I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee...
“Then I took an arrow in the knee,” might just have been the Western internet’s last big meme of 2011, emerging just after the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and quickly catching on until it was suddenly absolutely everywhere. For those not in the know, the joke comes from the aforementioned Skyrim, an expansive single-player RPG in which it seems every guard you meet in every city tells you the same sad story: “I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee.”
Well, we’re living in a global village, and despite the fact that Skyrim isn’t as huge in China as it has been elsewhere, it appears Chinese netizens aren’t letting that stop them from translating and applying the meme here, too. According to a Baidu Baike entry about the meme, the official Chinese translation of “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee,” is:
Wǒ yǐqián hé nǐ yīyàng yě shì ge màoxiǎnjiā, zhídào wǒ de xīgài zhōng le yī jiàn
The general application of the meme in the West has followed this pattern: “I used to [verb phrase], then I took an arrow in the knee,” and Chinese net users have generally approached it the same way. A cursory search of Sina Weibo for the phrase “took an arrow in the knee” shows the phase appearing in multiple posts per minute, applied in more or less the same way. Some Chinese example usages:
- “I used to drink Mengniu Pure milk. Then I took an arrow in the knee.” [A reference to the recent revelation that Mengniu Pure milk contains one of the world's strongest carcinogens]
- “I used to think trains were the safest form of transportation. Then I took an arrow in the knee.” [A rather late reference to the July high speed rail accident]
- “Kim Jong Il is dead, I’ll never believe in love again, until I take an arrow in the knee.” [a mix of the Skyrim arrow meme with the Chinese meme "I'll never believe in love again."]
- “I used to think prize drawings were just floating clouds, then I took an arrow in the knee.” [A combination with China's "mystical horses are all floating clouds" meme]
- “I used to hold out hope for Chinese people’s sense of right and wrong, then I took an arrow to the knee.” [In response to Han Han's Christmas blog posts decrying revolution and democracy]
- “I used to do well on English tests, then I took an arrow in the knee.”
- “I used to try to improve myself each day, then I took an arrow in the knee.” [Combines the arrow meme with a popular school slogan about working to improve each day]
If you think this is weird, you’re probably not alone. It’s also further evidence that within a decade or two, internet users will all be speaking in a motley assortment of cross-cultural memes that’s completely incomprehensible to outsiders. So prepare yourselves now. We used to think that memes were too weird and specific to effectively jump across cultures, but then we took an arrow in the knee.
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