Year of the Rooster Couplets

Here’s a few couplets and Chinese New Year decorations from around my neighbourhood:

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「心靜自得詩書味,室雅時開翰墨香」 “With a steady heart, finding joy by oneself in poetry and scholarship, one can smell the ink and brush in the elegant surroundings.”

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「修雙慧福」、「修福粒米藏日月,持慧亳芒有乾坤」
“Cultivating both wisdom and merit”, “By cultivating merit, a grain of rice can block the sun and the moon, by cultivating wisdom, the tiniest hair can hold the universe”

Incidentally, this has been announced as the official slogan of 2017 by Tzu Chi (慈濟), one of the most renowned Buddhist organizations and charities in Taiwan.

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「丁酉年
爆竹千聲歌盛世,金雞報喜唱豐年
靈昱秀
刻印」

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Scooter Equality Before Marriage Equality? – 「多元回家」

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I had quite a good time at the December 10 rally in support of the gay marriage bill. While I was gearing up to head home, however, I saw this (rather cheeky) attempt at hijacking the rally by an organization lobbying for the rights of scooter and motorcycle drivers on the road. They were riffing on the slogan from the “Diverse Families” draft bill — a previous and more wide-reaching proposal that had included gay marriage that had failed to gain approval — 「多元成家」 (Diverse Families) and swapped out the 「成家」 meaning “to form families” for 「回家」, meaning “to go home”. So the altered slogan reads “return home by diverse means”. Maybe they were just showing their support for the cause, and racking up some publicity on the side, anyway, you’ve got to respect a pun at the end of the day.

Passive Aggressive Notes: Poop Drawings and Urine Variants

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Another passive aggressive note that reads as follows:

街坊鄰居您好:

  • 這附近很少有流浪犬,卻常在巷口這一帶見到狗狗的[drawing of pool of dog piss]和 💩。
  • 請想想出入踩到的人心情有多差…😞
  • 煩請發揮公德心&飼主之義務,勿放任家犬便溺卻不清理!

非常感謝! Thanks a lot!!

[Translation]

Dear block neighbours:

  • There are very few stray dogs around here, but I often find doggy and [drawing of pool of dog piss] and 💩 around the mouth of the alley.
  • Think of how this affects the mood of people who step on it when they come in or out… 😞
  • Please have some common decency & take responsibility as a pet owner, don’t let your pet dog defecate and urinate without cleaning it up!

THANKS A LOT!

The friendly tone of the note, but insistent use of emojis qualify it as passive aggressive.

Also interesting is the use of the character 「溺」(here niao4/ㄋㄧㄠˋ) as a variant for 「尿」

Stealing power from the New Power Party – trademark battle

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New Power Party chair Huang Kuo-chang marching on Ketagalan Boulevard in protest against a meeting between former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jin-ping; NPP legislator and rock star Freddy Lim can be holding the banner behind him; Licensed under Creative Commons by 蕭長展 – https://musou.tw/focuses/1040

An article in the Oriental Daily News drew my attention to something I thought was quite amusing – a man called Wang Chao-an (王朝安), who reportedly has no relation to the New Power Party has trademarked their party emblem for use on a whole range of products, including clothing, backpacks, stationary and jewelry products, such as earrings, necktie pins and key-rings. He applied for the registration in May of 2016.

The registration with the trademark office is as below:

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While the party emblem is a strikingly similar rendering of the character “力” meaning “power” or “strength”

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The party intend to make a request for the registration to be cancelled with the trademark office through their lawyer, according to the report.

Update: Tea Trademarks in Taiwan

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I recently posted about a trademark lawsuit in Taiwan, involving Uni-President Enterprises Corporation’s tea brand 「茶裏王」 and 「阿里王 Ali One」. I pointed out in the post the difference in the second characters of each brand name. However, I recently checked the trademark database in Taiwan and found that Uni-President has registered both 「茶裏王」 and 「茶里王」 as can be seen below:

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You’ll notice, amusingly enough, that the character 「裏」 doesn’t even show up on the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office trademark search website – and is displayed as just a blank box. The missing character is pictured in the image, however.

