My friend who spent a year in China told me about a new craze that’s taking over Chinese culture: the grass mud horse. These videos are becoming so popular with Chinese youth that Chinese toy manufacturers are now making little miniature lamas for kids to play with.

Homonyms placed into a sentence, if done correctly, become a pun in the Chinese language. Or in this case, a pun on political censorship. In the Chinese language, my friend explained, there are a lot of homonyms that have opposite or even offensive meanings. Taken out of context the homonyms can sound confusing to a foreigner. But this is a great source of Chinese humor. You wouldn’t know this by just reading Chinese, she told me. You actually have to hear it spoken.

This is not like sarcasm, she explained. Even though in English the humor of sarcasm is that its meaning is the opposite from what the sentence in fact says, it is still different from the sensibility of the homonym pun.