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

Utmost
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=utmost

Lake Superior State University’s list of banned words
http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php

Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?
http://time.com/3576870/worst-words-poll-2014/

About half the world’s languages use tone instead of stress.
http://books.google.com.au/book

Here’s ‘ma’ in all four tones.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-ZDrmP-N1s

Coca-Cola: The real story behind “Bite the wax tadpole”
http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history/2008/03/bite-the-wax-ta.html

Chinese puns: There are a lot to choose from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophonic_puns_in_Mandarin_Chinese#Political_criticism

Guardian: China bans wordplay in attempt at pun control
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/28/china-media-watchdog-bans-wordplay-puns

Punning banned in China
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=16011

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.’
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/asia/china-cracks-down-on-its-cagey-web-critics.html?_r=0

Ladies and gentlemen: the Grass Mud Horse, a Chinese meme
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass_Mud_Horse

Deng Xiaoping
http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/17/world/privately-more-and-more-chinese-say-it-s-past-time-for-deng-to-go.html

Let’s not forget Liu Xiaobo
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2699

Slow Down! Why Some Languages Sound So Fast
http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2091477,00.html

Regardless of language, people give information at about the same rate. (PDF)
http://www.ddl.ish-lyon.cnrs.fr/fulltext/pellegrino/Pellegrino_to%20appear_Language.pdf

140 Characters On Chinese Twitter Is More Like 500 Characters On Twitter.com
http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/140-characters-on-chinese-twitter-is-more-like-500-characters-on-twitter-com_b11951

“Chinese words tend to be short on average—only 1.5 characters per word, compared with 5.1 letters per word for English.”
http://persquaremile.com/2011/12/21/which-reads-faster-chinese-or-english/

How much can one express in 140 characters? Comparison between English and other languages like Chinese
http://people.oii.ox.ac.uk/hanteng/2013/04/16/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
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/how-neurosexism-feeds-stereotypes-about-mens-and-womens-brains


Show tunes

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

‘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.