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This makes the judgement I previously mentioned a little more understandable, given that two out of the three characters are the same (even if they have different meanings). You’ll also notice that the product ranges to which the second trademark is applied is broader than the first.

Here’s the registration for 「阿里王」:

AliOne

Interestingly, the English translation for 「茶裏王」, “King of Teas”, doesn’t seem to be a registered trademark. So many companies and brands adopting similar English names is allowed, like the one at the head of this article (King Tea).

Tea Trademarks and Chinese Variants: King of Teas/Ali One Tea Dispute 茶裏王/阿里王商標大戰

13730546_10102616344538349_1668283995_oI thought that the recent trademark dispute between Taiwanese tea brands 「茶裏王」 (King of Tea) and 「阿里王 Ali One」 that resolved in favour of the former was interesting because two characters 「里」 and 「裏」 have been seen by the Taiwan Intellectual Property Court as the same character.

「茶裏王」 was launched in the early 2000s by Tainan-based international food conglomerate Uni-President Enterprises Corporation, while 「阿里王 Ali One」 was launched in 2014 by a woman called Huang Yi-zhen (黃逸蓁).

The name 「茶裏王」 translates to “King of Teas” because the 「裏」, a common variant of the character 「裡」, means “among” or “in”  – so it’s literal meaning is “among teas a king”. 「阿里王」 however, just uses 「里」 as a phonetic particle as part of 「阿里」which alludes to 「阿里山」 (Alishan National Scenic Area) – which itself is a transliteration of the Tsou (鄒) aboriginal name for the area “Jarissang”. In fact, although 「里」 means “in” in simplified Chinese, in which it is used in place of 「裡」 and 「裏」, in traditional Chinese, it is only used as a unit of measurement (approx 500m) and for an administrative unit under township (neighborhood/village). Each district in Taipei has an individual li, as shown in the street sign below:

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While the 「王」 in 「茶裏王」 means “King”, the 「王」 in 「阿里王 Ali One」 appears primarily to be a transliteration of the English word “one”, hence the product’s English name. A similar example is the 「旺」 in 「旺旺集團」, which is anglicized using the English word “want”, to give you the Want Want Holdings Group – the company at the center of the media monopoly protests in Taiwan and my former employer. However, there’s also a sense that the 「阿里王 Ali One」 trademark is also playing off the use of the word 「王」 as both a transliteration and for its literal meaning as “king”, i.e. King of Ali (referencing Alishan, an important tea-growing area in Taiwan). So the case for the third character is not as strong as that for the second, in my unqualified view.

Thus, the Intellectual Property Court finding as quoted by this report on the trademark case would seem to be incorrect:

智財法院認為,「茶裏王」、「阿里王Ali ONE」商標都是用於茶葉商品,第二個字皆有「里」字,第三個字皆為「王」字,對消費者而言近似程度高,加上「茶裏王」商標使用久、知名度高,因此應給「茶裏王」較大的保護,今判統一勝訴,智財局須撤銷「阿里王Ali ONE」商標註冊,全案仍可上訴。

The Intellectual Property Court found that the trademarks “茶裏王” (King of Tea) and “阿里王 Ali One” are both used to market tea products, and that the second character in each is “里” while the  third characters in each are both “王” (King), so they are very similar for consumers. In addition because the “茶裏王” trademark has been in use for a long time and is very well-known. because of this, “茶裏王” should have greater protection, so Uni-President Enterprises Corporation won the case today, and the Taiwan Intellectual Property Bureau rescinds the trademark granted for “阿里王Ali One”, although the case is still subject to appeal.

The 「茶裏王」 bottles have recently been featuring thought-for-the-day style “profundities” (note the use of speech marks) such as the one below, which I thought was particularly apt to go with this post:

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Photocopy machines are used to remind you

That if you only copy

You’ll stay in the corner forever

Have you done something innovative today?

