are two examples:
Shakespeare was the king of innuendo, even back in the 1600s. His plays are notoriously dirty (having sexual humor), but most people don’t notice this today since the ways we refer to things with innuendo have changed over the last few hundred years.
Shakespeare’s innuendos can be a bit lengthy (long, complicated) to explain, so check out this great article from Mental Floss about some of Shakespeare’s greatest innuendos in English.
The key to using innuendos in English is to think about things in two ways: the more innocent (pure, safe) meaning, and the dirtier or more subversive (harmful, inflammatory) meaning.
Where else have you heard innuendos in English? Share some of your favorite examples with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and really enjoys watching Pixar and Disney films as an adult..how can get away with all these innuendos??