Huang Hung

It's all about business, stupid

By Huang Hung (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-02 07:04
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So, I hope you have heard by now that sending dirty jokes by text message is going to cost you from now on. How much? you ask. Well, that depends on where you live. In Beijing, you will not be able to send texts again from the same number, and in Shanghai, your number will be cancelled. I am not sure whether the same rule applies to dirty jokes in English. I don't think our system is designed to pick up four letter words, just real dirty, bad, nasty characters.

Now, in my humble opinion, this new attempt at cleaning up text messaging is instigated by a saboteur who wants to destroy the value of the Chinese mobile network. This kind of rule is simply not enforceable in our language. Chinese is the most vague and imprecise language in the world. We have tones that drive foreigners crazy. You must have been through the "ma-ma-ma-ma" routine, where you don't know whether you are asking a question, calling your mother, or your horse, or cursing, or all of the above, depending on which tone of "ma" you use.

It's all about business, stupid

Also, we have, probably, the most polysemies out of any language in the world. The mobile censor system in China operates on picking out sensitive words that might indicate to the computer that the message is a dirty joke. Words such as "xing" (性) often means sex but is also a popular suffix to describe a specified quality; and "fang shi" (房事), literally house issues, also means having sex; while "cao" (操), which means manage or take, is also the F word. So, here is a joke about dirty jokes that I want to share with you:

A patriotic citizen sends out a text message which says: "Kan dao zong li wei bao zhang xing zhu fang shi, cao sui le xin zhen gan dong." This means, "terribly moved by our premier's concern over guaranteed low-income housing issues". But the man gets a message from the operator which says: "Sex and F*** are dirty words and forbidden, so your number has been canceled. If you have a problem, please contact public security."

This is why I think whoever thought up this rule is either out of his mind, or a devious, conniving conspirator who is trying to sabotage the entire Chinese mobile system. Someone is F***ing with us, I tell you, and I think I have figured out who. It must be James Chanos, the American billionaire and hedge fund manager who is shorting China in New York.

Now we all know China Mobile is the largest mobile operator on the planet. We also know that a good chunk of its revenue comes from text messages. And it is really a no-brainer that dirty jokes are probably the most common of all text messages and is responsible for a huge chunk of revenue. Killing dirty jokes is going to hurt the bottom line (no pun intended) and stock prices will fall for China Mobile. Ergo, anyone who wants to short China stocks would want to see regulations like this.

Makes total sense, no?

Huang Hung is an opinionator on arts, lifestyle and showbiz.

(China Daily 02/02/2010 page18)