Do You Understand These Puns?

Puns are everywhere

It has become common in movie titles and in everyday speech to shorten idioms and proverbs. As a subtitler, I have come across many instances of such puns. They might be easy-breezy for a native speaker to understand, but they can also be an obstacle for foreigners to actually get the meaning. Here are some examples:

What happens in Vegas

stays in Vegas – a movie with Cameron Diaz. This idiom means that something happened, and it happened here, nobody needs to know it. We should keep it a secret.

When in Rome…

do as the Romans do – I heard it in a TED presentation by a woman. She explained that the Quran says that you should adjust to the customs of the country you live in.

Obviously, this is a proverb that originated in ancient times. It is used commonly, and it has been shortened so often, some people don’t understand it anymore. It’s an analogy making use of the strict rule of the ancient Roman empire, and synonymous with “Going with the flow,” or doing something because everyone else is doing it. Basically, it means to adapt.

Every cloud has a…

silver lining –Every bad situation has some good aspects to it. This proverb is usually used as an encouragement to a person who is overcome by some difficulty and is unable to see any positive way forward.

I came, I saw…

I conquered – I heard it in A$AP Rocky’s song “Praise The Lord” and I thought it is fun and shows how surprisingly well educated the author is. The whole phrase is “I came, I saw, I conquered” or “Veni, Vidi, Vici” in Latin. It is believed that Julius Caesar used it in a letter that was sent to the Roman Senate after his swift victory in a short war. Since Ancient times this sentence was modified by many people to show their supremacy over someone.


in distress – the stereotype of a girl who should be saved. You can call a girl “damsel” if she gets into trouble all the time and needs help.

A friend in need…

is a friend indeed – This is a phrase that must have originated in ancient times too. The meaning seems to be obvious, you only understand who is your friend is when he helps you, but the shortened phrase (a friend in need) started being used for a friend you call only when you need a favor.

Everything that glitters…

is not gold – it is used to say that looks can be deceiving.

Can you add your own example?

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