klortho (klortho) wrote,

I'm back; and cold jokes

I took a hiatus from writing on the blog, because I wasn't doing it very regularly anyway, and I was tired of feeling guilty about that, and also I just finished a very busy semester at school. In addition to the three main courses (intensive reading, listening, and speaking) I took three elective classes (newspaper reading, business speaking, and "China Survey" (中国概况, I'm not sure how to translate it, anyway, I call it the propaganda class, more about it later)). So I was busy. I think I got straight A's; I might have gotten a B in "intensive reading", and I haven't gotten my score back for the propaganda class. I'm trying for the merit scholarship for next semester -- I've never won any scholarship money in my life, so it would be a treat.

So now it's the summer vacation, and I have a long list of things I'd like to get done, including getting a website back up and running. I'm hoping to migrate this to a Wordpress blog. There are lots of reasons, not least of which, Livejournal is blocked in China at the moment, and I have lots of friends here who can't read this. Damn the GFW, sincerely!

Meanwhile I'll try to post more arcane and trivial things, more often.

Today's lesson is on "cold jokes". This is Chinglish -- a Mandarin idiom (冷笑话 lěng xiàohua) that has gotten translated into English, where it doesn't make any sense (yet, anyway). I like the idiom, so I'd like to see it spread. It's another one of those things that I don't think we have any good way to express in English. What it means, in short, is a joke that isn't funny. Actually, there's more to it than that. It's not only not funny, but it's a joke that makes you feel cold.... whatever that means. Okay, okay, I'll admit, I'm still not exactly sure what the idiom means, but I hope to get the hang of it eventually.

I've run across this a few times now, for example, when I'm teaching English corner. Chinese people will say, in English, "cold joke", and then I have to explain to them that that's not English. When I first heard it, I didn't know what it meant, and then they explained it by saying that it's a joke that makes you feel cold, and they would wrap their arms around their bodies and shiver, as if that helped the explanation (it didn't, I already knew the English word "cold").

This page has some fine examples. Here are the first few with some translations/explanations:


There was a stag (a male dear, 公鹿 gōnglù) who was going along. He went faster and faster, finally, he turned into a highway! [This is a pun, because the word for highway is 高速公路 gāosù gōnglù, which means "high-speed road", and the word for "road" here, 公路 gōnglù, is homophonous with the word for male deer.]


There was a match who was walking along, and suddenly felt his head itched. He scratched it really hard and caught on fire .... he went to the emergency room, when he came out, he had become a cotton swab ...


There was a penguin who was feeling very bored, and was pulling out his feathers. Finally, he pulled out his very last feather, when he suddenly said, "Aiya, it's cold!" [I guess this joke classifies as cold on many levels!]


There were two bananas walking down the road, one in front and one in back. Suddenly the one in front said, "Man, it's hot", and threw off his coat, then the one in back slipped and fell.

Feeling cold, are we?

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