Language

The obscene battle-cry of a Ming Dynasty war hero

Here's a close-up of an image that's been making the rounds of forums and microblogs over the past few months:

JDM100704profanitys.jpg
Yuan Chonghuan's famous slogan

Yuan Chonghuan (袁崇焕) was a Ming Dynasty general famous for defeating Nurhaci at the Battle of Ningyuan, which put a temporary halt to the Manchu invasion.

Yuan's ancestral home in Dongguan, Guanggdong, has been turned into a memorial park. Inscribed on the base of a stone statue of Yuan is his battle-cry, shown in the above photo. The text:

掉哪媽!頂硬上!
FUCK HIS MOM! HIT THE HARD!

“頂硬上”成了輕騎護京的主旋律,“掉哪媽”成了眾人罵昏君的助語詞。
"Hit the hard" as the main melody of Yuan's army when they hurried to the capital to rescue the country, And "fuck his mom" became the starting word for cursing fatuous emperors.

The translation isn't perfect, but unlike many previous examples, the profanity is entirely appropriate.

"掉哪妈" (diu na ma) is a widely used colloquial Cantonese expression that has a variety of written forms. The character 掉 is used in place of 屌 (diu2, "penis" as a noun, and "fuck" as a verb), but is now a far less common substitute than 丢 or 刁. (In Hong Kong, the recent construction [門+小] is often used.)

Here's how the Cantonese Profanity Research Web explains the phrase:

As written, it literally means "fuck your mother" (那 na is a fusion of 你阿 nei a: 你阿媽 nei ama, "your mother"), but it is not ordinarily meant as an insult, but is mainly used instead to express anger, displeasure, astonishment, disappointment, and so forth...the tone is similar to the Mandarin 他妈的 (tamade, "His mother's...") or 他奶奶的 (tanainaide, "His granny's...").

yuanchonghuans.jpg
Yuan Chonghuan's statue at his ancestral home

"Hit the Hard," on the other hand, is a simply a mechanical mistranslation of an exhortation to forge stubbornly onward. The phrase has been called an encapsulation of the "Cantonese Spirit," and it appears in a coolie chant cited in various places online:

嗨呀嗨哟,顶硬上啰,鬼叫你穷啊
Hi-yo, hi-yo. Go all out! No one told you to be poor!

So Yuan Chonghuan's battle-cry, supposedly uttered when his superiors ordered a general retreat to Shanhaiguan as the Manchu armies were closing in on Ningyuan, could conceivably be translated as "Fuck that! We'll give it all we've got!"

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There are currently 11 Comments for The obscene battle-cry of a Ming Dynasty war hero.

Comments on The obscene battle-cry of a Ming Dynasty war hero

"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!"

(那 na is a fusion of 你阿 nei a: 你阿媽 nei ama, "your mother")
na is not a fusion of nei a,you stupid turd.
Na is shanghai dialect means you.

Awesome post, Joel! Thanks!

Brendan: Exactly.

XXxxXX: Apart from the incongruity of a Dongguan native speaking to his troops in Liaoning using Shanghai dialect, na 㑚 would be the plural usage; 侬 is singular. "Fuck all y'all's mom" -- really?

When I was moderating comment boards, I did not suffer fools like XXxxXX gladly.

But that was an admirably temperate response to a hilariously inarticulate and wrong-headed commenter, Joel. Kudos!

"but it is not ordinarily meant as an insult, but is mainly used instead to express anger, displeasure, astonishment, disappointment, and so forth" Oh, my! couldn't be explained better!

This is probably the funniest post I read this year, so far!

Brilliant translation of this very iconic phrase capped with an effective velvet sledgehammer strike on moronic 'kiasu' Shanghainese dialect speaker by the moderator is a joy to read.

As a person of chinese descent who learn cantonese as a mother tongue,and other Chinese dialects as a child growing up in Malaysia, Tiunama has its equivalent in Hokkien 'kan ni neh', Teo Chiew 'pu nia bore'.

Hope this would help when you next need to express yourself in more diverse fasion!

Could someone post a phonetic version of what it would sound like in English.

As a child, in HK, took pleasure in using this phrase, but can't quite remember what it sounded like (& I'm sure we got it wrong in any case).

My mother in law is Cantonese. I generally don't understand a word she says as I am profoundly tone-deaf, and that makes learning the language difficult.

However, I am now glad I don't understand most of what she says, because you have now explained what she says to me most of the time.

The crowd at last weekend's pro-Cantonese rally in Guangzhou chanted the slogan.

@Robert (July 29,2010 2:20pm)

The first of the two phrases sounds rather like
"Julie Lomo"...

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