Dirty words in the mainstream media


Today's New York Times reports on the "grass mud horse" phenomenon:

The story of the grass-mud horse’s struggle against the evil river crab has spread far and wide across the Chinese online community.

Not bad for a mythical creature whose name, in Chinese, sounds very much like an especially vile obscenity. Which is precisely the point.

The grass-mud horse is an example of something that, in China’s authoritarian system, passes as subversive behavior. Conceived as an impish protest against censorship, the foul-named little horse has not merely made government censors look ridiculous, although it has surely done that.

The paper's standards on taboo language prevent it from printing the actual "vile obscenity": grass mud horse (草泥马) sounds similar to "mother fucker" (操你妈), a fairly common curse.

Chinese media faces similar problems. Reports on the grass mud horse that have appeared in print media have not censored the animal's name, but they've usually left the reader to interpret the obscene meaning for themselves.

It's a little harder to do that in TV journalism, where actually reading the name would make the connection fairly apparent. It's much simpler to simply ignore the whole thing.

That's what BTV did earlier this week. According to the program "Good Morning Beijing," which aired a report on the mythical beast on March 10, Chinese netizens are gaga over the alpaca simply because it looks funny. In place of dirty language, the program borrowed the word jiong (囧), which in net-speak refers to something particularly astonishing or bewildering, to connect the alpaca to online culture.

This is the Year of the Ox, so you'd think that the ox would be the most popular animal right now. Surprisingly, this is not the case: its place has been stolen. But by whom? By a "mythical online creature" born on the Internet. What does this creature look like? And why is it so popular? Let's take a look...

A particularly jiong mythical online creature has attracted quite a bit of notice from netizens. Lots of Internet users think that it's a horse, but a horse is odd-toed, and if you look at this "mythical creature," you'll notice that its hooves are smaller and even-toed. Lots of netizens have put up questions: Does this mythical online creature really exist? Where can I see one for myself?

The program goes on to pay a visit to an alpaca-keeper and reveals that the animals were first brought into China in 2002, but it never actually informs viewers why Internet users latched onto the strange-looking creature in the first place.

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There are currently 2 Comments for Dirty words in the mainstream media.

Comments on Dirty words in the mainstream media

This is funny. I haven't seen it on TV but I can very well imagine the embarrassment of the presenter. And the editors of BTV came up with such a stupid explanation: odd-toed what?

On the other hand, hey, we are told all the time that tones are essential to differenciate words, and 草泥马 has different tones from 操你妈。 So it shouldn't be forbidden to say caonima on TV using the proper tones, right?

Funny. Though it must be said that the western media does not print obscenities or pseudo-obscenities either.

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