China Has Banned Puns in an Attempt to Stifle Government Criticism
In a move described as an effort to prevent "cultural and linguistic chaos," China's State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has banned puns and other forms of "misleading" wordplay. Critics of this decision say the government is just trying to crack down on jokes about poor leadership.
In a move described as an effort to prevent “cultural and linguistic chaos,” China’s State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has banned puns and other forms of “misleading” wordplay. Tania Branigan of The Guardian has the scoop:
“From online discussions to adverts, Chinese culture is full of puns. But the country’s print and broadcast watchdog has ruled that there is nothing funny about them. It has banned wordplay on the grounds that it breaches the law on standard spoken and written Chinese, makes promoting cultural heritage harder and may mislead the public – especially children.”
If you have a base knowledge of Mandarin and Chinese culture, you’re familiar with how many homophones the language has. Wordplay is as Chinese as the Great Wall and Chairman Mao. But the government has apparently taken a stance in favor of promoting an untarnished form of the language, apparently for reasons relating to cultural protection.
Branigan interviewed one expert who believes there’s more to this crackdown than totalitarian grammar. One of the most popular uses of puns in Chinese is to make jokes. It appears the Chinese government is angry at how often it has been the target of these punny jests. Another theory is that internet users have been utilizing puns in order to get past government censors. A prohibition on wordplay could cut into their cleverness.
And finally, since you knew it was coming: “A Chinese ban on puns? How disorienting.”
“Discrimination still exists. Some people feel that their own beliefs are being threatened. Some are unhappy about unfamiliar cultures. They all need to be reassured that there is so much to be gained by reaching out to others; that diversity is indeed a strength and not a threat.”