Taiwan slang: Shrimp 「蝦」 xia1 / 「蝦子」 xia1zi5

蝦子 (Shrimp/Prawn) – Keep the body, throw away the head

A Taiwanese friend was talking to me about an upcoming pool party when all of a sudden he said something along the lines of 「會去那邊的人一定都是蝦」 “Everyone who goes there are shrimps”. I asked him what he meant and he said that in Taiwan people generally use the term 「蝦」(xia1/ㄒㄧㄚ) or 「蝦子」 (xia1zi5/ㄒㄧㄚㄗ˙) to describe a guy with a ripped body (with the ribbed abdomen of a shrimp) but a head that nobody wants, hence their eagerness to take their shirts off. I’m not sure if this term exists in English or not, but thought it was amusing, if a bit harsh.

The term seems to have some traction in Hong Kong, as I found the words 「蝦子」 written under this unfortunate guy’s picture, under the caption “Ugly version of Gregory Wong” in the popular HK Golden forum:

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There was a whole conversation about the term on PTT – a bulletin board system that was (and still is) super popular in Taiwan. The original poster asked whether people would be happy or offended to be called a shrimp:

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One of the funniest responses I saw was as below:

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Person A: It depends on the level of shrimp head. Haha XD. And the category of shrimp is a little unclear.
Person B: If it’s at lobster level then maybe it’s no problem 😄

I’m guessing “lobster level” suggests a buffer body and that if the body is that muscular then any kind of face is OK.

So this post was just a bit of fun and obviously everyone is beautiful in their own way – I just thought it was an amusing term I’d never heard before.

Artwork from here

Ko P’s naughty language in the Taipei Dome PowerPoint Presentation 柯P簡報中的「呼死啦」和「ㄍㄢˋ!」

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Former doctor and current Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je has been in the news again, this time for using bad language in a PowerPoint presentation that he gave at a meeting of the city council. To be honest I think that the bad language “ㄍㄢˋ” (pretty much every second word a high school student says) he used was the least cringy thing about the whole affair. The more worrying problem is Ko Wen-je’s continuing attempts to paint himself as some sort of folk superhero with his comically named White Power movement.

The offending picture, shown to the right of the slide above, shows Chao Teng-hsiung, chairman of the Farglory Group, the company contracted for the project, former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-pin and Ma Ying-jeou bursting out of an egg labelled the Taipei Dome on the head of a dragon (I guess they’re the true kings of Westeros). The reason there is an egg is because in Chinese the dome’s name is “大巨蛋” which means big arena or dome, but contains the character for egg. Most people seem to be reading the cartoon from left to right:

Ko Wen-je (cutting open the egg with a scalpel in his doctor’s white coat): There’s a problem with this egg. (這顆蛋有問題)

Ma Ying-jeou: Fuck! He’s actually using a scalpel to cut it open. (ㄍㄢˋ!他還真的用手術刀來切呢)

Hau Lung-pin:  (random symbols indicating swearing)

Chao Teng-hsiung: Let it die! (呼死啦!)

TVBS’s Situation Room, which I blogged about previously, did this report on the affair:

Ko Wen-je previously halted the construction of the Taipei Dome, accusing the previous mayor of colluding with the chairman of the Farglory Group in corrupt dealings and complaining about the standards of the building. He’s now ordered the chairman to start work on the project again – not a likely scenario – or he’ll dissolve the contract. There’s background on the story in this Taipei Times article.

Here’s Ko Wen-je being arrogant and indifferent about the whole thing in a council meeting:

Politics be as it may, we can still take the chance to learn a little Taiwanese. The words Chao Teng-hsiung says:

「呼死啦」or “ho   la” – the presenter in The Situation Room also says it at the timecode below:

The 「呼」 is a passive marker similar to 「給」 – so the phrase means “Kill him”, in the sense of “give him death”.

Update: Commenter Chenfra suggests that the omitted subject here is “it” not “him”, so the translation is likely to be “let it die” or “let it go” rather than the “kill him” or “give him death” I originally posted. He also suggests other more likely candidates for the passive particle “ho” including “互” and “予”.

I welcome any corrections if I’ve misunderstood anything!

