I heard the phrase 「有紅花也要有綠葉」 in a conversation between two colleagues in the tea room about a prospective KTV session. The guy was singing as he made his coffee, and the other colleague asked why he was so happy. He replied that it’s not that he’s super happy but that given the arrival of a new colleague, he’s looking forward to a KTV sesh. The colleague replied modestly that she is silent as the grave in KTV sessions. The guy then said in jest 「有紅花也要有綠葉」 (lit. You can be the green leaves that set off the red flower). This is used as a metaphor for how a great musician/great actor needs supporting musicians/actors for their performance to be carried off, which made me think of the microaggression that is Bette Middler’s song “The Wind Beneath My Wings”. Of course, he followed it up with a 「沒有啦」 to ensure his modesty was in tact, before blasting another view verses of the song he’d been rehearsing.
Another joke today from ‘A Boy Name Flora A‘ this one of the blue variety (or yellow as they say in Chinese).
The translator has tried to compensate for not being able to translate the joke fully by creating a different joke in English with the same material. It’s quite artfully done although the joke doesn’t make as much sense with reference to the character and is a tad less graphic.
First the kid is reading the words written on the van “Donated by Rui An Temple Commisioner Zheng Shuang” out loud to the older guy, but he mistakenly reads 「爽」(Shuang) as 「夾」 (jiā), as part of the name Zheng Shuang. When not used in names “夾” (jiā) means “to pinch” and “爽” (shuǎng) means joy or pleasure, generally with a heavy sexual connotation.
The older guy then replies “夾你的屁股啦” / “‘Pinch’, my arse!”, which is also funny, because it can be read as “Pinch my arse!”. He then points out the differences between the character 「夾」 (jiā) and the character “爽” (shuǎng), by describing 「夾」 (jiā) as a person radical (大) with two 叉 (乂) parts, even though the actual form is 「人」. Then he describes the character “爽” (shuǎng) as a person radical (大) with four 叉 (乂) parts. As 「叉」(chā) which represents this shape 「乂」 in the character is a homonym for 「插」(chā) meaning to insert in Mandarin, the sentence can be interpreted another way: “If you insert (插) four (implication is penises) in one person, that’s real pleasure (「爽」shuǎng). Although the last 「爽」(shuǎng) he pronounces using its Taiwanese pronunciation sóng.
The translator has tried to compensate in the English with a joke about exes:
-“Donated by Chairman of Rui An Temple Jia Zheng”
-That’s not “Jia,” dumbass. It’s “Shuang.”
-It looks like a man in the middle
with four “Xs.”
This character is called “Shuang.”
One man with four exes.
That’d be fun.
I think that this is a decent attempt to try and conserve the humor of the situation, as it can be read as sarcasm, but the English audience don’t know the relation between fun and shuang unfortunately.
Podcasts have really taken off over the last couple of years but Chinese-language podcasts from Taiwan have been rather limited, with most just being radio segments repackaged for podcast platforms. However, recently more have taken off, so I thought I’d feature them here and you can feel free to share more in the comments section! I’ve focused on Chinese-language podcasts here, although there are also an increasing amount of English-language podcasts too.
大麻煩不煩 (In the Weeds with Lawyer Zoe Lee):
This is a great intro into Taiwan’s weed landscape, informing people of their rights in terms of getting stopped and searched by police, what to do if you’re arrested, and the progress of efforts to legalize weed in Taiwan for medical or other uses. (Links to different platforms listed on site)
台灣通勤第一品牌 (Commute For Me):
Haven’t heard much of this and it seems a little disorganized, but the first episode explores Chinese-language slang across the Taiwan Strait. It seems to feature a lot of in-jokes and the hosts laughing at how funny they are.
Firstory Lab 最偏激的Podcast
Tried one episode which consisted of a group of guys making fun of the way a female host spoke. Maybe it gets better if you listen from the start?
If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments section below!
