When I asked what a 「莊腳面」 looks like…

So after yesterday’s post on the Taiwanese term 「莊腳面」 ‘country bumpkin face’  chng-khabīn – I got inundated (read: I got like two comments) by information from Taiwanese friends trying to explain what kind of faces they are.

One 天龍人* friend used two alternative ways of representing the term in Chinese: 「增咖面」(phonetic rendering) and 「樁腳面」. He suggested any of the actors from shows in the 8pm slot on TV, like 《娘家》(Mom’s House), 《世間情》(Love) and 《嫁妝》(Dowry):

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He also said it could be applied to non-Taiwanese people, and put forth Susan Boyle and Adele!? as two examples from the UK. He said that it’s because they look “dated”.

Another friend said it was a synonym for the expressions 「土」 (rustic) and 「台」 (folksy with Taiwanese characteristics).

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*「天龍人」 is a term generally used in Taiwan to refer to people from Taipei, suggesting that they are elitist and look down on others. It takes its origins in the term “World Nobles” (Japanese: 天竜人 Tenryūbito) from Japanese manga One Piece and literally means “Heavenly Dragon Folk”, snobby arrogant elites who serve as the world government in the manga (hmm, snobby, arrogant, who would that remind you of…). 

Let me just note here that I don’t endorse judging people on the basis of whether they are from an urban or rural environment and this is all meant in a lighthearted way.

Revisiting an Old Post on 「莊腳面」(庄腳面) Taiwanese for “Country Bumpkin Face”

I noticed a spike in views of one of my old posts, looking at the use of the term 「莊腳面」 in Wu Nien-chen’s Human Condition series of plays, which were the topic of my master’s thesis. When I googled the word again, the following news story from yesterday came up several times, suggesting it might be the reason people were looking for a definition of the term:

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The article is entitled “Chang Jung-fa explains that even if you look like a bumpkin, you can still be a flight attendant” and seems to be largely a puff-piece. I just pictured a group of country bumpkins eager to become flight attendants eagerly googling what the term means.

Here’s the definition I previously posted:

莊腳面 chng-khabīn (click for pronounciation) , basically means that someone’s face looks like they’re from the countryside, or a bumpkin. It’s not always used in the negative, as it can imply innocence or directness and honesty too, I guess it depends on what your opinion on people from the countryside is. I found an answer on Yahoo which gives quite a good explanation of 莊腳 and other terms, although I’m not sure if the first three are still used in Taiwanese:

莊頭 進入村莊前緣的地方 The beginning of the village
莊內 村莊中心的地方 The main part of the village
莊尾 村莊末端的地方 The tail end of the village
莊腳 chng-kha 村莊外圍偏遠的地方 The places on the outer margins of the village
(I know, inception-like quotations within quotations)

So, this would make 莊腳 the bumpkin of bumpkins, as even the people in the village think he’s a bit rustic.

You probably noticed too, that the Chinese article I cited uses the character 「庄」, not the 「莊」 I used in my original post. 「庄」 is actually a variant of 「莊」(village)  according to the Ministry of Education Dictionary. I thought this was interesting, as I think that CNA used the variant in order to be sure people knew to read it as Taiwanese. As with most of my theories, I’ve got little proof, but would be eager to find out if anyone knows of similar examples.

It’s relatively unusual for newspapers not to put the Chinese translation in brackets after a Taiwanese phrase is used unless it’s extremely common, which might explain why so many people were Googling the word. If you’re Taiwanese you can comment on how common this word is. On the other hand it could just have been lots of foreigners who came across the Chinese article and didn’t know what it meant.

Feel free to comment below or message me with any strange or startling Taiwanese phrases you come across or even with sketches the typical 「莊腳面」.

 

Shamelessly Ashamed: 「不恥」or 「不齒」 Part 3

I previously posted two blog posts  looking at how 「不恥」 and 「不齒」 are used as homonyms to mean “shame” in Ruan Ching-yue’s short story ‘The Conman’ (translation available here) and in A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong (review available here), despite the former actually meaning “unashamed”. This suggested that most Taiwanese now use 「不恥」 rather than 「不齒」 , while reading 《斷代》 by writer Kuo Chiang-sheng however, I discovered a counterexample:

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In this sentence, 「不齒」 is used as follows:

…展現的仍是令開放的同類不齒的無知與無奈…

… showing still the ignorance and helplessness that is such a source of shame for those gay people who are open…

The book is really good so far and I’d definitely recommend it.

Addicted to ‘Addicted’《上癮》上癮了

So I watched Addiction/Addicted or 《上癮》 the gay-themed Chinese drama that got banned recently and… I thought it was great for a Chinese drama. If you don’t want spoilers skip down past the first photo. Although let’s face it, spoilers aren’t really a concern with formulaic but fun dramas.