 

 

Jolin Tsai up for a Cabinet Position? (Joke) 蔡依林內閣 (笑)

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I was watching another KMT/blue-leaning political talk show earlier today and came across the following joke from talking head Tang Hsiang-lung (唐湘龍):

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A rough translation is as below:

I could call it the Tsai Yi-lin (Jolin Tsai’s Chinese name) cabinet

Because it looks as if Tsai Ing-wen (Jolin shares a surname with the president)

Is relying (the word for rely “依” is the second character of Jolin’s name) on Lin Chuan’s (the premier of Taiwan; his surname makes up the last character in Jolin’s name) methods

To form the cabinet.

I don’t know enough about the politics to comment, but just thought it would be amusing to see the kind of jokes that can be made in Chinese.

See him in action here:

 

Photo credit: Hsiao Lee

Multiculturalism in Action: Fish Crackers from Malaysia

The sales manager at my company recently went on a short trip to Malaysia, and, as per Taiwanese custom, brought back a bunch of snacks for the whole office.

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Malaysian packaging is language overload:

First we have Malay:

“Muruku Ikan”

“Ikan” means fish in Malay, whereas “Muruku” is a borrowing from the Tamil language – “முறுக்கு” (Murukku) – a word that means “twisted” and which has been adopted as a word for the snack all over India and in Tamil diaspora countries. You can see why the word twisted is used to describe the snack once we open the bag:

13389203_10102538902842129_825311224_o It may not be the most twisted thing in the world, but there’s definitely some curvature there. So essentially it means “fish twirls”. That’s more or less what it tasted like too.

Next up is Arabic:

موروكو  ُيكن

More specifically, this is the traditional use of Arabic characters to write Malay words, known as Jawi script. I’m indebted to Penang local @SimTzeWei for this correction, he wrote:

The Arabic letters are actually Malay. The Malay language was written in the Arabic script before the arrival of the Europeans. This script is called the Jawi script.

It is pronounced “maruku uykn” in standard Arabic romanization, and Maruku Ikan in Jawi script, according to Sim Tze-Wei.

Then it’s English with “fish maruku”

The Chinese has a more complex name:

「香化美味魚肉豆餅」

“Fragrant tasty fish bean pastry”

The 「香化」 for fragrant is a little odd in Mandarin as pointed out by Weibo user 「守望者青年客栈」(watcherxm).

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This is because it means “fragranced” or “fragrancified”, which is a rather unnatural way of expressing it.

The other interesting thing about the packaging is that the company’s name 「天祥」 is romanized using Hokkien or Southern Min, more commonly known in Taiwan as Taiwanese. I posted previously about a piece of wall art in Malaysia featuring the language that my friend spotted on a trip there.

The 「天祥」 is romanized as “Thien Cheong”, which is likely meant to represent a similar sound to the Taiwanese romanization “Thian-siông“.  Most Malaysian Chinese speak Hokkien so it’s not overly surprisingly that it makes an appearance on the packaging. There are also many speakers of the language and its variants in Fujian province in China. In terms of definitions, it literally means “divinely auspicious”, but I could only find it listed as a place name in the MOE dictionary.

@SimTzeWei suggested, however, that it might be Cantonese or Hakka rather than Hokkien and that it was just non-standard Cantonese spelling. The Jyutping Cantonese romanization for 「天祥」 is tin1 coeng4.

He stated:

‘Thien Cheong’ is probably Cantonese. Some people like to alter the spellings of their names to prevent them from having an obvious meaning in another language (in this case English). Instead of spelling it as ‘Thin Cheong’, they insert an ‘e’. It could possibly be Hakka or another Chinese language.

Food is definitely one of the highlights of Malaysia, as there are many Indian expats there and no shortage of curry buffet gardens. I got chatting to one of the waiters that served us at a place near Petronas Towers where we were staying. He had quite a dim view of incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the Hindu nationalist party the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party, and Modi himself, is seen as unfriendly to Muslims, and many of the Indians I met there expressed concerns about him, some were Muslims themselves, while others were simply concerned for their countrymen.

This post was updated from the original on 15th June, 2016 to reflect suggestions made on Twitter.

 

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」.