Monday, March 16, 2009

"There's No Such Thing As An "Outside" Joke."

On the CJR blog, Megan Garber struggles masterfully to unpack an internet pun which has the hackles of the PRChinese censors (aka "moderators?") rising. It concerns the permutations of meaning that may be made from the combination of Chinese (Mandarin? Guongjong?) syllables that literally translate into English as “grass-mud horse”. Ms Garber exhausts a good 500-600 words explicating the tittilation therewith aroused in the layers of RChinese officialdom. To which there's a predictably very 'profane' (i.e., insulting) denoument.

I guess everybody knows that, in Chinese, inflection is the most important part of the semantic system. But the whole exercise led me (back) to one of my "dichos" (Scroll down along the right-hand margin) quoted in the Hed above. It got me thinking, anecdotally:
Puns are demonstrations of fluency.

Puns usually suffer in translation.

There's no such thing as an 'outside' joke.

Posted by woody on Mon 16 Mar 2009 at 07:52 PM

my favorite clean pun:
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

Can it be 'translated' in a way that makes one both laugh and think, simultaneously? Can there b e a 'literal translation' of a pun that retains the thing for which we appreciate puns, to the (greater or lesser) extent that we do: the anarchy of it??
Any ideas? This is something that interests me considerably. I used to know somebody with whom I could discuss it, but she's gone. So feed me back, sil vous plais?

1 comment:

Ruth said...