BOSTON (CBS) – Having elicited groans from all corners with my incessant penchant to fire off puns, I know a thing or two about how some react to what I claim to be clever wordplay. English is a language fraught with bendable rules with enough antonyms, homonyms and synonyms to keep an enthusiastic punster fueled for a lifetime. Despite the inevitable cringing that is often induced, under our Constitution there is nothing illegal or immoral about twisting words and phrases to fit pun. The framers made certain that humor, including what some consider its lowest form, be protected. Not so in other places. When was the last time you heard a one-liner, limerick, shaggy dog story or knock-knock joke worth repeating that had its birth in a comedy club sanctioned by Sharia law? Thought so.
Which brings us to good old mainland Red China. I was disturbed but not entirely surprised to read that the Communist Chinese government is banning the use of wordplay in print, radio and television.
This is most unfair and unfortunate because Chinese is an exciting language with numerous dialects and offshoots. It is a pun-rich culture. But the repressive government is now officially banning such wordplay suggesting that it makes promoting cultural heritage harder, especially for children. It’s all about the iron fisted rule of law that streams from the People’s Council. The order from the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television puts it this way, in loving government-speak: “Radio and TV 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.”
The edict is truly insidious. Already controlled for decades by Communist thought police, Chinese citizens are now being forced to cede the right to the most basic of freedoms. The right to laugh or yes turn one’s nose up at a pun, what some refer to as the lowest form of jocularity. Forgive them, they know not of what they speak.
Expect an underground movement in China to take up action, not to mention words. Puns will be smuggled in, freedom writers will attack where they can and the people will rise up to say…bu! (That’s NO in Mandarin). No oppressive regime can ever truly rob the people of their inalienable right to go idiotic with idioms.
To the Chinese government I issue this warning: You are Peking up the wrong tree, your citizens have a Yen to be free, so stop erecting another Great Wall to freedom. The Chinese are a wonderful people. To quote that wise old lawgiver whose fellow Israelites were struggling to free themselves of bondage, “Let my people groan!” Or something to that effect.