Taiwanese phrase of the day: You can tell if people are stupid by looking at their faces 人若呆,看面就知 lâng nā gōng khòaⁿ bīn tio̍h chai

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I seem to have learned mostly offensive Taiwanese so far, but hopefully that will change as I slowly run out of offensive material. This is still one of my favourite phrases in Taiwanese, because it’s so cutting. The photo above (not mine, found on Facebook, but originally posted to ptt) had me laughing for a while during the Sunflower movement. Cabinet member Hsiao Chiachi (蕭家淇 Xiao Jiaqi) remonstrated with the press that someone ate his taiyangbings (太陽餅 a flat pastry filled with stuffing, like a moon cake) during the brief occupation of the Executive Yuan by students – obviously his major concern at a time when the Legislative Yuan was still occupied by students. The caption reads: “The ones I was going to give my colleagues were eaten too!” His words and his despair have spawned many a meme, but this one has to be my favorite. I don’t agree with the premise of the phrase, as it’s pretty offensive to call anyone stupid, and I don’t think Mr Hsiao is stupid either, his comments were just comically ill-timed. He was probably attempting to portray the students, who were being deified in the pan-green press at the time, as vandals (stealing, damaging property etc), and therefore undermine the support in Taiwan for the protest in the Legislative Yuan. This came across, however, as a passionate love for sun cakes, and utter disappointment that someone else had gotten to them first.

人若戇(呆),看面著(就)知 lâng nā gōng khòaⁿ bīn tio̍h chai

人  lâng people (PS. We’ve seen this quite regularly so far, in the post on the first verse of the song 〈繁華攏是夢〉 and in the post on 鬱鬱在心底, 笑笑陪人禮) 人

若   if Mando 若是, 如果…的話

戇 gōng stupid Mando: 呆 (This is commonly written as 呆 when Taiwanese is written down, but 呆/獃 (variants) is pronounced tai in Taiwanese, similar to its Chinese pronounciation dāi

khòaⁿ look (at) (We also saw this when looking at the first verse of  the song 〈繁華攏是夢〉) Mando: 看

bīn face (We saw this in the post about the phrase “country bumpkin face” 莊腳面)  Mando: 臉

著  tio̍h used to emphasize that something happens quickly, equivalent to 就 in Mandarin

chai (prounced like zāi in Mandarin) to know. Mando: 知道

2 thoughts on “Taiwanese phrase of the day: You can tell if people are stupid by looking at their faces 人若呆,看面就知 lâng nā gōng khòaⁿ bīn tio̍h chai

    • Hey TC, yeah i’ve heard that before too, but my friend said that this is a more common version. Not sure if that’s true though. Thanks for your contribution.

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