Archive for Puns

Ginger tea

[This is a guest post by Mark Swofford]

Those who have never lived in northern Taiwan during the winter may scoff at the idea that 11 °C (52 °F) can seem miserably cold. But cold it is here nevertheless, especially during a week of seemingly endless rain.

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Can't work because of the Ukraine crisis

Article by Manya Koetse:

"Chinese Term ‘Wuxin Gongzuo’:

Can’t Focus on Work Due to Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Chinese netizens are so focused on the Russian attack on Ukraine that nobody can focus on work (wuxin gongzuo)."

What's on Weibo (2/24/22)                                                                         

Here's the new expression that has gone viral:

wū xīn gōngzuò

乌心工作

lit., "U[kraine] heart-mind work"

This is word-play for:

wúxīn gōngzuò

无心工作

"don't have a mind to work; not in the mood for work")

where wū 乌 is short for "Wūkèlán 乌克兰" (transcription of "Ukraine") and stands for "wú 无" ("no; not; without; do not have"), hence "wúxīn gōngzuò 无心工作" ("do not have the mind for work")

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Another multilingual, multiscriptal sign in Taiwan

Mark Swofford sent in this photograph of a clever, curious sign at an automobile repair shop in Taiwan:

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Punny cookbook

Cover page of a cookbook published in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

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Happy Niú Year!

These days I'm getting so many greetings like this:

Chūnjié jiànkāng, niú zhuǎn qiánkūn.

春节健康,牛转乾坤。

"May you be healthy at this time of the Spring Festival, when the ox turns heaven and earth (the universe)."

The first part of this Lunar New Year's (February 12, 2021) greeting is transparent and easy to understand, but the second part makes you stop and wonder, "What?  How and why does the ox do that?"

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Soused noodles / face

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

An unfortunate cultural misunderstanding has occurred in the attached image:

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Juicy chicken

Mark Swofford sent this photograph of a dish on a menu in a Taiwanese restaurant chain:

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Boogaloo

Boogaloo is in the news these days, in reference to what a recent Forbes article calls "a loose group of far-right individuals who are pro-gun, anti-government, and believe that another civil war in America is imminent". The politics is complex and evolving, as a USA Today article explains:

[T]here are various facets to the loosely organized group: One generally stems from its original ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists, while a newer facet is libertarian.

"There's a lot of overlap and the boundary is blurry because they both evolved together," said Alex Newhouse, digital research lead at Middlebury Institute's Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism. "It is very difficult to know if the 'boogaloo boi' you see standing in the middle of the street at a protest is there in solidarity or to incite violence."

For further details, see the Wikipedia entry for "Boogaloo movement". The term's linguistic history poses the puzzle of how the name of a Latinx and Black dance fashion came to be adopted by white supremacists:

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Impressive Arabic translational improvisations and impostures

Since 1979, being in a department that proudly called itself "Oriental Studies", a distinguished component of which was Arabic Studies, I had often heard of "maqama" and was quite aware that it was a virtuoso literary form:

Maqāmah (مقامة, pl. maqāmāt, مقامات, literally "assemblies") are an (originally) Arabic prosimetric literary genre which alternates the Arabic rhymed prose known as Saj‘ with intervals of poetry in which rhetorical extravagance is conspicuous.

Source

Now, a new rendering of al-Ḥarīrī's masterpiece of the genre by Michael Cooperson, titled simply Impostures, attempts to convey in English the wild exuberance of the language of the original:

"Fiction: Fifty Approaches to an Antic Arabic Masterpiece:  The Maqāmāt shows off all that Arabic can do. This translation shows off English in the same flattering light."  By Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal (June 26, 2020)

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Pandemic pun

Of the hundreds of pandemic memes that come to me, this is one that I didn't fully understand when I first received it:

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Memes, parodies, puns, and other devices for discussing the coronavirus inside the Great Firewall

In the PRC, you'd best not say anything about COVID-19.  It's more or less forbidden for citizens to talk about it, much less question the government's handling of the CRISIS (not a "dangerous opportunity").  Even the name and the very existence of the disease are highly problematic.  Still, despite all the draconian censorship, people figure out various ways to circumvent the prohibitions and express their feelings and opinions.

"The coronavirus is inspiring memes, parodies and art in Asia as a way to cope", by David Pierson, Los Angeles Times (3/6/20)

"‘Noodles’ and ‘Pandas’: Chinese People Are Using Secret Code to Talk About Coronavirus Online".  "'Vietnamese pho noodles,' anyone?", by David Gilbert, VICE (3/6/20)

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Winnie the Flu

Tweet from Joshua Wong 黃之鋒, Secretary-General of Demosistō:

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"Vegetable English" vs. "Korea Fish" in Taiwan's presidential election

As we have seen over and over again, banning, blocking, and censorship of the internet make it almost impossible for Chinese citizens to openly discuss anything that is slightly sensitive on the political scale (see "Selected readings" below).  But netizens are highly resourceful, and they have continuously been able to think of creative ways to comment on current affairs through punning and other linguistic maneuvers.

"Chinese netizens declare 'Vegetable English' defeats 'Korea Fish' in Taiwan election:  Chinese netizens mock censors by describing Taiwanese presidential candidates as 'Vegetable English,' 'Korea Fish'"

By Keoni Everington, Taiwan News, Staff Writer (1/12/20)

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