Taiwanese Language: Indonesian 印尼語也是台灣的語言之一

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Creative Commons License John Anderson

I was recording some notes in a Starbucks* on Shida Road when two people sat down next to me and, given their proximity in the crowded store, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. They were speaking a language I couldn’t really place. At first I thought it was Korean, but after listening to it more carefully, it sounded a little bit more like Thai, but not quite the same (this is to someone who speaks none of these languages). I left my device recording and asked my friend (Mr Popular), who has lots of friends throughout Asia if he could ask some of his friends around Asia to identify the language. He tried Thai, with no success and he found out that it wasn’t Tagalog either. He finally got a hit with an Indonesian friend, who wrote out the conversation as below:

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The conversation is about a birthday event that someone has planned for a Thursday at 8:30pm and the man and the woman are complaining that about the time, saying that 8:30pm is a difficult time and that they think 10:30pm would be better, then they add that as Thursday is a normal work day that Saturday would be better.

It got me thinking about how many languages are actually spoken in Taiwan everyday by the offspring of marriages between parents from different cultures, by students and by professional and blue collar expats from Indonesia and elsewhere living in Taiwan. When reading up about Indonesian I was surprised to learn that it’s actually the mother tongue of a very small proportion of Indonesian people, and therefore there are lots of regional variations and dialects influenced by other mother tongue languages like Javanese. It was also interesting to learn that Indonesian, like Taiwanese aboriginal languages, is an Austronesian language and Taiwan is supposed to be the origin place of the entire Austronesian language family. So you can look at the language as “returning home” in a sense.

It also borrows a range of words from Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese (including Hokkien/Taiwanese), Portuguese and Dutch, as well as from other local languages.

One example of a borrowing from Arabic is the first word “Kamis”, taken from the Arabic “الخَمِيس ‎(al-ḵamīs)”, meaning “Thursday” and “Sabtu” which occurs near the end of the conversation, taken from the Arabic “سبتsabt-u”, meaning “Saturday”.

*To all those opposed to Starbucks culture and all it represents, this is some food for thought on how hipster-style cafes are actually spaces with less cultural and class diversity than the big corporate cafe chains (Although the whole episode is interesting the discussion on this issue starts around 19:00). This is largely a product of their uniformity across regions and the fact that ordering procedure is clear from the outset, which means people of differing classes, or cultural backgrounds don’t feel intimidated on entering these spaces or feel like they will make a fool of themselves.

There’s also this wikipedia page on Indonesian slang terms.

Ma Ying-jeou does Mean Tweets… well Facebook comments

Ma Ying-jeou made a “mean Facebook comment” video to mark the end of his term in office:

I did a rough translation with some explanatory notes of the jokes below:

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MaYingjeou5MaYingjeou6MaYingjeou7MaYingjeou8MaYingjeou9MaYingjeou10MaYingjeou11MaYingjeou12MaYingjeou13MaYingjeou14MaYingjeou15MaYingjeou16MaYingjeou17MaYingjeou18MaYingjeou19MaYingjeou20MaYingjeou21MaYingjeou22MaYingjeou23MaYingjeou24MaYingjeou25MaYingjeou26.pngMaYingjeou27MaYingjeou28MaYingjeou29MaYingjeou30

And then he gets serious and gets nice messages – so I stopped translating – haha. Enjoy!

Ko P’s team gets it in the neck for Weibo proposal 王世堅說柯P「食碗內 洗碗外」

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.03.12 AMI don’t have a TV at home, so when I was recruited by a friend to wrap tamales at his house, I got a rare opportunity to watch some political talk shows, which are usually amusingly varied according to the political affiliation of the channel they’re broadcast on. This one from TVBS (relatively Kuomintang-leaning/blue), is called ‘The Situation Room’ in English and 「少康戰情室」 in Chinese. Footage from the Legislative Yuan is always a great opportunity to learn some Taiwanese of the shouty aggressive variety:

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Wang Shih-chien is upset because Taipei mayor (independent but largely seen as DPP leaning) Ko Wen-je proposed setting up a Weibo account for the Taipei City government in line with a suggestion from across the strait. Weibo is a social-media platform, similar to Twitter, but set up to conform with Mainland China’s censorship guidelines, which is why the DPP legislator isn’t a fan. This is the phrase in Taiwanese he uses with the Mandarin context:

