Archive for Puns

Vulgar Cantonese elegantly displayed

This curious Cantonese couplet appeared on Weibo today:

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Bilingual wordplay on a Taipei sign

From Tom Mazanac:

I came across this sign on the subway recently:

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Some recent news and posts from

OMG, it’s nougat (4/15/23) — "OMG" borrowed into Mandarin

A long post on puns, multiscriptal writing, and the difficulties of Hanzi.

Puns piled upon puns.

Microsoft Translator and Pinyin (4/15/23)

Microsoft's not very good character-to-Pinyin conversion.

They have the resources and could surely do better.

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Running from China

The following image is from a guest post on the Tangle newsletter (3/3/23) that comes from a Chinese dissident who recently fled to the U.S.:

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The difficulty of expressing "nothing"

This is a clever attempt to write a spring couplet (chūnlián 春聯), not in the usual Sinoglyphs / Chinese characters, but in pictographs:


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Winnie the Pooh in a bottle

Netizens in Taiwan are having fun sharing a photo of a beverage promotion that comes with a Winnie doll in a bottle.

(source of photo and article in Chinese)

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RUN = wrong

Last spring, when Shanghai was in the midst-of a harsh, months-long lockdown, so many people were thinking of running away from the city that they even developed a "RUN-ology" (rùnxué 潤學, i.e., how to escape and go abroad), where "RUN" is a Chinese pun for English "run".

Original meanings of Mandarin rùn 潤:

  1. wet; moist
  2. sleek
  3. to moisten; to wet
  4. to polish (a piece of writing, etc.); to touch up
  5. profit (excess of revenue over cost)


"RUNning away from Shanghai" (5/13/22)

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Typos as a means for circumventing censorship

Article in China Digital Times (CDT):

"List of Derogatory Nicknames for Xi Leaked Amid Crackdown on 'Typos'”, by Joseph Brouwer (7/20/22)

In all of my many years of following China's censorship saga, I have never seen the government so determined to expunge even the slightest expression of dissent or disapproval on the part of citizens.  The reason is fairly simple:  at the 20th Party Congress to be convened this fall, Chairman / President / General Secretary Xi Jinping is going to attempt something unprecedented in the history of the People's Republic of China (PRC) since the time of its founder, Mao Zedong:, viz., to make himself Paramount Leader for life (no term limits!).  Since not everybody — including members of other factions in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — is pleased with this proposed arrangement, tensions are running high, to put it mildly.

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"Grass Mud Horse" and other homophonic puns threatened with extinction

Article by Manya Koetse, What's on Weibo (7/13/22):

Weibo Vows to Crack Down on Homophones and ‘Misspelled’ Words to “Stop Spread of Harmful Information”

Creative language targeted by Weibo. Is this great Chinese online tradition in danger of dying out?

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Chinese social media platform Weibo announced that it will crack down on the use of homophones and ‘misspelled words’ by netizens in order to create a more “healthy” online environment and stop the spread of “misinformation.”

The announcement became a trending topic on the platform on Wednesday, receiving over 180 million views.

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Half-vast ideas

A CNN interview with former National Security Adviser John Bolton about the January 6th hearings is getting lots of attention for his casual observation, "As somebody who has helped plan coups d'état — not here, but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work."

Shortly before that (about 40 seconds into the above video clip), there was another notable line, in which Bolton dismissed the idea that Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results constituted "a carefully planned coup d'état":

That's not the way Donald Trump does things. It's rambling from one half-vast idea to another. One plan that falls through and another comes up.

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Orthographic-crosslingual pun

Xiaowan Cai received this picture from a friend of hers who is on exchange from Oxford University at Kyoto University.  Everything in all four languages on the sign looks pretty normal, except that there is a not easily detectable, extraordinary gaffe — or ingenious tour de force — in the Chinese.

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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


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

This is word-play for:

wúxīn gōngzuò


"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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