Chinese government wants to ban puns

Chinese media regulators have called on broadcasters to end the widespread, longstanding practice of using puns, idiom and wordplay in everyday communications, advertisement, jokes, and political speech.

This can be viewed as part of the ongoing centralization of language itself, part of Beijing's campaign against the rich variety in dialects in Chinese speech; but it would also be useful in fighting the widespread use of puns to get around Chinese network censorship, such as the infamous grass mud horse song.

But the order from the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television says: "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."

Programmes and adverts should strictly comply with the standard spelling and use of characters, words, phrases and idioms – and avoid changing the characters, phrasing and meanings, the order said.

"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.

"That's the most ridiculous part of this: [wordplay] is so much part and parcel of Chinese heritage," said David Moser, academic director for CET Chinese studies at Beijing Capital Normal University.

China bans wordplay in attempt at pun control [Tania Branigan/The Guardian]

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(Image: Grass Mud Horse Seal, bt4wang, CC-BY-SA)