They call it the Grass-Mud Horse lexicon, and, lucky for us language lovers, the China Digital Times just started a recurring word of the week feature to go along with its catalog of the slang China's bloggers use to subvert government censorship. The first post, which went up last Wednesday, explains the project's namesake, Grass-Mud Horse. "Grass-mud horse, which sounds nearly the same in Chinese as 'f*** your mother' (cào nǐ mā), was created as a way to get around and poke fun at government censorship of vulgar content," writes Fiona Smith. The term is perfect for a lot of reasons: It sounds like a swear, has its own YouTube culture and references the Communist party, which is often referred to as "mother." All of that has led to its evolution as not only a term that means "someone who is web-savvy and critical of government attempts at censorship," in the words of Smith, but also the representation of an entire language.
Over at China Digital Space, where the Grass-Mud Horse project lives, we find the full alphabetized list of common terms used on the heavily censored Chinese Internet platforms. Each letter has between 2 and 21 entries -- there's a lot on there. Here are some of our favorites:
Term: Love the Future.
Definition: "'Love the future' is a coded reference to Chinese artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei (艾未未) that began to be used after Ai's disappearance in early 2011. Ai’s surname sounds the same as the word 'love' in Chinese, and his given name 'Weiwei' can be converted into the word “future” by adding two small strokes to the second character."