China has banned the use of wordplay within its borders in all forms of media. No puns, idioms, or other creative uses of language allowed.
It sounds like a joke, but it’s true. According to The Guardian, the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television in China has ordered that all media shall use literal language and refrain from puns and other creative wordplay.
They claim that such wordplay makes it harder to expand cultural heritage and misleads the public, despite the fact that wordplay is an inherent part of Chinese culture. They state that it would create “cultural and linguistic chaos” to continue to do what they’ve been doing for centuries. As of yet, social order has not taken a licking from idiomatic use of the Chinese tongue.
The academic director for CET Chinese studies at Beijing Capital Normal University, David Moser, says, “It could just be a small group of people, or even one person, who are conservative, humourless, priggish and arbitrarily purist, so that everyone has to fall in line. But I wonder if this is not a preemptive move, an excuse to crack down for supposed ‘linguistic purity reasons’ on the cute language people use to crack jokes about the leadership or policies. It sounds too convenient.”
This could be likely, as Chinese internet users have been resourceful in using wordplay to discuss sensitive and subversive issues.
The order states, “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.”