Background Information

Chinese Internet is rife with new slang and lingo. However, Internet censors are quick to remove profane words and sensitive topics. To circumvent censorship, many netizens use homophonic versions of curse words. For example, the popular curse f**k your mother (pronounced càonǐmā) was replaced with ‘grass mud horse’ (pronounced cǎonímǎ), a word that happened to be a near homophone to the original. The grass mud horse has become a symbol for subversion in China. Other groups have created codes to discuss sensitive topics online. Censors have inadvertently formed a new Internet subculture surrounding creative linguistic subversion.

In China, Internet censors are accidentally helping revive an invented “Martian” language (Quartz)

Grass Mud Horse (What’s on Weibo)

Swear Words in Chinese (Transparent Language)

这是脏话吗?Is This a Dirty Word?

Suggested Level

Context Information: Ted is an American student, and 韩 (Hán) is a domestic Chinese student. They are discussing Chinese curse words.

Ted: 我有一个问题。

韩: 嗯。

Ted: 【挖槽】1和【哇塞】有什么差异?

韩: 【挖侧】?

Ted: 【哇塞】。

韩: 【哇塞】是,是台湾,就是台湾语,演变过来的。

Ted: 哦。

韩: 但是我们现在很多人不知道这是台湾语2

Ted: 哦所以——

韩: 对。

Ted: 在上海他们说【挖槽】?

韩: 但是我们也会说【哇塞】。

Ted: 【哇塞】?

韩: 就是这种语言已经融入到上海。

Ted: 哦。

韩: 但是我们不知道,大陆不知道【哇塞】是——

Ted: 台湾——

韩: 是是脏话。但是台湾人知道这个是脏话。

Ted: 不知道是脏话吗?

韩: 对我们以为这只是,哇塞就像耶!一样就像。

Ted: 哦。

韩: 但是其实【哇塞】是脏话。

Ted: 哇塞!

韩: 我以前也不知道我是读了一些东西才知道。3【挖槽】就是脏话我们都知道 (laughing)。


1. 挖槽 (wācāo) is a euphemism for the curse word 我操 (wǒcào) ‘f**k me’. The former is considered to be less harsh since its characters and pronunciation are similar but slightly different. 

2. In saying 台湾语 (táiwānyǔ) ‘Taiwan language’, 韩 means 闽南话 (mǐnnánhuà) ‘Hokkien’, a variety of Chinese spoken predominately in Fujian and Taiwan. The phrasing 台湾语 (táiwānyǔ) might not make sense to the average person.

3. Here, 韩 means that he only understood the origin of 哇塞 (wāsāi) after reading some articles on the topic.


  1. 挖槽 (wācāo) F**k me!
  2. 哇塞 (wāsāi) Wow!
  3. 差异 (chāyì) Difference
  4. 台湾语 (táiwānyǔ) Taiwanese language
  5. 演变 (yǎnbiàn) To develop
  6. 过来 (guòlái) To come over; to cross over
  7. 融入 (róngrù) To integrate
  8. 脏话 (zānghuà) Bad words; curse words
  9. 耶 (yè) Sentence final particle expressing enthusiasm