Thursday, 12 December 2013

Culture & Usage: "Lufsig", False Friends & Bad Words

Lufsig -- a must-buy in Hong Kong
Image from IKEA
"What should we do this Christmas?" 
"Let's throw something!"
"Throw a party?"
"No, throw Lufsig!"

If you are not aware of the recent news from Hong Kong, or you are not into Hong Kong cultures, you probably won't get the above conversation, but in fact, it is packed with dark humour and politics.

Lufsig on its way to attack CY Leung
Image from Mingpao

Lufsig, an IKEA plush toy from the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, has become a recent phenomenon in Hong Kong. Ever since the unknown toy was thrown at the much criticised 'Wolfman' Chief Executive of Hong Kong CY Leung, the toy sparked an immediate craze in the city. Overnight, 'Lufsig has been sold out at all Ikea stores.' Netizens who wish to purchase the popular toy have to place bid on Yahoo! Auction at almost quadruple of the original HK$58.

Image from Yahoo! Auction

There are several reasons to this,

  1. Chief Executive CY Leung, commonly known as 'Wolfman' for his cunningness and absence of integrity, fits perfectly with Lufsig's character -- "fond of play and mischief".
  2. Lufsig's China website translate the name into Cantonese "Lo Mo Sai", which resembles the profanity "mother's cxxt".
  3. Adding to the profanity, "Throwing" or "Hanging" "Lo Mo Sai" resembles "fxxk mother's cxxt".
  4. The plush toy comes with an old granny toy which can be "eaten" by Lufsig and "rescued" from its tummy. Either way, she's someone's mother.
  5. There are just too much unhappiness and pressure among the Hong Kongers towards the government, especially without the right to choose their leader and continual suppression in freedom of speech. Lufsig offers a marvelous mean for stress relief and voice out.

"Lo Mo Sai" -- Lufsig on IKEA China on 11th Dec 2013
Image from IKEA China
The Lufsig phenomenon has led to an explosion of creativity. Not only does Lufsig have a Facebook account, there are also Lufsig throwing competition, Lufsig monster cards, Lufsig posters, selfies with Lufsig, and many more in progress. As BBC reports, "Ikea toy wolf becomes Hong Kong protest symbol".

"Lo Fuk Sai" -- Lufsig on IKEA China on 12th Dec 2013
Image from IKEA China

A spokesman from the IKEA headquarters in Sweden later said, "Our intention is that product names should not reflect politics or religion" and so they have given a new Chinese name to Lufsig -- "Lo Fuk Sai", which worsen to "Aggressively Fxxk (Someone's) Cxxt".

Nice job IKEA!!!

False friends in a Dutch advertisement actually meaning "Mama, that one, that one, that one ..." "Please.", In English this could easily sound as though the child is telling her mother to die, although the word is not pronounced the same way in the two languages.
Caption from Wikipedia, image from thingamababy

False friends as funny as Lo Mo Sai isn't solely a Cantonese thing. In the above Dutch advertisement, "Mama, die, die, die...""Alsjeblieft", actually means "Mama, that one, that one, that one...""Please" in English, but which English speaker will realise the Dutch meaning when the kid in the ad looks like she wanted to kill someone?

Asking around the Hong-Kongers and you'll find out that one of the most classic false friend examples happens in Thai-Cantonese homonyms. A video on the internet shows martial art master Tony Jaa teaching Thai to two Hong Kong artists, pronouncing
  • Colour (English) = See (Thai) = Shit (Cantonese)
  • White (English) = See-Kou (Thai) = Lion's Ball (Cantonese)
  • Pinkish Blue (English) = See-Fa (Thai) = Ass (Cantonese) / 
  • Green (English) = See-Keau (Thai) = Shitty Idea (Cantonese) 
  • Brown (English) = See-Nam-Dang (Thai) = Whatso-fxxking-ever (Cantonese)
  • Black (English) = See-Dom (Thai) = ????
  • Rainbow Colours (English) = Lei-Lai-See (Thai) = You shit (your pants) involuntarily / You have fecal incontinence!!

False friends exists in all languages, wanna learn some false friends in German? Try BBC German!

You might have realised that the more foul false friends are, the more intriguing it gets. That's because humans naturally need foul language. Michael of Vsauce has a rather detailed video about bad words.

So bad words / foul languages are not as simply as they seem.

Their history and evolution has much to do with the class differences. The higher class used elegant words, the lower class used less classy words which some eventually turned into bad words we use today.

And why do we like bad words? Because we can use them as a mean of lalochezia. Lufsg as anti-government symbol? Now you know why.

Enjoy researching!

dark humour -- (n)[U] Humor that is viewed as dark, morbid, cruel, offensive to some, and or graphic in nature and is yet, still found funny.
fecal incontinence -- (n)[U] Fecal incontinence (FI), also called faecal incontinence, bowel incontinence or anal incontinence, is a lack of control over defecation, leading to involuntary loss of bowel contents—including flatus, liquid stool elements and mucus, or solid feces.
lalochezia -- (n) [U] (rare) The use of vulgar or foul language to relieve stress or pain.


Lufsig @ Facebook

Lufsig @ IKEA China

Ikeagosedjur i Hongkong-protester @ GP

IKEA Toy Wolf Becomes Unlikely Anti-Government Symbol In Hong Kong | Yuen Chan @ Huffington Post

Toy wolf with a rude name becomes a must-have for Hong Kong protesters @ South China Morning Post

Cuddly wolf sinks teeth into Leung @ The Standard

Vocabulary: Jargons With A Hong Kong Flavour @ Locky's English Playground

Ikea toy wolf becomes Hong Kong protest symbol @ BBC News

Ikea toy wolf Lufsig gets new name after its claim to fame @ SCMP

False Friends @ Wikipedia

What's so funny about German? -- False Friends @ BBC

Tony Jaa 教泰文(森美、吳君如主持),笑到你lai屎。 @ YouTube

Kari Byron No Pain No Gain H O T @ YouTube