Dear Leader is Best Brony: North Korea and Bronyspeak

Kim Jong Il looks at Fluttershy
Kim Jong Il looks at Fluttershy

Updated 12/16: Added the “Pony Korea is Best Korea” meme and subreddits like /r/MyLittlePyongyang.

[x] Is Best Pony: Not About Grammar

I code-switch in and out of a lot of Englishes. Growing up in a Vietnamese American household, there was my dad’s wholly functional but somewhat stilted English versus my mom’s uber-precise “standard” English. In school, I was a a favorite of English teachers because I had an easy knack for “proper” grammar. But I grew up in North Carolina, where aint’s and y’alls were crucial. And by the time I was in high school and immersing myself in underground hip-hop culture, African American vernacular was the coin of the realm.

That’s all just to say that I’m not here to tell anybody that they’re speaking English wrong(ly!). Different contexts call for different rules of grammar, indicating different social groups and alliances1, and the grammar of “proper” English is only correct because it’s the English of people who hold sway over public opinion. So when we hear a phrase like “[x character] is best pony,” with the grammatical article “the” removed (as in “[x] is THE best pony), we can understand it as a demarcation of an identity through the playful use of grammar, though it comes at the risk of others painting it as signaling stupidity or something like that. As Tia Baheri notes at The Toast, “Conventional wisdom portrays this form of linguistic flexibility and playfulness as the end of intelligent human life”2.

So, today’s topic: where did the phrase “[x] is best pony” come from?

FiM Fandom Uptake

sticker,375x360.u2[1]

These days, you can’t look at a brony site or twitter feed without tripping over the phrase “[x] is best pony,” but it didn’t really gain traction in the fandom until 2012. I dug through the archives of Equestria Daily and found only sporadic references throughout 2011 (“Rarity is best pony” in June, “Pinkie Pie is best pony” in July, “Derpy is best pony” in September, etc.)—things didn’t really pick up until Equestria Daily posted its “[X] is Best Pony Graph” in November 2011. By January 2012, the comments section was starting to get littered with the formula.

Still, that doesn’t explain where it came from. That requires turning to the deepest recesses of the Internet.

Best Pony: Origins

mare_do_well___no_bg_by_lordbojangles-d4hdtlp[1]

When I asked about the “[x] is best pony” formula on Twitter, a few people told me that it was probably 4chan. Considering the storied history of /mlp/ on 4chan, they were almost certainly right, but that wasn’t enough for me. Surely, the transformation wasn’t simply:

"[x] is the best pony" >>> "[x] is best pony"

I guessed that it was probably something more like:

"[x] is best [y]" >>> "[x] is best pony"

Still, was there an original [x] and [y]? Were 4chan’s denizens really that invested in calling things “the best” of whatever category? 4chan loves its superlatives, but that seemed like a really stupid thing to be invested in. There’s always a logic to 4chan mayhem, tied to absurd humor. Whatever the original [x] and [y] were, they weren’t just random things that people earnestly thought were the greatest things ever. Then I thought about the premiere of Friendship is Magic: October 10, 2010. What 4chan antics were in the zeitgeist right before that—say, in the summer of 2010?

Bieber x North Korea: A Love Story

Bieber to space

As chronicled pretty well by KnowYourMeme, 4chan began its Project North Korea is Best Korea to send Justin Bieber to North Korea to perform after his promoters made a webpage where fans could vote for a country he would perform in—with no restrictions on the countries. 4chan being 4chan, they quickly decided that they’d spam the vote and send Bieber to North Korea.

That was the missing link! The campaign got coverage on a number of big news websites, and therefore the general tech/nerd crowd outside of 4chan would have been privy to the humorous idea of “North Korea is Best Korea” and excellent images like this one:

If only they had Girls Generation
If only they had Girls Generation

In fact, that image dates back to at least May 26, 2009 when it was posted to Flickr, so the phrase “North Korea is Best Korea” probably has an even older pedigree on 4chan. The oldest reference I’ve found is a North Korean propaganda video uploaded to YouTube on June 29, 2008:

So, the meme “North Korea is best Korea” was already circulating, and remixing it n various ways was already a familiar source for humor in online circles. Thus, soon after Friendship is Magic became a phenomenon, the following meme people called “Pony Korea is Best Korea” hit the Internet, as early as February 20113 :

PonyKoreaIsBestKorea

 

More recently, I discovered a number of subreddits, with sporadic activity, that continue the link between “Best Korea” and My Little Pony:

Conclusion

That’s where my story ends, though the social life of the phrase itself will continue to evolve and adapt to circumstances. Recently, I’ve witnessed a few times when somebody in a non-brony context will say “[x] is best [y],” and a brony will chime in to say that the phrase originated from his/her fandom. In some cases, somebody will tell the brony that he/she is wrong and that the phrase originated from 4chan, though I have yet to see a clearer attribution than that.

