grass mud horse

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A word-for-word translation of the Mandarin 草泥马 (Pinyin: cǎo ní mǎ). Cǎo literally means grass, literally means mud, and literally means horse. However, the phrase cǎo ní mǎ sounds like one of the most popular profane phrases used in China. Individuals in Mainland China used the Chinese characters representing the phrase cǎo ní mǎ (grass mud horse) instead of the real characters for the profane phrase to represent the profane phrase without it being detected by censors.

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grass mud horse (plural grass mud horses)

  1. One of the ten "mythical Baidu deities" invented by Chinese internet users for the purpose of circumventing censorship. Usually depicted as resembling an alpaca, and is supposedly living in the Gobi desert.
    • 2009 March 6, “Chinese fight internet censors with "Grass Mud Horse" cuddly toy”, Times Online:
      What began as an entertaining by-product of that internet clean-up has become a sensation. This is because “Grass Mud Horse” in Chinese is a homonym for an unprintable but widely used phrase. Both the phrase – “F*** your mother” – and the name of the mythical animal are pronounced as caonima, although using different tones
    • 2009 March 11, Michael Wines, “A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors”, New York Times:
      A YouTube children’s song about the beast has drawn nearly 1.4 million viewers. A grass-mud horse cartoon has logged a quarter million more views. A nature documentary on its habits attracted 180,000 more.


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