I ran into the following wordplay:

That's your dad! [...] I heard he has two wives, one back in the countryside,
and a new one. Why do you think one's called Sitian and the other is called Yiku?

I did some research on Google and found this idiom: 忆苦思甜。I thought this was somewhat relevant here, but I'm still having a hard time understanding the joke. How would you render it in English?

  • it is not a funny joke in any language
    – Tang Ho
    May 18, 2020 at 23:15
  • @TangHo: The reaction to this is that the friends of the guy who says this are laughing. I'm assuming that he's making a joke related to that idiom with the wives names (?) May 18, 2020 at 23:18
  • It's a pretty lame joke. Take it literally: remembering bitter (past), thinking of sweet (present). Now imagine two wives, one in the past (he ran from), one in the present. Is it making more sense now? May 19, 2020 at 0:34
  • Quote:- "...the friends of the guy who says this are laughing" Laughing because it implies that the person saying it is thinking of getting a second wife or remarrying. May 19, 2020 at 3:04
  • I think it's dark humor
    – wada
    May 21, 2020 at 3:06

1 Answer 1


Why this joke is not funny? Because it doesn't have any twist and turn. And the so call wordplay is too straight forward to be called wordplay

The man's wife in the countryside is named Yiku (忆苦 - remembering hardship) and the man's other wife in the city is named Sitian (思甜 - think of the sweet (life))

Most people would deduct that a couple named their daughter 忆苦 to remind her the hard life they endured as a family when she was young. And can't help but sympathize with her.

In short, the joke is stating 'country life is tough, city life is sweet'

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