Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a pun and a double entendre? It's a good question, but not many people know the answer. Luckily for you, I do, and I'm here to share with you just how it is they differ.
A pun is a word that has two meanings. Crucially, the two meanings must both be immediately obvious for the word to be a pun. The double meaning is plain to see and almost always crucial to understanding the sentence.
A double entendre is like unto it. Whereas the pun is obvious, the double entendre is subtle. The double meaning of the double entendre is obscured to the point of being almost invisible.
Does that sound pedantic? Well, that's language for you.
To illustrate the difference, here is a bad tweet I made several years ago, before I'd learned how to be funny on Twitter.
I made it because I was foolishly enamored by what I supposed to be a pun -- the phrase "get into", which refers to both a state of being in one's jeans or a state of preference for those jeans. But people rarely speak about "getting into jeans" outside of putting them on their bodies. People don't normally share whether or not they personally jive with their trousers. It wasn't a pun. It was a double entendre.
And that's why it was a bad tweet. Without the double meaning, it reads like a trite anecdote: I tried skinny jeans, they didn't fit, end of story, who cares? The only level of appreciation for that tweet was as a double entendre. Assuming that nobody seeing that sentence gave it more than a passing thought (a reasonable assumption) the second meaning of that sentence was completely lost.
But there's a third wrench one must look out when juggling multiple meanings: the malapropism. Very few people recognize the double entendre, but everyone's heard a malapropism. In fact, it's so commonplace that it's often what people really mean when they talk about puns. Where a pun is a word that holds two meanings, a malapropism is a word that has been twisted to sound more like another word.
"Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" The orange is a malapropism.
And now you know.