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The meaning and origin of the expression: Double Entendre

Double Entendre

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Double Entendre'?

A figure of speech in which a phrase can be understood in two ways - one of them risqué. Commonly used to convey sexual puns.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Double Entendre'?

Double entendre'Double entendre' is a very suitable name for an expression that is intended to convey ambiguity as its own origin is spurious. It purports to be a French phrase and, in the mind of the English in the 17th century when the phrase was coined, anything French was inescapably risqué. In fact, the French phrase for 'double meaning' was then 'double entente' and more recently 'double sens'. 'Double entendre' was the invention of the English playwright John Dryden in the 1673 comic play Marriage a-la-Mode:

Foible, Chagrin, Grimace, Embarrasse, Double entendre, Equivoque.

It is indeed in England where double entendres are most fondly regarded, as much today as in the past. This could be because the residents prefer to hide sexual references behind a veil of respectability or it may be because double entendres are essentially ironic and no one enjoys comic irony like the English. If there can be said to be a collective English sense of humour, the gentle smutty wordplay of the seaside postcard, radio comedians and Ealing comedies is a strong contender.

There are myriad examples of double entendres in English and

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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