"Sponke their monkeys"

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Political poster in Sydney, Australia:

Accompanying note from Graeme Orr:

Australia is in the throes of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage.  (That is, a non-binding referendum).

In the midst of some odd campaign claims, the attached homophobic poster appeared.  Directed at, and likely sourced from someone in, the Chinese community in Sydney.

The poster – including its curious translations – cry out for Sinophonic treatment.

As a devotee of Roger’s Profanisaurus, I recognize ‘Sponkethemonkey’ as a botched version of the euphemism ‘spank the monkey’.

But the specificity of ’63 genders’ is bemusing.

FWIW, the exhortation to ‘Don’t Vote Labor’ refers to the opposition Labor Party, akin to the Democratic Party, which now supports marriage equality.

A hat-tip belongs to the twitter handle:   https://twitter.com/coopesdetat/status/904629205438152705

You can judge for yourself the quality of the English.  As for the "63 genders", it first occurred here on March 20, 2000, but only became a meme about a year ago.

Most Arabic specialists who take one look at what is written in that language on the poster don't want to deal with it.  As Joe Lowry explained, "It looks like what happens when you take a Word document and put it in Apple — especially the way the letters have gotten separated."

According to Devin Stewart,

So, the individual letters are split apart and backwards [and cut off at the end of the first line] [probably because they were written on an IBM computer and downloaded onto a Mac], but they say:

lā tuṣawwit al-ʿummāl idhā kunta targhabu fī ḥimāyat qīmat al-us[rah]
"Do not vote Labor [lit. the laborers] if you desire the protection of the value of the fam[ily …]

lā tuṣawwit al-ʿummāl idhā kunt lā turīd an yuṣbiḥa aṭfāluka mithliyyah
"Do not vote laborers if you do not want your children to become homosexual."

3rd line same as first

lā tuṣawwit al-ʿummāl idhā kunt lā turīd an yakūna al-aṭfālu 63 jinsan
"Do not vote laborers if you do not want your children to be 63 genders."

There are no major problems with the Chinese.  Here's what it says:

rúguǒ nǐ xiǎng hànwèi jiātíng jiàzhí hé wèilái 如果你想捍卫家庭价值和未来
("If you want to defend family values and the future")

rúguǒ nǐ bùxiǎng nǐ de háizi chéngwéi tóngxìngliàn 如果你不想你的孩子成为同性恋
("If you do not want your child to become a homosexual")

rúguǒ nǐ bùxiǎng nǐ de háizi zài xuéxiào bèi jiàoshòu rúhé zìwèi 如果你不想你的孩子在学校被教授如何自慰
("If you do not want your child to be taught how to masturbate in school")

rúguǒ nǐ bùxiǎng háizi xìngbié hǔnluàn 如果你不想孩子性别混乱
("If you do not want your child's gender to become confused")

bùyào tóupiào gěi Gòng dǎng 不要投票给共党
("Don't vote for the Labor Party")

All in all, a strange specimen of political propaganda.

[Thanks to Jinyi Cai and Fangyi Cheng]


  1. Walter Underwood said,

    September 6, 2017 @ 6:04 pm

    "63 genders" is probably inspired by Facebook's great expansion of gender options in 2014. The first set was 58, then it was expanded to 71, or something. Search the web for "Facebook gender options" for more info.


  2. Jim Breen said,

    September 6, 2017 @ 6:41 pm

    In fact the context of the poster is the municipal elections currently under way in New South Wales. Technically nothing to do with the same-sex-marriage issue, which is a federal matter, but if gets you some votes … Also the poster is quite illegal – all election material has to identify the person or group(s) that produce it – this one is anonymous.

    Presumably the writers of the poster want to encourage votes for the centre-right Liberal Party. Ironically that party has more declared gay MPs than the Labor Party. Still, if it gets you votes ….

  3. bratschegirl said,

    September 6, 2017 @ 7:50 pm

    Wait, there was monkey-sponkeing instruction available? How'd I miss that?

  4. Stephen Hart said,

    September 6, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

    "It looks like what happens when you take a Word document and put it in Apple — especially the way the letters have gotten separated."

    ??? "Put it in Apple" ???

  5. David Morris said,

    September 6, 2017 @ 8:39 pm

    bratschegirl: It could be self-tution. I'm sure there's material on the internet.

  6. George said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 1:46 am

    It's not the first time I've noticed – and been struck by – the absence of a 'u' in the name of the Australian Labor Party. It is the first time I've actually bothered to find out why it's spelled like that. Things have certainly changed a lot since 1912, when a workers' party on the other side of the world could look to the US 'labor' movement for inspiration….

