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Inscrutable, these grass-mud horses, what?
March 12, 2009 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Stories about caonima, grass-mud horses have become a popular meme with their own theme song [Flash] in China. If you don't speak Chinese it's surprisingly hard to find out why: the name sounds rude. Sometimes juvenile humor can be the best way to poke fun at the ever-present government censorship.
posted by Joe in Australia (27 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the curious, here are a few additional links regarding China's ongoing censorship of the internet from their citizens. To preserve their access to Chinese consumers, many companies based outside of China, including Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google, assist the government in their censorship efforts. Also, see Wikipedia, and see how other countries take similar measures.
posted by zarq at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2009


The Shanghai blogger Uln already has an idea. Blogging tongue in cheek — or perhaps not — he recently suggested that online democracy advocates stop referring to Charter 08 by its name, and instead choose a different moniker. “Wang,” perhaps. Wang is a ubiquitous surname, and weeding out the subversive Wangs from the harmless ones might melt circuits in even the censors’ most powerful computer.

Yes, can you imagine if a word like "wang" had a subversive double-meaning?
posted by dgaicun at 5:41 PM on March 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh, man.. I glossed over that Wang bit while reading the NYT article at lunch. Classic.

NYT: Weeding out the subversive Wangs (from the harmless ones).
posted by xorry at 6:02 PM on March 12, 2009


A subversive wang in your mama's. . . .desert?
posted by rdone at 6:06 PM on March 12, 2009


Aside: does anybody know where I can buy a t-shirt featuring the Grass Mud Horse? My lack of Mandarin has stymied my search for such an item.
posted by killdevil at 6:43 PM on March 12, 2009


I am surprised that even the NYT can't figure out a euphemism for the pun. I suggest "oedipal epithet".
posted by TedW at 7:08 PM on March 12, 2009


weeding out the subversive Wangs from the harmless ones might melt circuits in even the censors’ most powerful computer.

Especially if that computer was a Wang.
posted by TedW at 7:09 PM on March 12, 2009


When I worked for Ford Motor Company in Europe, they were one of Wang's biggest customers. Ford's main locations in Europe were Warley, in England, Seville in Spain, and Cologne, Germany. Ford were such big customers of Wang that it was common for people in my department to visit the Wang offices that were close to other Ford offices. Our department head was out of the office one day, and when the secretary's phone rang, I was standing nearby, and since it turned out that she, too, had stepped out of the office, I, as was customary, picked up the phone and answered it.

The person on the other end wanted to know where our department head was, so I glanced at the wall calendar and said

"He's gone to Wang, Cologne".

The person on the other end, without skipping a beat, replied

"It's more fun with a friend"

and promptly hung up.
posted by kcds at 7:22 PM on March 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm taking Mandarin 2 now . . .

Here's the curse word broken down by character.

操 cao (pronounced "tsao") with a high tone means to operate/manipulate, or with a falling tone to screw
你 nǐ you/your
妈 mā mother

Here's 草泥马 broken up:

草 cǎo grass
泥 ní mud
马 mǎ horse

So far I'm finding Mandarin about 3X as hard as Japanese -- it'd be even harder but the hardest parts of Japanese . . . is the stuff they borrowed from Chinese!
posted by troy at 7:43 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, does someone who's managing to learn Mandarin want to help me figure out how to buy a stuffed "F*** your mother" alpaca online?

Very cute. Very witty. But alas and merde, I cannot figure out Chinese online auction sites...
posted by jrochest at 7:49 PM on March 12, 2009


(though the nice thing about Mandarin is that a lot of Mandarin videos, like this one, come with hanzi subtitles for Cantonese speakers. This is an AWESOME way to self-study a language if you can read the hanzi -- I learned about 20% of my Japanese from watching music performances on TV with the lyrics in subtitles.)
posted by troy at 7:49 PM on March 12, 2009


^ www.customink.com can do a shirt for $22, but they don't like hanzi input apparently so you'd have to create the image with the characters (not that hard).
posted by troy at 7:58 PM on March 12, 2009


操 cao (pronounced "tsao") with a high tone means to operate/manipulate, or with a falling tone to screw

The cao is actually 肏 "Fuck," but it is usually replaced with 操, because the first character is illegal to use in the PRC, since it's combination of the "enter" and "flesh" character are considered to graphic for the delicate eyes of the Chinese public.

I don't really get why the New York Times article is saying that this has "raised real questions about China’s ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet." When people have to resort to inventing obscure puns to transmit information the censor has won.
posted by afu at 8:15 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this one's a Photoshop; couldn't find any actually for sale but it was a cursory search. You may have to travel to the Mahler Gobi in person.
posted by Abiezer at 8:22 PM on March 12, 2009


afu - is indeed a very naughty character, but not illegal (as you can see from the Baidu link and almost certain it's used as it should be in my copy of 红楼梦)
posted by Abiezer at 8:25 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nah. Point is, people will manage to transmit information, even if they have to resort to obscure puns to do it. Which is why, in the long run, the censors can't win.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:29 PM on March 12, 2009


Should add for Chinese sweary fans that in 红楼梦, 肏 appears as part of the classic naughty phrase now euphemised to 狗日的 and hence apparently read ri rather than cao in that context.
posted by Abiezer at 8:41 PM on March 12, 2009


afu - 肏 is indeed a very naughty character, but not illegal (as you can see from the Baidu link and almost certain it's used as it should be in my copy of 红楼梦)

Maybe I have been misinformed. How come it isn't in any of me pinyin IMEs?
posted by afu at 8:42 PM on March 12, 2009


Hmm - it never used to be but it's in the Microsoft Pinyin IME on this laptop. Think it is in the one on my Linux box too but can't check at the minute. I think it was euphemised so successfully for so long that most people don't even know it's the "real" character and it just fell out of use - stick it in Google and half the results (I exaggerate) are Yahoo or Baidu questions asking how to read it :D
posted by Abiezer at 8:58 PM on March 12, 2009


肏肏肏肏肏肏肏

#2 choice on OSX


posted by troy at 9:13 PM on March 12, 2009


I say, steady on young fellow! Children may be reading this site *averts gaze*
Mac users must be filthy beggars then if it's second choice - do they never operate machinery, take gym class or mow their lawns?
posted by Abiezer at 9:18 PM on March 12, 2009


(Reminds me tangentially of this example of routing around censorship)
posted by hattifattener at 9:59 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


...stanch the flow of information...

This is about the flow of information? Well, OK, but I have to say the political thesis being adumbrated is somewhat gnomic.
posted by Phanx at 12:34 AM on March 13, 2009


One thing I realise upon watching the video is that making it into a song makes the pun work even better. The tones used to pronounce 草泥马 are different from 肏你妈, even though the sounds are the same, so when used in standard speech you wouldn't immediately link the two. In songs, however, the tones generally follow the melody, which makes the two phrases sound identical and really quite funny.
posted by destrius at 7:23 AM on March 13, 2009


A lot of the dirtier characters (肏 and 屄, for instance) are frequently not in character sets or fonts, but the Google IME has both, as does the QIM input method for Mac. The characters aren't illegal; they're just usually not used in print.
posted by bokane at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2009


You can order the stuffed grass-mud horse online here:
http://yo2.cn/index.html
But the site is currently down for maintainence...
posted by monocot at 11:29 AM on March 14, 2009


I heard this joke 3 years ago.

"What do you get if you take grass and mud and make a model horse?"
posted by saysthis at 2:17 AM on March 15, 2009


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