In Chinese culture, the phrase Cao Ni Ma is a popular expletive that rolls off the tongue with ease. Its pronunciation sounds like “Tsou Nee Ma”, and it can be spelled in multiple ways using mandarin letters.
When translated to English literally, this term means “Bonk Your Mom”, but depending on how you spell it out in Mandarin characters, its meaning could also shift towards something as bizarre as “Grass Mud Horse”.
The expression carries an equivalent weight of vulgarity, akin to profanity used by native speakers of English.
Due to China’s strict internet censorship laws forbidding any mention of maternal intimacy online through explicit language; many have resorted instead to employing the code word for grass-mud-horse – which serves as a loophole around these restrictions when cursing digitally.
As a result of this ingenious workaround came about an imaginary creature resembling alpacas known only by their name: The Grass Mud Horse!
Vicious Uncle: probably the most meme’d of the Cao Ni Ma guys. pic.twitter.com/nLbFz6LG4W
— nateybakes (@NateyBakes) April 14, 2020
The Grass Mud Horse, a creature that cleverly conceals an illicit online expletive, gained notoriety as one of the ten legendary beasts featured in a fictitious article on Baidu Baike. Originally thought to be an Alpaca species dwelling within the Gobi desert back in 2009.
A few years later, during the 2010s, “Grass Mud Horse” or “Cao Ni Ma”, has become quite popular among internet trolls seeking to hurl insults without fear of censorship.
The clever pun and Alpaca disguise have garnered worldwide media coverage, with dedicated online forums devoted to this phenomenon. Consequently, one can procure videos, cartoons and merchandise featuring the mythical Grass Mud Horse.
Towards the close of the 2010s era, footage of Chinese individuals furiously shouting “Cao Ni Ma” further propelled its popularity as an expression – spawning a plethora of memes that even found their way onto Western websites.