Monday, 28 December 2009


Most Chinese probably know this Japanese word of insult, at least vaguely. Some may also know that they should not use it on someone who speaks Japanese, unless they want to get severely bruised with multiple fractures. Maybe they even know a longer form bakayaro.

However, I bet most of them do not really know what it means. Even fewer know where it came from.

Yet, if I tell you that when it is spelled out it simply means "calling a deer horse" (马鹿, 指鹿为马), some learned Chinese might suddenly remember something from their vast treasure trove of ancient wisdom and knowledge.

For those who still do not have a clue, here is a brief summary.

Centuries ago, the prime minister of China brought a deer into the imperial court and told all the officials that it was a horse.

Most of them wisely agreed that it was indeed a beautiful steed of pure pedigree.

A few were promptly decapitated, along with all their relatives to the 9th degree, when they tried to argue in vain that the prime minister got the species mixed up.

The story probably would have ended there and quickly forgotten, if the ingenious Japanese had not picked it up and turned it into the most insulting word in their language.

On the other hand, in the land populated by descendants of those who called deer horses, the tradition is glorified and developed into the founding principles of the ruling regime. If you still have any doubt, just remember that they are calling a corpse their beloved and glorious leader, even though when it was alive it wiped out one tenth of the nation and brought harm to over 95% of the population.

Regardless, you should never apply this little piece of knowledge if you should go there to visit, or you will be reported to the authorities who will sentence you to life in prison, or even worse handed over to a mob that will tear you into pieces for insulting their glorious and civilized nation. You have been properly warned, I hope.

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