The curious case of 「開嘜」

I was at my bus stop this morning when I saw this sign on a shop that pricked my curiosity:


The first bit is the classic shaven ice dish that’s very popular in Taiwan 「剉冰」(Mandarin cuo4bing1), almost always referred to by its Taiwanese pronunciation: chhoah冰

(Side note, you should definitely try this place if you want some pretty stylized shaven ice – 路地 氷の怪物 (Street Ice Monsters) – there are two in Taichung and one in Taipei)



Anyway, it was the second two characters that intrigued me more: 「開嘜」.

Looking online I found several examples of its usage, but they all seemed to point to a different meaning, referring to starting filming or broadcasting. One of my friends suggested that 「嘜」 is short for 「麥克風」, a borrowing from the English microphone, with an additional mouth radical to emphasize the difference from the original meaning of 「麥」, “wheat”. So in this sense it would be something similar to where the director shouts “rolling” on a film shoot, referring to when the sound starts getting recorded.

This meaning is suggested by the Executive Yuan’s Youtube channel, titled 「行政院開麥啦」 (notice the 口 in front of 麥 isn’t included), translating roughly to “The Executive Yuan start broadcasting”.

Likewise with this article on the broadcasting of judicial proceedings: 「司法,開嘜啦!」.

This doesn’t really help us with the sign at the bus stop, however, and it’s most likely that the character 「嘜」 `(mai4 ㄇㄞˋ) is just standing in for its homonym 「賣」(mai4 ㄇㄞˋ), although I’m not exactly sure why. It could just be to attract attention or for comedic effect. If anyone has a better suggestion, feel free to put it out there in the comments section.


4 thoughts on “The curious case of 「開嘜」

    • Thanks! Does that come from the Japanese カメラ? It seems to function as a verb here, which is probably what misled my friend with regards to the microphone explanation, similar to 開拍. I thought it was odd that it can be spotted without the 啦, perhaps just an abbreviation? Do you know why the 賣 is substituted for 賣 when they have roughly the same number of strokes?


  1. This is probably coming from the French use of the word “camera !” instead of “action!” during the shooting of a movie. In Taiwan 開嘜 can be used for 開拍.
    I guess that 開嘜 is a play on words between 開嘜啦 and 開始賣.


  2. I believe the correct HANJI 漢字 in “chhoah 冰” should be 刷冰 as shredding the Oriental/Chinese big white radish should be written as 刷菜頭 in Taiwanese. But nobody cares about rotten Chinese characters in written Taiwanese. Media in particular are propagating the bad examples.


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