  7. George said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 2:17 am

    BTW, those inverted commas weren't intended to be sarcastic, just in case anyone thought they were.

  8. Kasey Chang said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 4:06 am

    I believe similarly worded message was used in California to defeat Prop 8. I recall seeing similarly worded flyers that proclaimed if you go _____ you are allowing "schools would expose kids to inappropriate information about gay people"


    I remember I actually got flyers in bilingual Chinese/English

  9. Victor Mair said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 7:15 am

    Did anyone else notice this exchange in the comments to the original tweet?


    Obiwan-Shannobi‏ @obiwan_shanobi Sep 4
    Replying to @coopesdetat

    How did your ankles get in the picture?
    1 reply 0 retweets 0 likes
    Amy Coopes‏Verified account @coopesdetat Sep 4

    not my ankles, was sent to me by a mate
    1 reply 0 retweets 0 likes
    Obiwan-Shannobi‏ @obiwan_shanobi Sep 4

    Still, very strange angle looks like an overlay ?
    1 reply 0 retweets 0 likes
    Amy Coopes‏Verified account @coopesdetat Sep 4

    i don't know if you are implying it's doctored, @PercivalRoad says they received one too
    1 reply 0 retweets 0 likes
    Obiwan-Shannobi‏ @obiwan_shanobi Sep 4

    Just noting its strange. No theories


    Does anyone here on LLog have any theories?

  10. jaap said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 7:59 am

    It's obviously been laid down flat onto a low table or bench and photographed from above.

  11. Ben Zimmer said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 11:45 am

    The unconnected L-to-R Arabic script (resulting from a copy-and-paste of R-to-L connected characters) is a common problem — see my post last year, "Language is messy, part 2: Arabic script in 'Arrival'."

  12. Jonathan Smith said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

    The visual representations apparently intended to show "bad gay couple" and "good heteronormative family" are not nearly distinctive enough for my taste. On the other hand I do support protection of the future… tough call.

  13. Arthur Baker said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 4:38 pm

    In some respects this reminds me of another scandalous pamphlet incident in Sydney almost 10 years ago. Full account here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindsay_pamphlet_scandal.

  14. KeithB said,

    September 7, 2017 @ 6:31 pm

    This was probably when they separated boys and girls. Girls learned about menstruation and boys about sponking monkeys.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    September 8, 2017 @ 11:41 am

    Although it is not known who's behind the posters, someone quite active on the anti-gay front in the Chinese-Australian community is Dr Pansy Lai of the Àozhōu Huárén jiātíng shǒuhù liánméng 澳洲华人家庭守护联盟 ("Australian Chinese for Families Association").


  16. DWalker07 said,

    September 8, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

    Voting Labor will make your children become homosexuality? Really?

    I didn't know political parties had that much influence.

    Now I'll have to look up which U.S. party was in power when I was born….

  17. Bill Benzon said,

    September 9, 2017 @ 8:21 am

    "Sponke their monkeys" – Gives me a chuckle every time I pass by. It oughta' be a meme.

  18. Graeme said,

    September 10, 2017 @ 3:30 am

    Jim Breen. Thanks for the correction – I'm in Brisbane and didn't know of the overlapping local government elections.

    George. The spelling changed in 1912, perhaps as a modernisation and in significant part due to a senior figure King O'Malley – an early colonial, then national, MP of the parliamentary Labour movement in Australia. And a colo(u)rful figure from Kansas.

  19. Jonathan Smith said,

    September 10, 2017 @ 10:58 am

    re: "sponke monkey", also enjoyable to read as rhyming words

  20. George said,

    September 10, 2017 @ 11:29 am

    @Graeme, yes, that's why I referred to 1912 in my cmment

  21. Draconaes said,

    September 12, 2017 @ 10:34 am

    I found the number 63 for genders amusing. It brings to mind "Rule 63", wherein a person or fictional character is gender-swapped. Maybe that's related to how they came up with that number?

  22. Leo said,

    September 15, 2017 @ 5:58 pm

    Draconaes, "63 genders" comes from a toy model that finds 63 possible combinations of physical sex, behaviour, and sexual orientation, which the author calls "genders" to sound pithy ( https://apath.org/63-genders/ ). Nobody (including the author) endorses it as a model of gender, but some idiot decided that they did, and "they believe there are 63 genders" is now a common straw man.

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