So, is my etymology correct? Did I miss anything? Are there other terms of brony-speak with ambiguous etymologies? Why do you think bronies even have these terms specific to their fandoms? What does it mean that many of the terms originate from other geek subcultures? Comments please!


  1. linguists call such groupings based on linguistic features “speech communities” 

  2. Shout-out to Andrew Crome on Twitter for the link: https://twitter.com/Andrew_Crome/status/410042731025530880  

  3. Big thanks to “penguinland” on Reddit who found this image. The link was to the Something Awful forums, but that does suggest the same circles of people as 4chan. 

6 thoughts on “Dear Leader is Best Brony: North Korea and Bronyspeak

  1. Probably my favorite “Fandom term” to come this is the use of the word “Plot” to mean a pony’s ass.

    I’m pretty sure that the origin of that is a simple demotivator showing rather close-up views of them with the standard phrase of “I watch it for the plot” and it just snowballed from there.

    There are very few (if any) fandoms that I know of that have a specific term to refer to a specific body part.

    Really, at times, it’s almost like you have to learn a whole new language. Before this show, I had never heard the term “Alicorn” (when it was just a fan term and before they actually used it in the show). I had known of winged unicorns, but they were just that.

    “Wingboner” is another. Self-explanatory, but still.

    All these phrases and words. Even beyond not being in the know, if you want to interact with fans, you have to do your homework.

    Hell, it’s almost as if you can’t just watch the show. If you just watch it, you can follow along with fans, but so many things are stuff that were created or popularized by fanworks.

    Derpy for instance. In show, just a background character (save for “Last Round-up”, but only the original aired version). In fandom, where to even begin? Same goes for all the “Background Ponies”.

    Newcomers might only be aware of the Mane 6 and Spike, and maybe the CMC, Celestia, and Luna. All the personalities and adventures of the background characters is almost 100% fanon.

    Really, my favorite of the backgrounds for these living props (which is essentially what they are) is our favorite main stallion, Dr. Hooves. I absolutely love that fans took a character from the background and for the most part said “That’s the Doctor”, as in “Doctor Who”. It’s the ultimate nerd crossover. Our Pony Doctor even has enough stories and such about him to fill as many series as the actual “Doctor Who” has been on the air (yes, going back to 1963).

    Before context was given, my brother mentioned being in a mythology class and having ponies brought up. I thought that it was perfect, seeing the complex mythology we fans have come up with, even beyond what’s said on the show, about Celestia, Luna, Nightmare Moon, Discord, and the events of the Hearth’s Warming Eve pageant.

    So to summarize, the fandom is insane in what it’s come up with and I absolutely love it.
    (I realize that this was a post about fanon terms, but it is a nice segway into just what fans can come up with in general about the show).
    (Also, Rarity is Best Pony. End of discussion)

    1. I can definitely vouch for the “doing homework” part: we’ve both had to spend quite a bit of time with all the different fan terms, parodies, and fanons. It’s been awesome—especially Sweetie Bot for me… she’s my favorite.

      I think one of my favorite things at the moment (which I am going to write a bit about once I’ve got grading and term papers out of the way and have some time to start diving into some fanfics) is all of the stuff surrounding Colgate/Minuette/Minty Fresh/Whatever else you want to call her. I’m particularly fond of the fanon version of her where she is a time lord (due to her cutie mark) but really just wants to be a dentist. Not only is it hilarious, it is also something that is really relatable and brings up a lot of interesting destiny/desire issues that are really interesting to think about within the MLP world (Witchcraft is Magic also brings those issues up quite a bit by mentioning that Apple Bloom can be anything she wants, so long as it is apple-related).

    2. Yeah, anatomical euphemisms are a really rich place for verbal play when your cast is a bunch of anthropomorphic ponies AND the show’s creators have set a precedent for words speaking about “people” to be transformed into ponyspeak, e.g. everypony. And “plot” of course will continue to index in some way the sexualized aspect of fandom culture.

      Interesting.

  2. I always thought the term X is best pony came from episode 3 of FiM, the Ticket Master. Specifically when Pinkie Pie is singing and she sings “Twilight is the all round best pony”.

    1. Yeah, but that doesn’t suggest the main linguistic marker of the phrase, which is to remove “the.” Bronies are always saying that so-and-so is the best pony, and that’s not surprising since you have such a varied cast and different people have different favorites. But the phrase “is best pony” is a very specific thing.

      That said, any opportunity to declare who is the best pony is also a chance for somebody to say the phrase “is best pony.” So maybe it’s no surprise that, following the fall of 2011, when lots of bronies were debating who their favorites were, the phrase gained more traction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *