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Joking in China



Paul Simon replies to the posting on political jokes, which asked about such jokes in China. He replies: "The Chinese have a wonderful sense of humor and comedy shows abound on radio and TV. In my second year of language training, I spent many a happy hour with the school maintenance man, swapping jokes. It let me discover what was funny to people from the Chinese culture. I discovered three monumental differences between US and Chinese humor. One: Many Chinese jokes are linguistic, based on subtle differences in tone or two words sounding the same and resulting misunderstandings.

Two: Chinese don't seem as big on "pulling your leg" or telling an outrageous lie for humor's sake. I suspect this is because the duped listener is made to lose face, very bad. Three: I think Americans are the most sarcastic people on earth sometimes, although Hollywood is spreading the US penchant for gallows humor. I recall one friend getting in a car accident while ill and on his way to divorce court and quipping, "well, at least it's raining". The sarcasm and irony don't exist at that level in China.

But if you are talking about political jokes, they are common in China. Many center around former Premier and current RenDa head Li Peng. Li is rumored to be quite stupid, and jokes about his idiocy are common.

Of course, no one publishes these..."

My comment: I must do some anatomical research on expressions "pulling his leg" (the Spanish say "taking his hair") and "losing face", Of course "heads or tails" is easy. Humor is now a subject of sociological research.

Ronald Hilton - 2/3/02


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