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At the end of The Big Bang Theory season 1 episode 13, Penny asks Sheldon and Leonard:

Tweety bird says "I tawt I taw a... ???"

In fact I am French, I saw the episode in French and Penny asks

Titi a dit "J'ai cru voir​ un... ???"

and Sheldon answers "un Romulien" which vaguely sounds like "un gros minet" (a puddy-tat). So in French it does make sense!

I was wondering what the pun was in English, and I found out that it is also "a Romulan".

But "Romulan" has absolutely no resemblance with "puddy-tat". So what is the joke, in English?

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    Just that ? Just a nerdy thing ? In french it is a nerdy thing that happens to sound vaguely correct. In english, just nerdy is enough ? I suppose I'll have to do with that... I'll accept it, but if anyone has something more to say, I understand more answers can be given event after one answer is accepted, isn't it so ?
    – Alfred
    Oct 6, 2019 at 22:23
  • ooops.. that was just a comment, not an answer.. So let's wait till someone proposes something else.
    – Alfred
    Oct 6, 2019 at 22:26
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    New answers can be given at any time, even if one is accepted.
    – OrangeDog
    Oct 7, 2019 at 10:54
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    This is probably a stretch, but Romulin ships are often refereed to as, "birds-of-prey". They're pretty iconic in Star Trek compared with other alien ships. It doesn't add any real humor though--just another off-hand coincidence. Oct 7, 2019 at 14:24
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    @DarthLocke because they have (or had) literal birds of prey painted on them, because they're Roman Empire expys.
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 10, 2020 at 14:40

3 Answers 3

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There is no deeper joke in English. It is "funny" simply because Sheldon said something nerdy yet incorrect in a confident manner.

That it apparently also makes a pun in French is une bonne coïncidence.

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A proper answer would require a comment from the script writer or Sheldon himself. However, none of the other answers currently have mentioned that since Romulans invented cloaking devices in the Star Trek original series to Voyager canon (reconned in Enterprise) - seeing a Romulan (ship) is something of an event - as it means they have chosen to be seen and may be about to attack. Which is a threat to one's life - much like a cat is a threat to a bird.

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Late to the party; was just watching this episode. It’s funny because it shows their obsession with StarTrek; that’s about the limit of their pop culture. It highlights their insular relationship with/from society.

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