Trying to limit what your citizens can and cannot say isn’t a sign of something much more terrifying, is it?
The Chinese culture is full of puns. Most of these puns don’t translate well to English at all and it’s hard to explain what they are, but believe us when we tell you that they are popular. Unfortunately for people who like puns, the country’s print and broadcast regulators have decided that there is nothing enjoyable about a pun.
In fact, from online discussions to advertisements, puns have been banned. The State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television say that they have banned wordplay on the grounds that it breaches the law on standard spoken and written Chinese, which makes promoting cultural heritage harder and may mislead the public. The Administration believes that a few casual wordplay jokes risk “cultural and linguistic chaos.”
The State Administration recently said “Radio and television authorities at all levels must tighten up their regulations and crack down on the irregular and inaccurate use of the Chinese language, especially the misuse of idioms.”
Furthermore, programming and advertising companies have been asked to strictly comply with the standard spelling and use of characters, words, phrases, and idioms.
The State Administration doesn’t want people to poke fun at idioms found in the Chinese language. “Idioms are one of the great features of the Chinese language and contain profound cultural heritage and historical resources and great aesthetic, ideological and moral values,” it added.
David Moser, the Academic Director for CET Chinese Studies at Beijing Capital Normal University is upset by the new ban on wordplay, stating “That’s the most ridiculous part of this: [wordplay] is so much part and parcel of Chinese heritage.”
An example of a pun that upsets the pun haters out there involves a tourism campaign. The phrase jin shan jin mei – perfection – translates to “Shanxi, a land of splendors” after you tweak a few of the letters.
As you can imagine, internet users are trying to find alternative ways to crack puns to each other. This latest censor in China is worrisome to David Moser, as he worries this is a sign for worse things to come.
“But I wonder if this is not a preemptive move; an excuse to crack down for supposed ‘linguistic purity reasons’ on the cute language people use to crack jokes about the leadership or policies. It sounds to convenient.”
No word yet on what the punishment for cracking a pun is. Hopefully you won’t have to spend anytime in the punitentiary.