Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grass mud horse your mom

DANGER: Foul language ahead! Yippee!

My friend Dan pointed out an article in The New York Times about an online video that thwarts the Chinese Web censors.

The Times article makes the video out to be some kind of heroic rebellion against the dark red Commie forces - and I guess it is. But it is also just funny in an immature, clever sort of way.

Basically, it is a song performed by kids (at least it sounds that way), about a beast called the Grass Mud Horse (草泥马 cao3 ni2 ma3). This illustrates the importance of tones in Chinese. The same phrase said with different tones is a common (but super vulgar) insult: 操你妈 (cao4 ni3 ma1), which means "f*** your mother."

Of course, the Grass Mud Horse is not real and even if you said the tones that way, people would still think you meant the naughty phrase, since you are a laowai (lao3 wai4 老外 - "foreigner") and can't deal with tones anyway.

The video is funny because it talks about this mythical beast, the Grass Mud Horse, but the background film is just some kind of advertisement video for somebody's alpaca farm (photo caption is wrong. Oops.). Also, you can't really sing the tones, so basically what it boils down to is, you are watching slow-motion video of alpacas chewing stuff and jumping around, meanwhile these kids are cheerfully crooning "f--- your mom's c---" !

The thing about censorship becomes obvious (according to the NYT - I didn't know this), when the lyrics talk about "river crabs," 河蟹 (he2 xie4), which the grass mud horses fight and eventually drive out of their homeland, the Ma Le Gobi (desert presumably). Incidentally, this part 马勒戈壁 (ma3 le4 ge1 bi4), sounds like mother's c---. But "river crab" sounds like "harmony" ( he2 xie2 和谐), which apparently is the word the censors use to describe censoring. So many layers of euphemism and deception!

So here are the lyrics. Remember, everytime it says "grass mud horse," they are really saying FYM, and Ma Le Gobi means "your mother's c-." Oh and River Crab means censorship.

The intro is the kids saying: "I am a Grass Mud Horse, this is the Grass Mud Horse song!"

In the vast and desolate Ma Le Gobi desert, there is a herd of Grass Mud Horses

They are lively and intelligent, mischievous and sensitive. They live freely on the Grass Mud Horse Gobi, and tenaciously and bravely face the harsh environment there.

噢,卧槽的草泥马!噢,狂槽的草泥马!他们为了卧草不被吃掉 打败了河蟹,河蟹从此消失草泥马戈壁
Oh! The Grass Mud Horse lying down, the Grass Mud Horse going nuts! To protect their grass from being eaten, they defeated the River Crab. From then on, the River Crab disappeared from the Grass Mud Horse Gobi!


Susan said...

Euphemism is correct spelling--word police
Will this prevent your return to China?--paranoid travel advisor
Funny and quirky!

Susan said...

Just watched the original video--yikes! Thanks for the link. Very clever, what happens now to creators?

And how did Dan happen upon this?

Ben Moger-Williams said...

I don't know, if they were smart they were carefully anonymous. Dan noticed it in The NY Times, who ran an article about it.
Thanks for the sp correx!

siewgin_alan_tyler said...

I just watched the video, was laughing so hard when i heard the little kids sing it so innocently.

It's too funny. Thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

The word 妈了个鼻 (mā le gè bí) means your mother's nose in Mandarin Chinese. So the phrase "ma le ge bi" does not necessarily mean the cuss word or the desert that the Grass Mud Horse lives in.