How about wit in Mandarin? I must admit my Chinese is not as strong, but when it comes to word play, the joke is on the language, not on the writer. Read on and see if you agree.

Question: What’s the first bird on earth?

Answer: It is the duck. Because duck is written as Chinese character for duckin Chinese, comprising the Chinese character for "A"character which literally means “A” (as in “ABCD”) and Chinese character for birdcharacter meaning bird. Which means the duck is an A-bird, so it should therefore be the first bird on earth.

Get the drift? Good. Now try to guess the answer to the next question. You may be surprised by your power of observation!

Question: A chicken Chinese character for chickenhappened to walk by. So, what did the duck say to the chicken?

Answer: Hey, you’re just another bird! You see, the Simplified Chinese character for chicken is composed of the Chinese character for againcharacter, which means again, and as usual the character for bird. So the chicken is just another bird, really.

I bet you have never looked at Chinese characters in this amusing way. In a broad sense, many Chinese characters are formed from other basic characters that may hint at their meanings. Of course, here we are just twisting it and enjoying some clean fun through our eye for wit.

Going along the same lines, Mr. Goose Chinese character for goosewould say to the duck and chicken: “Me, the goose, is also a bird” (“me-bird” is the literal decomposition). And Chinese character for crowthe crow is showing its tongue — is this why the crow is considered ugly?

Now, let’s take it up one notch. Think of a riddle for the heron Chinese character for heron

This is my take:

Question: Why did the heron not cross the road?

Answer: Because the road is overhead.

Gotcha, didn’t I? Not bad for a Chinese variation of the popular ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?” type of riddle, I’d say 😉

This way of “disturbing” the Chinese language would have incurred my teacher’s ire in my school days (ages ago). However, today’s learning environment is more accommodative and creative, and people do laugh more. So don’t hold back, put on your thinking cap and amuse others.

Nowadays, some Chinese TV programme titles even exploit play with words to their advantage, like the serial Title of Chinese serial, "The In-laws" (actually a word play on spicy Sichuan dofu dish)(English title: “The In-laws”) now showing on Channel 8. This title sounds the same as the spicy Sichuan dofu dish Chinese word for spicy Sichuan dofu dishand is obviously a word play. It is also suggestive of the show’s theme: “spicy” situations between mother and daughters-in-law.

Just in case purists out there (think Chinese language teachers) are alarmed, I’d have to tell them to lighten up and enjoy the fun. Even the influential Chinese media is doing it. So we should all relac (Singlish word: Malay slang for relax) and have a ball. And be WittyCulus, of course.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>