enter image description here

dialogue of an NPC in the game.

I ran forward into the crowd, yelling for them to stop, but… I… I tripped and fell in the mud. I looked up and saw the face of a kindly grandmother. I reached for her hand and…she kicked me right in the teeth.

players reaction options.

1.That's horrible
2.You got beat up by an old woman?

if you choose 2, response is:

You may think this is funny now, but it was devastating at the time.

picture comes from a PC game.

Is there a pun here? (the idiom "a kick in the teeth")

Or simply mean a real kick in the face?

  • Is it a character that now has no teeth as he tells the story from long ago? It would explain the statement "it's funny now but it wasn't funny back then". – jeancallisti Sep 11 '18 at 17:16

NO, there is not a pun

As has already been explained, "a kick in the teeth" is a fairly common expression which figuratively means someone has betrayed you.

However in your example it actually says "she kicked me right in the teeth". This makes it very specific, and actually implies that it was a literal kick in the teeth. This is further evidenced by the detailed description - the person was lying on the floor and reached up to someone else to help them, but they kicked them in the teeth, which would be logistically possible in that position. If it wasn't for this additional context I might have wondered if it was a bad translation of the idiom "a kick in the teeth", but as it is I believe it is meant literally.

  • By my recollection of the game in question, it's definitely meant literally. Lots of Linu's dialogue is about the disastrous consequences of her extreme unluckiness/physical clumsiness. – Carcer Sep 11 '18 at 14:26
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    I definitely agree that she was kicked, literally. However, I think it's arguable that it can be considered a pun. The desciption builds up the idea of a kind grandmother she needed help from - but instead betrayed/assaulted her (as per the metaphorical meaning of a "kick in the teeth"). I'd argue that double meaning is a perfect example of a good pun. – Bilkokuya Sep 11 '18 at 15:22
  • thanks a lot. Since most of you guys think it is literally then it is. Linu fell in the mud.Her face can be kicked without effort. It is not a situation so complex and need to be figurative here. – oyss Sep 11 '18 at 16:20
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    +1.Just would like to add that "you may think this is funny now" doesn't mean that there was some pun in the original phrase, but just that the player's reaction, "you got beat up by an old woman?", looks like an attempt to mock. – IMil Sep 11 '18 at 22:48
  • @Bilkokuya I half agree with you. I think a "pun" is strictly intentional, and meant to be funny. I don't think there is any intentional humour to be derived from the duality of meaning. However I think its a possibility that the writer knew of the idiom and used it ironically. The whole scenario is like the metaphor has been literally played out. – Astralbee Sep 12 '18 at 9:32

The word right there means "directly, not to any degree indirectly" or "precisely" or "exactly".

He stepped right in a pile of dog-shit.

The train arrived right on time.

You can put the letter right on that table there beside you.

Tell me where it hurts. Here?
--Ouch! Yes, right there.

So, she kicked me right in the teeth literally means that gave him or her a kick directly in the mouth.

I assume you are asking about a "pun" because of the phrase You may think this is funny now.... I do not see any sort of pun but a reversal of the kindly grandmother stereotype and mockery in player response #2, You got beat up by an old woman? The phrase to get beat(en) up means to be struck multiple times, again and again. Bullies beat people up, for example. The game's question #2 does not accurately reflect what happened in that regard, and it mocks the victim by implying that he or she was overcome and defeated in a fight by an old woman who was presumably physically weak. That is why the game replies "You may think this is funny now...". A person who mocks an injured victim in that manner would probably be laughing derisively. At the very least they see humor in the situation. The victim does not find it funny.

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    because there is an idiom "a kick in the teeth" which actually no literally kicking involved. – oyss Sep 11 '18 at 13:41
  • @oyss: I'm not sure what you're trying to say. I need a main clause. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 11 '18 at 14:31

After reading other answers, I have to say this is certainly literal, but not for the reason people are claiming. The idiom is:

a kick in the teeth

Note that the word kick is a noun in this context.

When switched from a noun to an active verb, the sentence suddenly becomes more visceral, more real, and thus takes on the literal meaning:

She kicked me in the teeth.

In general, adding words like "right" for emphasis to these types of idioms describing physical actions does not change the meaning, it simply makes it stronger.

He hit the nail on the head --> He hit the nail right on the head.

Her response was a kick in the teeth --> Her response was a kick straight in the teeth.

The above phrases retain their idiomatic meaning even with the addition of the emphasis words in the middle. It is the grammatical change that shifts the tone from idiomatic to literal in this case.


Kick in the teeth is actually an idiomatic expression:

If you describe the way someone treats you as a kick in the teeth, you mean that that person treats you badly and unfairly, especially at a time when you need their support:

As in:

  • She was dismissed from her job, which was a real kick in the teeth after all the work she'd done. (Cambridge Dictionary)

In the extract you posted, it appears to be a figurative usage of the expression, probably to create an effect of surprise given the “face of a kindly grandmother ” who could have helped the author.

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    you missed the important word "right" as in "right in the teeth" which changes it from figurative to literal, especially as the person was on the ground – WendyG Sep 11 '18 at 9:47
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    @WendyG - I didn’t miss that, “right” is used to add emphasis, literal or figurative as it may be. I think the author is playing on the two aspects of the expression. – user070221 Sep 11 '18 at 9:52
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    No, the context is clearly that the person was literally kicked in the teeth. – pboss3010 Sep 11 '18 at 12:47
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    @user070221 Have to say I agree with WendyG and others. "Right in the teeth" implies a measure of accuracy, just like "right between the eyes" would mean squarely in the middle. It just doesn't make any sense to say you could accurately kick someone in the figurative teeth. I discuss the context in my answer. – Astralbee Sep 11 '18 at 13:40
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    I don't think it's possible to rule out either use of the word 'right' here, as either an indicator of accuracy or emphasis. In the context of the original snippet there doesn't seem to be an indication of betrayal though, so the accuracy meaning seems more likely – Dave Sep 11 '18 at 14:54

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