Commenter Marco e-mailed me this great visual Chinese joke (translation and explanation follows):
Translation of the joke (and you do need the visual above to understand it):
> A primary school teacher was returning test papers. She called out again and again, “Lin Danda! Lin Danda!” But none of the children came forward to collect the test paper.
> Finally, the teacher asked, “is there anyone that hasn’t gotten a test paper back? Please come to the front.”
> One little boy unhappily approached the teacher at the front of the classroom. He said to her, “Teacher, my name isn’t Lin Danda. I’m Chu Zhongtian.”
Sorry, if you can’t read the Chinese characters, there’s nothing to get. For those that want the explanation, read on.
The joke centers on the fact that a Chinese child’s handwriting is messy. More specifically, children haven’t learned to draw the different parts of Chinese characters with the correct proportions and spacing. The handwriting in the image above looks like a typical kindergartener’s handwriting… a kindergartener who can’t write a whole lot more than his own name.
Armed with this knowledge, examine the image below, which shows the characters for the names “Lin Danda” and “Chu Zhongtian.”
Clear? The teacher read the name on the left, but the child had intended to write the name on the right. Furthermore, I suspect that the joke is funnier because the name 蛋大 (Danda) means “egg” and “big.” In Chinese 蛋 (egg) is slang for “testes.” So the teacher was repeatedly calling a 6-year-old by a name that sounded kinda like “Big Nads.”
As long as I am explaining the joke, I might as well be a total killjoy and nitpick a little. There is actually a difference of one stroke between the two names (but it’s easy to overlook in the context of the messy handwriting, even for a Chinese person):
Also, kids in the PRC write their names on the tests horizontally, not vertically. But whatever–it’s a great joke.
Thanks again, Marco!