Assassin in pustular Skin by teens & Phong Ronin and the nation-wide debate of evolution of language

By , October 30, 2011 4:00 pm

“Sát thủ đầu mưng mủ”, a 15+ comic book comprising of 150 illustrated young people’s idioms are invoking much debate among Vietnamese communities on language.

The idioms, mostly attributed to anonymous authors, have been viralled through online communities and forums, notably vOz (, for some time. Thanh Phong (Phong Ronin Nguyen), an acclaimed cartoonist was approached by Nha Nam publishing house to illustrate most popular idioms. His blog can be found here.

These idioms are meant to be entertaining, and were composed solely as such. Many are satiristic, others simply rhyme without intentional semantic arrangement.

Much controversy arose from the satire part. The debate is heated when Fineart Publishing House chooses to withdraw copies in circulation at retailers.

Nonetheless, attention to the book has hit mainstream media, where TV shows and linguists participate in the debate. Supporters empathize with the evolution of language which reflects changes in culture and acceptance of the less-mainstream. Critics cite orthodoxy of language, traditional values and concern of the impact of satirism on younger readers.

The best scenario for the book, and more subtle, the hope for acceptance of youngster culture in the society, would probably be continued publication with modifications from inputs of empathic communication and linguistic experts.

Good luck, Phong and his supporters.

The title “Assassin in pustular Skin” is my own attempt at translating the original title to English, aiming at retaining the meaningless-but-harmlessly-fun rhyme of the phrase. Word-by-word breakdown: sát – to kill/assassinate, thủ – a person who does something, đầu – head, mưng – abscess, mủ – pustule.

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