Readers Recommend (Update):
WetBoys 潤男的Room recommended by Erik K. (NSFW mens issues)
百靈果 Bailingguo News (bilingual news podcast) and Spotify Podcast Chart recommended by Matthew Ryan
馬力歐陪你喝一杯 DrinkWithMario recommended by William Peregoy (Interviews)
美食關鍵詞 Taster Life recommended by 三qtwn
The character 「節」 can mean ‘festival’, ‘a joint or node’ or it can also mean ‘to use restraint’ or ‘to economize’. The Cangjie code when looking at the character is pretty straightforward: 「竹日戈中」. For those of those unfamiliar with Cangjie, you can find more info at the Cangjie input Wikipedia page. Basically for a character with three elements like 「節」 we break it into three constituent parts: 竹, the abbreviated form of 艮 and 卩. We take the 1st and last element of the first part – here that would be 竹 (which serves as both the first and the last element of the first part of the character), then the first and last element of the second part of the character which are 日 and 戈 (the dot on the bottom) and the last element of the final part of the character, which is 中 (a vertical line. This leaves us with 「竹日戈中」(hail) , however, when presented in certain fonts, like the one I found below, the appearance of the character in variant form, suggests alternative ways to write the character that do not work:
This rendering of the character 「」 suggests the Cangjie code 「竹竹心中」(竹 is the first and last element of the first part; 竹 (the top stroke of 白) and 心 (which is used to represent 匕) are the first and last elements of the second part and 中 is still the final element of the final part, however, this obviously doesn’t work, as the standard form is the one the code is based on. If anyone knows which font throws up this variant of 「節」 please let me know. You can find more variants of 節 at the Ministry of Education variant dictionary.
Speaking of variant forms, after penning my last post on the variant forms of 「免」 I was amused to see the variant form 「」 used in a poster advertising the upcoming Taipei International Book Exhibition on the MRT:
Incidentally, the book exhibition is well worth a visit – it’s going to held from February 16-21 at the Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Halls 1 and 3. It’s open 10am-6pm, with late night sessions until 10pm on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th, as well as until 8pm on Sunday the 21st. The first day at Exhibition Hall 1 is just for professionals, so you can visit from the 17th to the 21st, whereas Exhibition Hall 3 is open the whole time to everyone. It’s also free for under-18s.
Visit the MOE Variant Dictionary here.
A few years ago I was digging around trying to find some good Chinese-language podcasts to listen to when I came across an old radio program which had been archived online called 「真情酷兒」(Sincere Queer). As I was working on a piece for eRenlai involving the gay rights movement in Taiwan I got in touch with the presenter of the program Vincent Huang. I ended up interviewing him on his role as an activist for gay and disabled rights as well as disabled rights within the LGBTI community, which you can view below:
Vincent has recently relaunched the program on another platform, branding it 「真情酷兒1.0」(Sincere Queer 1.0). In the 「年夜飯」(Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner) edition, he talks to Taiwanese gay couple He Xiang and Wang Tian-ming (何祥和王天明) – featured in an Isabelle gay wedding cake (喜餅) commercial that got a lot of media attention when it came out- who have been together now for over 30 years. You can watch the commercial below:
The podcast is an interesting look into what it’s like to be an out gay couple in Taiwan, particularly on family occasions. As well as this, at around 7:37 in the download version of the podcast, the presenter uses the Taiwanese word 「kâu-gín-á」 (alternative Taiwanese audio here) in the context of the following Chinese sentence concerning mahjong:
Although they need patience, to play mahjong with a … like me.
I’d heard the word “gín-á” or 「囡仔」 meaning children before, but not with the prefix “kâu” added. This rather appropriately for the time of year, turns out to mean “monkey”. So the term 「猴囡仔」 kâu-gín-á literally means an infant monkey, but is used in an affectionate way to refer to human children, in much the same way as we sometimes refer to kids as “little monkeys”. Here it is used as a form of self-effacement, in that he is referring to himself as relatively young and not as skilled at mahjong as his boyfriend’s mother. This kind of code-mixing between Taiwanese and Chinese is particularly common when it comes to humor, so it’s always good to learn Taiwanese if you want to be able to get the joke in conversations.
If you’ve learned any new Taiwanese expressions that you’d like to share with me over the Lunar New Year break or have any questions you can comment below or contact me.