Chinese Urban Dictionary: Xiaodian

By Mia Li, July 26, 2019

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xiaodian / xiǎo diàn / 笑点 n. the threshold of funniness or amusement required to make one laugh 

A: I can’t stop watching this hilarious video of a squirrel falling out of a tree. 

B: Your xiaodian has gotten so low in the last year. 

A: I’m crying from laughter!  

B: Good for you. I’ll put the clip on a loop for you. 

Laughter is the best medicine, but not all of us require the same dosage. We all laugh at different things, and our sense of humor changes as we age. For some, a goat sneezing sends them to hysteria while others prefer jokes written in HTML. 

Literally meaning ‘laughing point,’ xiaodian  is the threshold a joke has to cross to make one laugh, in terms of absurdity, sophistication and craftsmanship of the joke teller. Those who laugh at almost anything – animals in human clothes, fart cushions, dad jokes – are said to have ‘low’ xiaodian, as it doesn’t take much to make them crack up. Those who are very selective in expressing amusement – it takes a lot of cleverness to make them laugh – are said to have ‘high’ xiaodian. They cringe rather than crack up upon hearing bad puns, because bad puns simply don’t reach their xiaodian yet. 

It is said that one’s xiaodian becomes higher as one ages. As babies, we all giggle at ‘peek-a-boos.’ Then comes about a decade of really enjoying fart jokes. After exploring the world a bit and learning that humans are the absolute dominant species on this planet, we come to enjoy animal humor for a few years. Learning about human culture and history opens the door for referential humor and raises our xiaodian a bit more, and so on and so forth. 

That is not to say that a low xiaodian is worse – the higher your xiaodian, the more you cringe, which results in more wrinkles on your face. 

Side note: Xiaodian is not to be confused with the temperature of a joke, which is a measurement of how hard the joke is attempting to make you laugh. 

To determine how high your xiaodian is, open your TikTok or Youku app and compare your watch history to that of a 5-year-old. If the two are indistinguishable, you are probably doing it right! 

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