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Could you explain a bit more about the atonal euphemism? Is this a common alternative to express a word in Mandarin?



It's a pun. 和谐 is héxié in Pinyin and 河蟹 is héxiè. They differ only in the tone of the last syllable. Since 河蟹 means "river crab", the reader will probably be able to guess that some other word is meant and correct it to 和谐 in their mind.

This is not just used to evade censorship, but also humorously. E.g. returnees from overseas 海归 (hǎiguī) are frequently called sea turtles 海龟 (hǎiguī). In that case, even the tones match.


It's a common way of getting around censorship (specifically taboo words). A classic (if recent), comedic example is the Grass Mud Horse [1].

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass_Mud_Horse


The atonal euphemism is a common alternative to avoid automatic censorship of various websites.


Exactly. It’s a tongue-in-cheek that basically says that you need to circumvent censorship when you want to talk about censorship.

By the way, I’m not a linguist and I just completely made up that usage of “atonal homophone”. Could an actual linguist chime in and tell us what’s the correct way to describe a “homophone” that doesn’t match in tone, in the context of a tonal language like Chinese?


It's usually still called a pun or homophone. Most puns in English don't precisely match phonetics (especially stress) either.




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