Word of the Week: River Crab

Editor’s Note: The comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

If you are interested in participating in this project by submitting and/or translating terms, please contact the CDT editors at CDT [at] chinadigitaltimes [dot] net.

河蟹 (héxiè): river crab

Picture of a river crab wearing three watches. ("Wear three watches" (带三个表 dài sān ge biǎo) sounds similar to the "Three Represents" (三个代表 sān ge dàibiǎo), Jiang Zemin's signature ideological creation.

The Chinese government often uses its goal of constructing a “harmonious society” (和谐社会 héxié shèhuì) as a justification for censorship. Chinese netizens began to use “harmony” as a euphemism for censorship. “River crab” (héxiè) sounds nearly the same in Chinese as “harmonious” (héxié).

“River crab” can also be used as a verb. Instead of saying something has been censored, one might say “it has been harmonized” (被和谐了 bèi héxié le) or “it has been river-crabbed” (被河蟹了 bèi héxiè le).

A “crab” is also a bully.

In the context of Chinese Internet mythology, the river crab (censorship) threatens the habitat of the grass-mud horse (symbol of online deviance).