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The Penis-word Resource - Noov (hmong)

Jun. 27th, 2007

12:33 pm - Noov (hmong)

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Outside of the Han majority, there are 55 ethnic groups recognized by the Chinese government. One of these groups is the Hmong, although the Chinese government lumps them into a meta-group contentiously called the Miao.

There have been some zany theories as to the origin of the Hmong, including attempts to relate them to Mesopotamian cultures, but the prevailing and least ridiculous current theory is that the Hmong originally inhabited land around the Yellow River, and were pushed south by one of the early Han expansions (possibly in the 2nd millenium BCE). After wandering for an indeterminate period, the theory goes, they settled in or around the modern provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi. Genetic evidence supports Hmong occupation of these regions for at least the last two thousand years.


The various governments of China have never had a particularly cozy relationship with the Hmong, and indeed the word for their government-assigned ethnic group, Miao, is synonymous with "barbarian." Strife, in fact, has underscored much of Hmong history even to our present era. During the 18th century, moaning under the weight of economic barriers erected by the Qing Dynasty and pushed off their land by Han settlement, the Hmong rebelled against Chinese authority. Some chose to stay and fight a bloody conflict, but an enormous number of Hmong migrated south, again, this time to northern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Let no one say that the French couldn't play the Dickheaded Colonial Power Game with the very very best of them: shortly after the Hmong migrations into Indochina, France made the region into a proper colony, repleat with asinine Colonial Government and oppressive policies dictated from on-high to the hapless natives. One of these policies was that France reserved the right to arbitrarily dictate tax policy at tax-time. In 1896, when Hmong representatives in Laos refused to collect taxes at a rate higher than was advertised, a war ensued. The Hmong got their rates renegotiated, and the French got a bug up their ass about the "warlike" Hmong. By 1918, French colonial dickishness again got to the point where the Hmong could no longer tolerate it and, under the leadership of one Pa Chay Vue the Hmong rebelled a second time. The ensuing war is known to the French as the Guerre du Fou, or "the War of the Insane." The stated goal of the war was the liberation of a Hmong state, and certainly at its' height combat succeeded in plunging a state-sized region (some 40,000 square kilometers) into complete chaos and throwing the French army off their game. In the end, France decided that the best way to bring fighting to a speedy conclusion was to assassinate Pa Chay Vue. This turned out to be correct and his assassination in 1921 lead to the end of a war that French historians still attribute to Hmong savagery instead of French arrogance.

This all gives the impression of the Hmong as a monolithic entity with unified goals, an impression which could not be further from the truth. Indeed, the Hmong have fought on both sides of many wars, even the ones instigated by the Hmong. There were Qing loyalists in Hmong conflicts in China (the so-called Cooked Hmong as opposed to the frequently-oppressed and rebellious Raw Hmong), and there were Hmong fighting for the French colonials in Indochina. The existence of this latter group became quite important to France and, later, the U.S. during the post WWII conflicts in Vietnam.

In the 1960's while the anti-French Hmong were fighting alongside the North Vietnamese Army, a staggering 80% of the Hmong men in Laos were recruited by the CIA to fight as American proxies in the Secret War in Laos. Under the leadership of General Vang Pao, Hmong warriors fought against NVA soldiers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and protected a massive American/Hmong military base in the fortified city of Long Cheng. Long Cheng was so important that, at its' height, it boasted an airstrip with more air traffic than O'Hare International. By wars' end, some 40,000 Laotian Hmong were confirmed dead and countless more were MIA. After Vietnam and Laos fell into communist hands many of these Hmong became hunted rebels, hiding out in remote locations and staging anti-communist guerilla actions, a situation which continues to this day. Many fled to Thailand in 1975 and remained there until, in the 1990's, the Thai government began a program of (I love this euphemism) "forcible repatriation." This repatriation was sanctioned by President Clinton and created an unusual alliance of conservative Republicans and Human Rights groups which finally managed to reverse the policy and get the Hmong resettled in less hostile countries, including the United States. The final resettlement of Hmong into America began in 2004.

Currently, of the estimated 4 million Hmong speakers worldwide, 15% (270,000) live in the United States, most as a result of post-Vietnam resettlement. This gives the U.S. the fourth largest Hmong population in the world, exceeded only by China (2.8 million), Vietnam (800,000) and Laos (300,000).

One of the Hmong words for penis is noov.

You know what, for sitting through that entire article, you get a second one: khej khem. Also means penis.

EDIT: Reader, gentleman, and resident for-real linguist muckefuck saves my bacon for the fifth or sixth time. From the comments:

Likewise, giving a Hmong word without identifying the dialect also gives an impression of unity which really isn't there. My White Hmong dictionary says of noov:


"Blue Hmong term for the penis. (cf. 'qau'). Sometimes used also by the White Hmong." Under qau one finds:
The penis, the male organ of copulation (tus).
(referring to the organ in humans or animals).
(cf. 'pim' [vagina], 'noob qes' [testicle], 'tsoob' [intercourse].)
'tus qau' is the term used by adults referring to the male sex member. It is also used as vile language in cursing. The term 'tus hnyuv' or 'tus hnyuv qau' is also used but more by children or of children.

Hnyuv by itself can also mean "penis", but its primary meaning seems to be "intestine", so I presume this is a euphemistic use. (Tus is just a classifier for long slender objects.) I can't find any White Hmong word resembling khej khem. In this variety, khej means "crocodile" and khem is part of a word referring to notches made in wood.

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[User Picture]
From:muckefuck
Date:June 28th, 2007 03:18 am (UTC)
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This all gives the impression of the Hmong as a monolithic entity with unified goals, an impression which could not be further from the truth.

Likewise, giving a Hmong word without identifying the dialect also gives an impression of unity which really isn't there. My White Hmong dictionary says of noov: "Blue Hmong term for the penis. (cf. 'qau'). Sometimes used also by the White Hmong." Under qau one finds:
The penis, the male organ of copulation (tus).
(referring to the organ in humans or animals).
(cf. 'pim' [vagina], 'noob qes' [testicle], 'tsoob' [intercourse].)
'tus qau' is the term used by adults referring to the male sex member. It is also used as vile language in cursing. The term 'tus hnyuv' or 'tus hnyuv qau' is also used but more by children or of children.
Hnyuv by itself can also mean "penis", but its primary meaning seems to be "intestine", so I presume this is a euphemistic use. (Tus is just a classifier for long slender objects.) I can't find any White Hmong word resembling khej khem. In this variety, khej means "crocodile" and khem is part of a word referring to notches made in wood.
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[User Picture]
From:dr_horrible
Date:June 28th, 2007 06:01 am (UTC)
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You're right. I tend to lean heaviest on the history when I'm lightest on etymology. I probably should have reserved Hmong until I had a better grasp on the definitions, but I found their story compelling, and had blocked after several attempts to pin down the word, and finally decided I'd never do another post if I held off any longer.

So my bad, but 3 weeks is just too long between posts, so I just up and went for it. Thanks for steping up with the linguistics-fu.
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From:muckefuck
Date:June 28th, 2007 02:22 pm (UTC)
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No worries! I quite like reading your historical summaries. You've obviously put some work into making what could just be a cut-and-paste job from the encyclopaedia into a fluid and engaging read.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 28th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)

hoppin and boppin

(Link)
to the crocodile notch ;-)

good stuff mang

- j
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