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Lanier World

China bans puns in broadcasts, ads; media reacts

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Western media often takes no small pleasure in lampooning China's totalitarian government and its occasionally silly decrees. But this time, things got a little out of hand.

The trouble started with an edict from the country's media regulation agency banning the use of puns or wordplay in advertisements and broadcasts. 

The agency cites ad campaigns which played on common Chinese phrases, warning such puns "create misunderstandings for the public, especially for minors," and can lead to "cultural and linguistic chaos."

But those concerns weren't enough to stop international media outlets from exercising the rights that their Chinese brethren recently lost.

RTFox News and The Wall Street Journal were all willing to test how flexible the word "pun" itself can get.

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Mediaite came up with this little gem, which might be racist. We're not really sure.

And local Colorado magazine The Rooster, not generally known for international coverage, took full advantage of this story to jam as many puns into our faces as they could manage. Good job, guys.

Oh, and this probably goes without saying, but China's pun-averse media censors should never, ever visit Reddit. Ever.

All joking aside, there is a serious reason to care about this seemingly ridiculous story. In a country where oppressive media laws restrict political speech, wordplay and euphemisms are a common method of getting around the censors.

The most commonly-cited example is the "Grass Mud Horse": three Chinese characters which mean either a mythical alpaca-like creature or an unprintable obscenity about mothers depending on how you read them.

Other notable animal examples include the "River Crab," which in Chinese sounds like the word for "Harmony" and can refer to censorship; and the "Valley Dove," an animal which sounds like Google and can no longer be found in China.

Government subversion aside, Language Log notes puns are a central component of China's linguistic culture. "Because of the huge number of homophones in the language, punning is super easy in Mandarin, and Chinese are extremely fond of engaging in this type of verbal play."

One expert told The Guardian, given the cultural significance of puns, it's hard to imagine Chinese authorities cracking down on harmless wordplay unless they are targeting dissent.

"That's the most ridiculous part of this: [wordplay] is so much part and parcel of Chinese heritage. ... 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."

If you're curious about what has the censors all riled up, the China Digital Times has a comprehensive lexicon of some other examples of Chinese anti-government Internet slang. Predictably, there's some racy language involved.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

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Kaedy's Conversations - David Coverdale

Kaedy Kiely interviewed David Coverdale of Whitesnake back in 2000 - listen to part one.

She asked about Coverdale’s relationship with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, since he had worked with Jimmy Page on the Coverdale/Page project.(listen)

 

 

After recording two solo albums, former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale formed Whitesnake around 1977. In the glut of hard rock and heavy metal bands of the late '70s, their first albums got somewhat lost in the shuffle, although they were fairly popular in Europe and Japan. During 1982, Coverdale took some time off so he could take care of his sick daughter. When he re-emerged with a new version of Whitesnake in 1984, the band sounded revitalized and energetic. Slide It In may have relied on Led Zeppelin's and Deep Purple's old tricks, but the band had a knack for writing hooks; the record became their first platinum album. Three years later, Whitesnake released an eponymous album (titled 1987 in Europe) that was even better. Portions of the album were blatantly derivative -- "Still of the Night" was a dead ringer for early Zeppelin -- but the group could write powerful, heavy rockers like "Here I Go Again" that were driven as much by melody as riffs, as well as hit power ballads like "Is This Love."Whitesnake was an enormous international success, selling over six million copies in the U.S. alone.

Before they recorded their follow-up, 1989's Slip of the Tongue, Coverdale again assembled a completely new version of the band, featuring guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. Although the record went platinum, it was a considerable disappointment after the across-the-board success of Whitesnake. Coverdale put Whitesnake on hiatus after that album. In 1993, he released a collaboration with former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page that was surprisingly lackluster. The following year, Whitesnake issued a greatest-hits album in the U.S. and Canada focusing solely on material from their final three albums (as well as containing a few unreleased tracks).

In 1997, Coverdale resurrected Whitesnake (guitarist Adrian Vandenberg was the only remaining member of the group's latter-day lineup), issuing Restless Heart the same year. Surprisingly, the album wasn't even issued in the United States. On the ensuing tour, Coverdale and Vandenberg performed an "unplugged" show in Japan that was recorded and issued the following year under the title Starkers in Tokyo. By the late '90s, however, Coverdale once again put Whitesnake on hold, as he concentrated on recording his first solo album in nearly 22 years. Coverdale's Into the Light was issued in September 2000, featuring journeyman guitarist Earl Slick. After a lengthy hiatus that saw the release of countless "greatest-hits" and "live" collections, the band returned in 2008 with the impressive Good to Be Bad. Coverdale and Whitesnake toured the album throughout Europe and Japan. The band returned to the recording studio in 2010 with new members bassist Michael Devin (formerly of Lynch Mob) and drummer Brian Tichy, who appeared alongside guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach, and guest keyboardist Timothy Drury (as well as Coverdale's son Jasper on backing vocals on various tracks). The band's 11th album, Forevermore, was preceded by the issue of the single, "Love Will Set You Free," and released in the spring of 2011. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Greg Prato, Rovi

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