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I hear people say "以前没钱买华为,现在没钱买华为", in which 华为 is the brand name of a mobile phone, and I understand this pun (if so) tries to illustrate the development of this brand but do not really get the hang.

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  • It's more obvious if we add couple of words: 以前(因为)没钱(所以)买华为 - cheap,现在没(那么多)钱买华为 - expensive。
    – dan
    Jul 13, 2021 at 10:25

3 Answers 3

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以前没钱 买华为 I had no money before, so I bought Huawei (It shows Huawei was cheap

现在 没钱买华为 Now I have no money to buy Huawei (It shows Huawei is expensive)

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  • Could it be that Huawei was so expensive that I could not afford it, but now even poor people are able to buy one because it becomes cheap--Simply put, the reverse of what you said, because it could be explained in either way? Jul 17, 2021 at 2:19
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This joke illustrated how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence

At a glance 以前没钱买华为,现在没钱买华为 means "I don't have money to buy a Huawei phone in the past and I still don't have money to buy one now". It is a standard way to interpret a sentence like this, but we knew it is a joke, there must be some twist between the words

With punctuation, the meaning of the sentence is changed and that's the pun

以前没钱,买华为 = I was poor before, so I bought a Huawei phone (It was cheap)

现在, 没钱买华为 = Now, I can't afford to buy a Huawei phone (it is expensive)

Orally, you have to pause at the right places to get the pun

以前没钱 买华为

现在 没钱买华为

Another example I often use

下雨天留客 (rainy day keep the guest here)

天留人不留 (but the host wouldn't let the guest stay)

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"下雨天,留客天。留人不? 留!"("It is a rainy day, a day to keep the guest here. Do I keep the guest? I do!")

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以前没钱(所以我)买华为 (Huawei used to be very affordable and low end) 现在没(足够的)钱买华为 (not any more….)

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