Albeit it’s a little bit problematic that stalking, rape, kidnapping and violent jealousy are treated as normal (and almost comical) ways in which the couple finally get together. If I hadn’t seen a lot of straight Chinese dramas along similar themes, I would think this was an attempt to demonize the gay community, but in other series that don’t feature gay themes and even in the straight relationships featured in the series, bat-shit crazy is seen as a normal expression of love. Although it may be seen as encouraging unhealthy behaviour in relationships, let’s face it, this is a soap opera, so drama is par for the course. It was therefore a little bemusing to see the couple waking up as lovers the night after the kidnap before – but let’s not try and find too many life lessons here and explore some of the language instead! My friend told me the book is worth a read and is a bit of a tear-jerker, but can’t find it on online bookstores.

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So this may all be common knowledge for those of you who studied Chinese in Beijing, but for learners in Taiwanese, it can raise a few eyebrows. Here we see the phrase 「每次都找我的茬」「茬」(chá) could be replaced by 「麻煩」, as the phrase means  “He’s always trying to make trouble for me”.

The second word 「慫」 (sǒng) seems to mean “I couldn’t be arsed arguing with you, so you can have it your way” – a super long explanation for one tiny word, lol.
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The next term 「奴家」 isn’t really a slang term, I just thought it was funny to hear in the context of banter between two bi-curious guys in a Chinese drama

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Dahai uses 「奴家」(a humble self-referential term used by women) as a jokey self-reference.

Below we’ve got the old classic 「咋了」 which just means 「怎麼了」

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Happy to get an earful from any Beijingers who take issue with any of the interpretations here or just be nice and leave some more Beijing slang in the comments section.

Why is Taiwan’s FSA serving up beef? 「端出牛肉」的由來

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So, the Financial Supervisory Commission is serving up beef according to this China Times article…

獎勵Fintech專利 金管會端牛肉

The Financial Supervisory Commission is serving up beef (putting its money where its mouth is) to Incentivize Fintech Patents

What I love about Chinese and particularly news headlines in Taiwan is that the most random references in the world can become rooted in the language forever after (well according to what I could find online).

According to an online forum, this is a reference to the borrowing of a line from a 1984 Wendy’s ad by unsuccessful presidential candidate Walter Mondale (Yeah, I know, who the fuck knew?) during his campaign against incumbent Ronald Reagan in 1984. Mondale asked Reagan, “Where’s the beef,Mr. President — where’s the beef?”.

Here’s the ad for those under 30:

In Taiwan this was adapted into a popular saying, “serving up beef”  is to take direct action or put your money where your mouth is.

If this really is the origin of the phrase, it just goes to show how influential US culture has been in Taiwan.

On a side note, if you want a brilliant satirical read on this theme, you should check out Rose, Rose, I Love You (《玫瑰玫瑰我愛你》)by Wang Chen-ho (王禎和)either in Chinese or in translation. It is set in a village in Taiwan as they prepare for the imminent arrival of US troops, coming for R&R from the Vietnam war during the 1960s and the author pokes fun at the blind worship of US culture in Taiwan at that time, with all the cultural misapprehensions that go alongside it.

Waiting on Tenterhooks:「剉哩等」 chhoah leh tán

Stop Fast Track rally in D.C.

I found this Taiwanese phrase in the CNA article ‘The Legislative Challenge: Can Taiwan Keep Up with the TPP‘ from March:

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「從TPP智慧財產權專章觀察,加強維護原廠藥權利,對於國內研發型藥廠無非增添保護羽翼,但國內學名藥廠卻「剉哩等」。」

Observing the TPP chapters dedicated to intellectual property rights, strengthening protection for the rights of original drug producers  will undoubtedly increase protection for domestic drug producers who engage in research and development, but domestic generic drug producers will be waiting on tenterhooks.

Unusually for a Taiwanese phrase used in a Mandarin sentence, there was no explanation in brackets afterwards, which suggests it’s pretty commonly used and understood. The first two characters used are just rendered phonetically with similar Mandarin characters:

Mandarin pronounciation: Cuo4li5deng3      Taiwanese pronounciation: chhoah leh tán

One Chinese-language blog I found suggested that the original Taiwanese character for 「剉」 is 「瘛」(chi4), a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) term for “clonic convulsion”, but here it means to shake or shiver (with nerves). The leh is sometimes represented by 哩 or 咧 in written form, but the original Taiwanese character is unknown. It is used in a similar way to 「著」 in the phrase 「坐著看」,i.e. Verb A 著 Verb B (to do Verb A continuously while doing Verb B). 「等」is the original Taiwanese character.

Photo by AFGE [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons