China Won't Let Ads Have Any Pun In Its Latest, Distinctly Un-Punny Crackdown

It certainly has a reputation for stringent censorship, but the Chinese government is giving new meaning to punishment. Its latest censorship campaign is apparently targeting clever word play, because Chinese media regulators have banned puns in advertisements and broadcasts. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued a notice on its site stating that puns are "contradictory in spirit to the promotion and continuance of excellent, traditional Chinese culture." I guess there goes that "It's Pandamonium!" billboard the zoo was planning.

The SAPPRFT (who clearly does not enforce acronym regulations) very seriously explained why there's no such thing as good old-fashioned pun. Its issue also stated (as translated by the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian):

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.... 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.... [However] they can create misunderstandings for the public, especially for minors. They need to be firmly corrected.

In short, puns could cause "cultural and linguistic chaos." While I would have suggested handing out crackers to help manage all that cheese, the Chinese government is not taking any chances. In fact, China has banned all performances of Quills — it was a play on words. And who can blame them? There have been at least a dozen cases of government overthrows prompted by corny word jokes. Just kidding, that has literally never happened. Either way, one thing is for sure: The Chinese government's probably not going to be sponsoring local Punderdomes anytime soon.

Examples of Chinese Punning

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One example that the SAPPRFT cited was in a tourism ad for Shangxi province. The ad's slogan, translated as "Shanxi, a land of splendors," was a pun on a Chinese expression for "perfection." That seems pretty harmless to me. I mean, you do want the ads to help sell the product, right?

Flying a Little Too Close to the Pun

A much less innocent example the SAPPRFT cited was the political pun, translated as "grass mud horse," which has come to symbolize defiance against Internet censorship in China. Because Chinese characters often sound exactly like a variety of other characters, "grass mud horse" sounds an awful lot like an obscenity involving "your mother."

All the Amazing Puns That Will Never See the Light of Day in China

Because of this new pun ban, the Chinese people will never see these nuggets of linguistic genius in their advertisements.

"Eat more bananas, be more appeeling." — Bananas

"It's the fursonality that counts." — Animal adoption center

"I relish the fact that you mustard the courage to ketchup to me. You're amayonnaising." — The condiment industry

"Sleeping comes naturally to us; we could do it with our eyes closed." — Sleep aids

"Our bicycles may be two-tired, but they can stand up to the test." — Bicycle company

Images: Getty Images (1), Wikipedia Commons (1), Annoying Orange (1)