The news for, um, monkeys

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, but tomorrow is a real holiday: the Lunar New Year, ushering in the Year of the Monkey (next week we get a Valentine’s Sunday then for Americans on Monday, Presidents Day). A Canadian $15 silver coin for the occasion:


Then, as reported yesterday by David Mack on BuzzFeed, a Chinese designer in San Francisco set out to honor the holiday with a piece of art, which didn’t come out quite as he intended:


Mack’s story, “This Guy Accidentally Made A Filthy Poster For Chinese New Year”, about

Lehu Zhang, a Chinese graphic designer who lives and works in San Francisco.

A few days ago, Zhang found himself with some spare time and quickly knocked together a poster to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Monday, when the zodiac calendar will herald the “Year of the Monkey.”

“My design style is fairly minimalist,” Zhang told BuzzFeed News. “I decided to just use some basic shapes to create a monkey face. That was my intention. I was playing around with shapes and this thing just came up.”

The poster took an hour to make, and Zhang casually uploaded it to WeChat to see what friends thought of it.

Now, it’s very possible you might look at this and just see a monkey. However, it’s also equally possible you’re looking at this and seeing, well, please don’t make me say it.

The poster found its way on to Twitter where it soon went viral and was shared thousands of times by people with very dirty minds.

Zhang acknowledged that he can now see “some sexual things” in the work, but swears he didn’t intend that. “I’m not angry,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I’m just a little bit surprised, a little bit worried.”

Some people see the monkey right away and then can’t see the penis. Some people — I am one — never see the design as a monkey, even if we add eyes to what we see as testicles.

Zhang is not the only person to go astray with monkey designs. Here’s a logo for a kids’ party equipment
 firm in Yorkshire & Lancashire, which says of itself: “Cheeky Monkeys offer a wide range of party options including bouncy castles, themed airflow systems, soft play and face painting…”:


Yes, just a monkey with a proverbial banana. But an unfortunately placed banana, given that bananas are one of the classic phallic symbols. In this case, the white bit could be seen either as an unusually pointy penis head or as a spray of semen.

On cheeky monkey. Wiktionary has an entry that conforms closely to my experience with this expression:

(Britain, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, idiomatic) An impudent person.

except that it needs a proviso on the order of “especially a young person — a metaphorical monkey — vis-a-vis an older person”, incorporating the first sense of cheeky from Green’s Dictionary of Slang: ‘impudent, esp. in the context of a younger person failing to respect their elder’. Green doesn’t mark this usage as British etc., because the adjective has some North American occurrences. Inexplicably to my mind, Green doesn’t have the longer expression cheeky monkey at all, though he does have an Australian counterpart, cheeky possum ‘an impudent (young) person’.

2 Responses to “The news for, um, monkeys”

  1. rjp Says:

    Huh. I don’t see it as a penis – more as a minimalist homage to Mr Goatse.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      For readers who don’t get the reference, here’s the story from Wikipedia: [suggesting “goat sex”] …, often referred to simply as “Goatse”, was originally an Internet shock site. Its front page featured a picture, entitled hello.jpg, showing a naked man stretching his anus with both hands, to approximately the width of his fist. The inside of his rectum is also clearly visible. Below his anus, his erect penis and scrotum are visible, as well as a golden wedding ring on the ring finger of his left hand.

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