Archive for Puns

"Horse of Cart"

Tom Mazanec has been seeing a series of strange ads all over the Shanghai subway.  They're for a company that does one-on-one oral English practice over Skype, called 51talk.com.

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BOGO

Joshua Harwood sent in the following photograph taken at a Samsung display in the major shopping center of Xinyi District, Taipei:

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Since the beginning of history

I have mentioned chinaSMACK before on Language Log, but have never featured it so directly as in this post.  The reason is that this time there's an interesting language aspect to one of their articles that is hard to pass up.

chinaSMACK specializes in translating trenchant, amazing stories from the vast amount of traffic that flows through China's microblogs and on the internet more generally.  Sometimes they are so bizarre and surreal that my initial reaction upon reading them — after being shocked senseless or laughing myself silly — is to dismiss them as Onionesque.  But that is usually impossible because they are so well documented.  In the present case, there is an initial news report and five stunning photographs.  Because the photographs are so gross and graphic, just downright disgusting, I won't show them directly on Language Log (especially not during the holidays), but readers can go to the link and see them with their own eyes.

"Excrement Tanker Explodes, Covering Everyone in Human Waste"  (12/28/14)

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Xinhua breaks ban on puns

I was going to write "Xinhua brakes ban on puns".  Upon reconsideration, I thought that would only lead to confusion, but it might at least have given an idea of how bad their pun is.

First of all, just so everyone knows, Xinhua is Xinhua ("New China") News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China.

Carl Minzner tweeted:

Open violation of ban on wordplay! Name of new Chinese state website dedicated to Xi Jinping? 学习进行时

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Thick toast: another new Cantonese pun

For the last few weeks, we have been pondering the ban on puns in the People's Republic of China: "When puns are outlawed …" (12/9/2014); "It's not just puns that are being banned in China" (12/7/14); "Punning banned in China"(11/29/14).

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Cantonese speakers are coming up with new words, most of them involving puns, practically every day: "New Cantonese word" (12/8/14).

The following is a guest post by Bob Bauer, who introduces us to yet another clever Hong Kong Cantonese punning expression.

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Oh my melon!

Bryan Van Norden is a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University this semester, and he ran across an interesting bit of language play. Below is a still (taken with his cell phone) of a television commercial currently running in the PRC. It is for a watermelon juice drink. As you can see, the tag line is a bilingual pun, substituting guā 瓜 ("melon") for "God."


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Banned in Beijing

Everyone knows that the Chinese government goes to extraordinary lengths to police the internet (see: "Blocked on Weibo").

And most sentient beings are aware of the awesome fame of the Grass-Mud Horse, the notorious Franco-Croatian Squid, and and the mysterious River Crab.  You can find all of them in "Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon Classics".

Sometimes, the censors begin to look pretty ridiculous, as when they outlawed the word "jasmine" in 2011, particularly since it refers not just to the Jasmine Revolution, but also to a favorite flower, tea, and folk song.

mòlì 茉莉 ("jasmine")

mòlì chá 茉莉茶 ("jasmine tea") OR mòlìhuā chá 茉莉花茶 ("jasmine tea") OR xiāngpiàn 香片 ("scented [usually with jasmine] tea")

mòlìhuā 茉莉花 ("jasmine flower", name of a popular folk song; presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao were both excessively fond of this song, and there are videos of them singing it, so it becomes especially awkward to try to forbid citizens to use the word mòlì 茉莉 ("jasmine")

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Darling train tickets

In celebration of Valentine's Day, special commemorative train tickets for a trip between Dàlín (大林) and Guīlái (歸來) were a big hit in Taiwan this morning.

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A bilingual, biscriptal product designation in Taiwan

Well, it's not quite as complex as the mixture of languages and scripts that we addressed in "A trilingual, triscriptal ad in the Taipei subway", but the following group of four characters and four phonetic symbols on the container of a fish-based food flavoring (here's the company's web page for this project) raises plenty enough interesting issues to merit its own post.

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Mandarin by the numbers

As spectacularly demonstrated by this YouTube video, it is amazing how much one can say in Mandarin simply by punning with numbers alone:


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Cho-Sen Garden

Michael Robinson sent in this photograph of a strip mall in Flushing Meadows taken by Spencer Kiser and posted on Flickr:

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Sea Bay Restaurant

Thomas Lumley sent in this nice multilingual pun from Sydney, Australia:

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