The Minus One Horse


P-M was born in China and finsihed his middle school and high school in LA, California. He is currently studying at USC. P-M shared this piece of folklore with me after I asked him whether he know of any interesting folklore when we were chatting after dinner.

Some Background Knowledge:

三国杀(san guo sha)is a very popular board game in China, which is based on historical events in late Han Dynasty. In this game, there is an equipment called 减一马(jian yi ma), word to word translation, minus one horse. The function doesn’t matter.

The Main Piece:

P-M: Bro, what should I say if someone thinks only kids who cannot make it into good universities in China study abroad?

Me: WTF? I though only people who cannot afford studying abroad go to Chinese universities.

P-M: I’ll give him jian yi ma.

Me: What does that mean?

P-M: Word by word, he’ll have minus one horse. (in chinese, the word “horse”, ma, sounds super similar to the word “mother”, ma) Every San Guo Sha player knows that.

Me: Duuuude!! That’s sooooo cool.


P-M gives the other guy minus one horse, which means minus one mother. In other words, his mother is dead. This is a very offensive curse in the Chinese language. However, by using a card in a game to refer to this curse, it seems a lot more gentle and humorous, and therefore more acceptable. This shows how board games has influenced our everyday life and how curse words can be expressed in humorous ways by refering to games.