Your Pinky Heart

« previous post | next post »

Phenomenally viral song by the Malaysian hip-hop artist, Namewee, "It might Break Your Pinky Heart. Namewee 黃明志 Ft.Kimberley Chen 陳芳語【Fragile 玻璃心】@鬼才做音樂 2021 Ghosician" — premiered on 10/15/21, and it already has nearly 9,000,000 views:

Wee Meng Chee (Chinese: 黄明志; pinyin: Huáng Míngzhì; born 6 May 1983) is a Malaysian Chinese hip hop recording artist, composer, filmmaker and actor who is widely known by his stage name Namewee (/ˈnm.w/), a bilingual pun on his first name, which sounds like the Mandarin term for name (Chinese: 名字; pinyin: míngzi).

Wee gained popularity after releasing a controversial song titled Negarakuku, a remake of the national anthem of Malaysia, Negaraku. The word kuku resembles the male reproductive organ in Chinese Hokkien dialect. In the weeks following the song's release, it drew criticism from Malaysian society.


Superficially, the song seems funny and silly, but it's actually a devastating critique of the PRC.  To understand it fully, one needs to grasp the many references and images, and catch all the puns and other word play.  In that sense, it is like a contemporary Tang poem — you have to be up on all the more or less hidden allusions.

The fact that the video is trilingual (Chinese, Malay, and English) makes the satire all the richer (multi-layered).  Note that trilingual subtitles are provided in all three of these languages.

Some of the references are known outside the Sinosphere, e.g., Great Firewall (= censorship), Pooh (= Xi Jinping), etc.  Others, like jiǔcài 韭菜 ("leeks; Chinese chives" = speculative investment; corruption; referenced visually and verbally in the video) are more esoteric and require specialized knowledge.  Language Log readers in the know are invited to supply other clues and explications.

It's making the rounds even on the non-China-focused internet, e.g., here, which will help you crack many of the cultural codes.


Selected reading



  1. Ralph J Hickok said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 7:09 am

    Why "pinky," I wonder? To me, it means a little finger.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 7:18 am

    From Zihan Guo:

    I was wondering what pinky heart had to do with bōlí xīn 玻璃心 (lit., "glass heart", i.e., "fragile"), and realized that all the pink is probably yet another innuendo against a special group of netizens people ridicule as xiǎo fěnhóng 小粉紅 ("little pinks"). Actually, I think these xiǎo fěnhóng 小粉紅 ("little pinks") are the main target of this song, given how they usually act and talk on the internet regarding sensitive political issues (in ways that are blind, argumentative, paranoid, volatile). They indeed have bōlí xīn 玻璃心 (lit., "glass heart", i.e., "fragile"). But of course, they are subsumed under a dominating structure.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 9:23 am

    Geremie Barmé wrote a wonderful essay the other day that places the song in the context of Namewee’s August “Eight Suggestions” and the broader historical context of zhīqíng quán 知情權 ("the right to know"):

  4. ycx said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

    Some of the references that I've noticed and understood (or not), I probably missed quite a few here and there.

    0:57 – 一点都不能少: Reference to the Nine-Dot Line territorial claims

    1:06 – 不可分割: Reference to its irredentist position on Taiwan being an "inseparable part" of China

    1:30 – 直白: Unsure of reference, perhaps something to do with Xi's claims that he is "direct".

    1:36 – 森七七: A Taiwanese phrase meaning "angry", appears to be similar to the English internet usage "u mad"

    2:01 – Reference to SARS1 and SARS2 originating in animals from China

    2:08 – Directly explained in English subtitle and also referenced in original post

    2:18 – 不换肩: Reference to Xi's boast that he walked five kilometers with a 200 pound weight on his shoulders without changing the shoulder on which it sat:

    2:22 – 共同富裕: A communist phrase meaning "common prosperity"

    2:26 – 脱贫: Reference to Xi's policy of "escaping poverty"

    2:30 – 韭菜: Referenced in original post

    2:33 – 撒币: A reference to Xi's policy of overspending on foreign countries, likely also originated as a homophone of the insult 傻屄 (silly cunt)

    2:58 – 消音: Reference to censorship in general

    3:00 – 哈密瓜 再教育: Reference to the Uighurs being forced to plant melons as part of their "re-education" in concentration camps.

    3:02 – 苹果 凤梨 Reference to Xi banning Taiwanese pineapples for no apparent reason.

    3:08 – A Chinese mother insult.

    3:13 – 对熊猫弹琴 Reference to the Chinese proverb 对牛弹琴 (to cast pearls before swine)

    3:14 – 惊呆了 吓尿了 Possibly a reference to jingoistic articles claiming that foreign countries are "astounded" or "peed their pants in fear".

  5. Victor Mair said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 12:10 pm

    Further elucidation of relevant terms:

    Xiǎo fěnhóng 小粉紅 ("little pinks") are a group of blind and often ignorant patriots (an evolved version of Wǔmáo dǎng 五毛黨 ["Fifty Cent Party"]?)*. Whenever they smell something unusual on the internet that seems to damage the national image / reputation (of the PRC), they get melodramatic. Whenever they see comments of that sort, they fight back relentlessly and dwell on them forever.


    *50 Cent Party, 50 Cent Army and wumao (/ˈwuːmaʊ/) are terms for Internet commentators who are hired by the authorities of the People's Republic of China to manipulate public opinion and disseminate disinformation to the benefit of the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It was created during the early phases of the Internet's rollout to the wider public in China.


  6. Victor Mair said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 1:06 pm

    More from Geremie Barmé:

    I’ve enjoyed Namewee’s work for some years — I first encountered this kind of multi-dialect and eclectic “Chineseness” in high school, where I had a few close Malay-Chinese friends, who came to Oz in numbers under the Columbo Plan.

    It was good to be able to join it to 知情權 which, as you can see, has struck me as immensely important from my earliest China days.

  7. Jerry Packard said,

    October 22, 2021 @ 1:13 pm

    Given that bōlí 玻璃 is a slang term for gay lovers, bōlí xīn 玻璃心 could also be a double entendre meaning both a fragile and gay heart.

  8. Benjamin Daniels said,

    October 23, 2021 @ 12:54 am

    @ycx: 超直白 is a Hokkien swear word, meaning stinking c*nt.

  9. ycx said,

    October 23, 2021 @ 8:20 am

    @Benjamin Daniels

    He did make that same joke earlier in a different song, but the pronunciation of it was much closer to the actual curse than "直白". It's definitely a plausible interpretation but that's probably why I missed it to begin with.

  10. Chuck Pergiel said,

    October 23, 2021 @ 12:44 pm

    Off topic, but I don't know how else to contact you. I came across something odd and Language Log seems like the place to ask.
    "China’s State Council . . . under the pretext that bitcoin miners were using up too much dirty electricity"
    I'm wondering if the translation got garbled.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    October 23, 2021 @ 8:52 pm

    As the ZH post and tweet both say clearly, and many other sources say the same thing, this refers to electricity generated by coal, of which China uses more than the rest of the world combined, and is furiously increasing coal mining and coal electricity generating capacity. All dirty….

  12. Keith said,

    October 24, 2021 @ 8:07 am

    The meaning of 韭菜 seems to have evolved in the last few years. I now hear it used to refer to exploitation (whether by employers or the government). A friend explained to me that the relevant analogy is: just as leeks will regrow after being cut, so will workers keep producing value despite being exploited–so the boss might as well keep exploiting. I began to hear 韭菜 in this sense with greatly increased frequency in the wake of the 3-child policy announcement about 4 months ago.

    This post from China Media Project mentions the same sense of 韭菜:

  13. Victor Mair said,

    October 25, 2021 @ 8:25 am

    As of Oct. 25, 16,460,142 views

    Premiered Oct 15, 2021

  14. Victor Mair said,

    October 25, 2021 @ 8:27 am

    From June Teufel Dreyer:

    Satirizes the "little pinks" social media commentators who strongly defend the Chinese government.

  15. jin defang said,

    October 25, 2021 @ 9:19 am

    I was amused at the "little pink" panda trying to serve Huang and Namewee a bat.

  16. Thomas said,

    October 25, 2021 @ 11:45 am

    Learning Chinese in some small city where the only possibility to do so is the local Confucius Institute, I don't know if I should laugh or cry about this song. Chapeau, Namewee and Kimberley, for standing up against the dull cultural and political garbage the CCP wants to flood the world with.

  17. Qi Miao said,

    October 27, 2021 @ 6:16 am

    I just noticed one of the teddy bears is wearing a string of pearls around his neck. Video rewards rewatching….

  18. Victor Mair said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 8:50 am

    If you want to know what Namewee himself thinks about many crucial issues pertaining to China and Chinese culture, be sure to read this article:

    "Malaysia's Namewee banned in China after music video mocks online nationalists"

    NBC News, Variety, 2 days ago

    For those who appreciate a wonderfully deep dive into just why “Fragile” is so popular in SEA and has touched a very raw nerve in the PRC, enjoy Stuart Jai’s analysis.

  19. alex said,

    November 3, 2021 @ 5:52 pm

    at the 37 sec mark there are 2 apples and an apple computer.

    Some people say the apples are Apple daily

    and you can see the apple laptop is a knockoff with the 2 bites out of it. Here you see many knockoff that change the original logo a little bit.

  20. alex said,

    November 3, 2021 @ 6:06 pm

    whats interesting is one can contrast it to the gov sponsored soft power

    Music Video: The Belt and Road, Sing Along 一带一路全球唱

    as for the Namewee this expat living in Taiwan had a creative remix
    Namewee and Kimberley Chen – Fragile (Hiphop Remix) [English CC]#

    and this is the remixers channel -We BS politics in English, Taiwanese and Chinese

RSS feed for comments on this post