Take my wife - please!

Anyone who knows anything whatsoever about China can stop reading here.

OK, now that the rest of us are alone, here's a hint about a lame but popular Henny Youngman-style joke you may be exposed to and perhaps puzzled by in coming days.

The new Chinese year begins on January 26. My own wife, still in Beijing (and to whom this item's headline very definitely does not apply -- I miss you!), reports that the deafening and insanity-inducing joyous and celebratory firecracker explosions are already underway.

The current year is the Year of the Rat, and the coming one is the Year of the Ox (or cow or bull or what have you.) No matter what it's called in English, in Chinese the bovine animal in question is written and pronounced niu.

Thus if you get cards or emails from your Chinese friends saying "Happy Niu Year!" you can join in the hearty laughter at a good bilingual pun. This is a little tip in the interests of cross-national harmony and fellow feeling.  新年快乐 to one and all.