English-Pinyin abbreviation games

My nephew suddenly piped up as we were driving down the road yesterday:

Ài cún bù cún!
“See if we care if you don’t want to save”*

Sure enough, we were passing


one of the largest banks in China.

The joke requires rudimentary knowledge of both Pinyin and English, which elementary students have in spades. It’s a play on ICBC, of course, where the I is read as the sound of the letter in English (same as Mandarin for “love”, 爱=ài) and CBC is made into an abbreviation for 存不存 = cún bù cún.

OK, not uproarious, but given the ungodly wait times at the place (ever have two tellers and 103 people in front of you?), it’s not hard to imagine the CFO cackling villainously: 爱存不存!

My title says “abbreviation games” but that’s all I got. Anyone else?


*Apologies for the contorted translation of 爱存不存. Feel free to offer something better. As every Mandarin learner soon learns, 爱X不X is a very productive construction generally used when A has suggested a course of action, X, to B and B doesn’t want to do X. Finally A gives up and says 爱X不X.

I hear it most often with grandparents trying to get grandkids to eat: 爱吃不吃, ài chī bù chī, “don’t eat and see if I care”. But nothing idiomatic comes to me in English. Quite possibly it’s proof that my native abilities are going the way of Citibank stock.

8 responses to “English-Pinyin abbreviation games”

  1. Kellen Parker says:

    I was told this on my 3rd week in China. I could speak no Chinese. The speaker then translated the 爱存不存 part, which was the only part of the joke not in English anyway. I mostly just thought he was kinda out of his mind.

    That last part turned out to be true, I learned later.

  2. jdmartinsen says:

    I’ve heard puns for a number of banks, but nowhere near the number contained on this list, which sets them up as a dialogue between teller and depositor.

  3. Syz says:

    kp: 3rd wk in china? i guess i’m a bit late to this party…

    jdm: that link’s not bad — and further evidence that, despite the Chinese myth of long work days, some people still have waay too much time on their hands.

  4. John Pasden says:

    Interesting topic.

    JDM: That’s pretty ridiculous. And also kind of impressive.

  5. Chris says:

    I’ve heard the ICBC = “爱存不存” joke a few times myself.

    I’ve always heard “爱X不X” used in exasperation, in the attitude of the fox and the sour grapes “they’re probably sour grapes anyway”. So I imagine a customer waiting in line for an hour to make a deposit before finally giving up and then bitterly muttering “爱存不存” to the bank in general, but really half to himself.

    I’d translate it “I wouldn’t deposit here if you asked me to!”, or more figuratively “I didn’t want to make a deposit anyway!”

    Perhaps grandma’s saying something like “Well, you’re getting nothing even if you ask!”

  6. Chris H says:

    I know this is kind of a long shot but you could also translate it as “if you love saving, don’t save (invest)…, It would be weird for a bank saying that they don’t care, I guess that is where the joke comes in.

  7. Cui Runan says:




    招行(CMBC):“存么,白痴 !”





    above are other jokes of Chinese banks,it’s really funny.

  8. Peter Nelson says:

    Thanks for sharing all the great puns.

Leave a Reply