台灣政治界沒有一個人
No-one in the Taiwanese political arena
會上去微博
Goes on Weibo
微博是給黃安們用的
Weibo is for the likes of Huang An (China-based Taiwanese singer)
你知道嗎?
Don’t you know?
莫名其妙
I’ve never heard the like of it
不務正業
It’s a dereliction of your duties
這典型的叫食碗內 洗碗外
This is a classic case of biting the hand that feeds you

The phrase is 食碗內 洗碗外 pronounced”chia̍h  óaⁿ lāi  óaⁿ meaning that you eat the provisions of your own community, but wash dishes for another community, and by extension, to bite the hand that feeds you.

The Ministry of Education Taiwanese dictionary, however, states the phrase as: 「食碗內,說碗外」, which makes slightly more sense, meaning “You eat food from your own community, but say that you got it from another community”, i.e. to bite the hand that feeds you, or deny gratitude to those who provide for you. The 說 is pronounced “seh or soeh” (depending on what variety of Taiwanese you speak), and 洗 is pronounced “sé or sóe” so there’s little difference of sound between them. Most places on the internet use 洗 however.

It’s equivalent to the Mandarin phrase 吃裡扒外 chīlǐpáwài.

Incidentally, the singer mentioned in the rant, Huang An, is quite famous as a traitor to Taiwanese independence by the independence lobby. He’s one of the people who criticized K-Pop singer Chou Tzu-yu for waving a Taiwanese flag and he’s for unification with China. Apparently he still loves one part of Taiwan though, the National Health Service

Here are the tamales in progress for anyone who is interested:

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And if you want to know what else I was watching, check out my post from the day before yesterday on 台灣國語 in the Taiwanese version of Adventure Time.

Adventure Time in Taiwan

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Amused that the Ice King and Lemongrab speak 台灣國語 (Taiwanese influenced Mandarin) in Adventure Time in Chinese and use lots of Taiwanese words, whereas Jake speaks Cantonese influenced Chinese. Heard the Ice King use lots of Taiwanese expressions, like 跟他切(che̍h)了 for 跟他分手. Finn said around two words the whole episode, so couldn’t really tell how he speaks, but it seemed to be normal Chinese with a little bit of Taiwanese too. Interesting though. I know baddies in old films in Taiwan normally spoke Taiwanese, but think that it’s likely just coincidence here, and an attempt to replicate the crazy English voices in the original, as Lady Rainicorn, who speaks only Korean in the original only speaks Taiwanese in the Taiwan version.

UPDATE:

Thanks to Keith Menconi (@KeithMenconi) at ICRT (@ICRTnews) for providing a link to an interview he did with April Chang, the woman in charge of dubbing for Cartoon Network in Taiwan, which is totally cool.

 

Attempts to Author the Sunflower Student Movement

Was waiting for a friend at a bookshop and was flicking through a few titles when I saw these volumes about the Sunflower Student Movement. The first one I picked up was this:

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The cover looked OK, but my heart sank a little when I saw that the dedication was to Benedict Anderson… and sank even more when the opening sentence featured Marx…

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How very politics student circa 1989. I guess that’s why they called it a student movement. The chapters are each written by different people, but it seems quite dense in style and heavy with academic aspirations as opposed to aiming for readability. That said my friend arrived before I was able to get any kind of measure of it.

There were another two as well, and they seemed a little more aimed at the general reader:

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Anyone had a read of them or would recommend?

I also read a chapter of Luo Yu-chia’s (羅毓嘉) new book You’re my stove light in dark days (天黑的日子你是爐火). It was a little bit too much navel gazing for my taste, discussing his romance with a Hong Kong man. As Luo is a gay rights advocate the Hong Kong man’s unwillingness to adopt a gay identity is challenging for him. The chapter I read showed him attempting to justify the lack of recognition with humour and by insisting that non verbal markers like wanting Luo to be well fed shows affection where words do not. The romance wasn’t very engaging for me, and I didn’t find the Hong Kong guy very likeable as Luo sees him.