World’s Most Obscene Stuffed Animal: Grass Mud Horse Is Meme in China
People protesting censorship in China have made a plush toy into something very, very dirty.
One must be careful when speaking Chinese. A "yellow book" is a porn magazine. "Eat your tofu" is a sexual act. It's because the Chinese language has only a few hundred sounds. To avoid confusion, sounds are pronounced with different tones. Still, homonyms (like baseball bat and flying bat) are VERY common in Chinese. So common, in fact, they make up a large percentage of all jokes and poems told in the language.
One such joke is the Grass Mud Horse -- or Cao Ni Ma. Pronounce those three words with a different tone, and the phrase becomes "F&@* Your Mother." The joke was first made in 2009 by someone claiming it was a Chinese mythical creature that looked like an alpaca or zebra. As a result, this picture of a cute alpaca plush toy is now an obscene gesture in China! Its most popular use is to criticize Internet censorship in China -- like saying "F&@* government censorship!"
This came to my attention when artist Ai Wei Wei (on house arrest for his dissident messages) got media attention for using the Grass Mud Horse phrase and doll in some of his art.