China’s media office is cracking down on puns.

And not because they’re terrible — they claim that wordplay is confusing, and damaging to cultural heritage. But is this just an attempt to control dissent?

By the way, how many characters should there be in a Chinese tweet?

Linguist Daniel Midgley checks it out on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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Promo with James Hall

Show notes


Lake Superior State University’s list of banned words

Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?

About half the world’s languages use tone instead of stress.

Here’s ‘ma’ in all four tones.

Coca-Cola: The real story behind “Bite the wax tadpole”

Chinese puns: There are a lot to choose from

Guardian: China bans wordplay in attempt at pun control

Punning banned in China

This goes way back. ‘To evade censors, bloggers have referred to the dissident artist Ai Weiwei by using the Chinese characters for “love the future,” a rough homonym of his name.’

Ladies and gentlemen: the Grass Mud Horse, a Chinese meme

Deng Xiaoping

Let’s not forget Liu Xiaobo

Slow Down! Why Some Languages Sound So Fast,8599,2091477,00.html

Regardless of language, people give information at about the same rate. (PDF)

140 Characters On Chinese Twitter Is More Like 500 Characters On

“Chinese words tend to be short on average—only 1.5 characters per word, compared with 5.1 letters per word for English.”

How much can one express in 140 characters? Comparison between English and other languages like Chinese

How ‘Neurosexism’ Feeds Stereotypes About Male and Female Brains

Show tunes

‘Miss China’ by Machine Translations
from the album Wolf on a String
Spotify link |

‘Brain in a Bottle’ by Thom Yorke
from the album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Vimeo link

If you like the graphic of the Grass Mud Horse and the River Crab, you can buy a copy here on Jessie Wong’s website.