Global Motherf*ckers

Posted on June 29, 2009 

Global Motherf*ckers

A mythical beast known as the “grass-mud horse” has become an Internet phenomenon in China. The New York Times reported Thursday that the alpacalike creature’s Mandarin name just happens to be a very, very dirty pun. Times style rules prevent the paper from clarifying the joke, but other, less-dignified outlets explain that the phrase Cao ni ma is a homonym for “fuck your mother” in Chinese. Is some variant of motherfucker used all over the world?

Pretty much. While it’s not quite a universal insult, variations on the command to commit incest with one’s mother appear in every region of the globe. Anthropologists note that, across cultures, the most severe insults tend to involve a few basic themes: your opponent’s family, your opponent’s religion, sex, and scatology. Because motherfucker covers two of these topics—plus incest, a nearly global taboo—it’s a popular choice just about everywhere. In Mandarin Chinese alone, riffs on the basic phrase include Cao ni ma ge bi, meaning “fuck your mother’s cunt,” and Cao ni da ye, “fuck your elder uncle.” Given the Chinese culture of ancestor worship, Cao ni zu shong shi ba dai, or “fuck your ancestors of 18 generations,” may be the worst incest instruction of all.

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