I came up with this 看图猜謎 based on Cantonese jyutping. Is it a valid riddle in Mandarin? 猜謎圖

猜一句詩 (guess a verse in a poem)



  • Can you elaborate a bit as to why you think it might not work?
    – Mou某
    Jun 25, 2020 at 11:34
  • Although 紅 and 虹 sound the same in Cantonese and Mandarin, 如 and 魚 sound the same in Cantonese only. Not in Mandarin;
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 25, 2020 at 12:12

3 Answers 3


The short answer is NO, because this is essentially a riddle based on puns, and puns, famously, don't work across languages.

The longer answer is if the languages are close enough, some speakers might be able to make some intelligent guesses. But regardless, they can only be guesses, and not logical means to arrive at the answer.

So, to answer your question: No, this is not a valid riddle in Mandarin.

  • So, in order to make it valid in Mandarin, the pinyin must be the same in Mandarin too.
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 26, 2020 at 18:27
  • would 'infamously' a better word choice than 'famously'?
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 30, 2020 at 6:46
  • There is nothing wrong with not being able to be translated across languages. It's just a property of puns that is well-known. So, I stand by my choice of "famously", not "infamously".
    – monalisa
    Jun 30, 2020 at 18:14

If he elaborates, the whole point of asking the question would be gone.

I suppose only Cantonese speakers would see the point as it is a play on 魚 and 如 which in Cantonese sounds exactly the same, but pronounced in Mandarin as 魚, (Yú), and 如, ( Rú)

The poem's correct title is 美人如玉劍如虹. The riddle is substituting 魚, for 如 as they sound exactly the same in Cantonese.

Will it work in Mandarin? A Mandarin speaker with no knowledge of Cantonese would not get it. I hope I got that right?

  • So, it doesn't work in Mandarin? Would a Mandarin speaker consider Yú and Rú are close enough to be qualified as sound-alike? like 炒雞--> 超級; 神馬 --> 什麽; 魂淡 -->混蛋
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 25, 2020 at 12:18
  • Also 玉 and 肉 sound the same in Cantonese, but not in Mandarin (玉 /Yù/ ; 肉 /Ròu/ )
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 25, 2020 at 12:23
  • 1
    @TangHo it doesn't work in Mandarin. 魚 and 如 do not rhyme in Mandarin; even though their Pinyin ends in the same vowel, if you look at the IPA: 魚 = /y/, 如 = /ʐu/, so their pronunciations are too far apart. Out of the ones you mentioned, 神馬 --> 什麽 do not rhyme either, and the tones of 炒雞--> 超級 are too different.
    – dROOOze
    Jun 25, 2020 at 12:25
  • 玉 /Yù/ and肉 /Ròu/ sound even further apart, aren't they?
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 25, 2020 at 12:27
  • I suppose in these examples and given the proper context of the whole sentence, a Mandarin speaker could make an educated guess. But in your riddle where all you see is a mermaid, 美人魚, (thinking in Mandarin), and a red sword fish, it'll be quite a linguistic stretch for a pure Mandarin speaker to guess 美人魚, (Měi rén yú) is actually 美人如, (Měi rén rú), unless of course he knows the poem very well and with the help of 玉劍如虹 from the red sword fish clue. Jun 25, 2020 at 12:33

Base on the answers I've got so far, in order to make it a valid riddle in Mandarin, the pinyin must be the same in Mandarin for the puns to work


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This one works in Cantonese only


薯桃銅龜 and 殊途同歸 sound the same in Cantonese but not in Mandarin

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This one works in both Cantonese and Mandarin


薯露銅龜 and 殊路同歸 sound the same in both Cantonese and Mandarin. 路 = 途. 殊途同歸 is also a correct answer

Since 美人魚肉劍魚紅 and 美人如玉劍如虹 only sound the same in Cantonese, it is not a valid riddle in Mandarin

  • 薯露銅龜, -- quite funny this one. I suppose not easy doing one that applies semantically to both Cantonese and Mandarin and inject some measure of creative humor. Jun 27, 2020 at 4:38
  • 馬鈴薯露體,銅製的烏龜. I was a graphic designer after all
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 27, 2020 at 4:50

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