Yakexi, the creature itself (he speaks with forked tongue)

Caution: while the neck-up pics are safe for work, the language really isn’t


In language, one generation’s mispronunciation becomes the next generation’s standard.

In the case of China, one generation’s mispronunciation, intentional or not, becomes the next generation’s mythical animal. A short history:

Original Mispronunciation
2008-9 Cào nǐ mā [操你妈 = fuck your mother] Cǎonìmǎ [草泥马], the mythical “grass mud horse” [pronunciation of which was discussed on Beijing Sounds last year]
Today ياخشى / yaxshi / йахши, pronounced /jɑxʃɪ/ (see Kellen’s guide to the Uighur pronunciation of the original word) Yàkèxī [亚克蜥], the soon-to-be mythical Yake Lizard, if some Chinese netizens have their way.

For those new to this game, a really short explanation:

  • The object of the game is for online discussions to be able to talk about things that Nanny would rather not have them discuss.
  • In the case of Caonima, presumably the naughty word was aimed too often at officialdom.
  • In the case of Yakexi, the reference would appear to target any over-the-top praise for official policies.

It’s too early to tell if the animal will really catch on in the way that Caonima did, with its own line of stuffed animals.


Note that the transliteration’s characters, originally 亚克西, would have to change to 亚克蜥 to get the lizard interpretation, but that is already happening. Famous Chinese blogger Han Han uses 亚克西 in his headline, and 亚克西’s nearly 10m google hits dwarf the 82,100 that 亚克蜥 (with the lizard-related final character, 蜥) gets. But then Han Han says in his blog: “I know the Caonima’s era has already passed. The Yake lizard’s (亚克蜥) era is imminent.” (我知道草泥马的时代已经过去,亚克蜥的时代即将来临。)

With Han Han backing the new interpretation and a contest to promote its use (see China Geeks for translation of details and lots more background), I’m guessing this lizard is here to stay, especially, now that I hear from autonomous region that in Cantonese it’s possible to morph the phonetics a little more and end up with “eat shit”:

My favorite mockery is one from Hong Kong: Cantonese-speaking bloggers teach us to pronounce the word “yakhshi”/”yakexi” as “yark-si,” a Cantonese swear word meaning “eat shit.” Anyone who’s ever dreamed about singing this song in Hong Kong would probably need to think twice; it’s certainly not fun today to say “Gongcandang yakexi” there.

Top dollar to be paid by Sinoglot for links to Cantonese explication and sound files.


Note: Lizard pic comes from a google search that led to this Tianya message board, but the pic seems to have disappeared or I’m confused.

2 responses to “Yakexi, the creature itself (he speaks with forked tongue)”

  1. Aaron Posehn says:

    I’m very interested in seeing where this “mispronunciation” goes. Does anyone know what the original Uighur ياخشى / йахши word means? I seem to remember seeing a video clip a few weeks ago saying it meant “good” or something similar, but can’t seem to recall it now (or recall where I saw that clip).

  2. […] the recent promotion of the Uyghur word ياخشى / йахши (pronounced /jɑxʃɪ/, or 亚克西 in Chinese). Regardless, it’s another language that I’m looking at right now as well.  […]

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