Let the Weak Say, I Am Strong: The KMT as God’s Chosen People

I thought this was quite a creative campaign flyer from KMT Taipei city council candidate Wayne Chen (陳孝威).

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It has quite simple messaging, with his name, the word “HOPE” in English and then a quote from the Book of Joel (3:10):

軟弱的要說:我有勇氣

Let the weak say, I am strong

This phrase from the Book of Joel is used as a prophecy of God’s wrath against the enemies of the Israelites. This can be construed as an almost comical positing of the Kuomintang (KMT) as the “children of Jerusalem,” and, by extension, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are presumably their enemies who “cast lots for My people, and have given a boy for a harlot and sold a girl for wine.” More generally you can see the phrase as a reference to the KMT’s current political straits after a massive electoral defeat in the Taipei mayoral elections and the presidential election, and much of their capital having been confiscated by the DPP’s independent Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee. The line quoted is preceded by the line “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears”, so I guess Ko Wen-je should prepare for war.

To be fair, he also quotes Helen Keller, along with the word “UNITY” in one of the other campaign flyers featured on his Facebook Page:

一己之力有限 一起之力無限

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much

Although he’s also peppered his Facebook Page with a few other Biblical quotes, it also features him in a video which suggests he’s not as bellicose as suggested above (maybe he won’t sell the sons and daughters of the DPP “to a people far off”):

This is not an endorsement.

「ㄆㄨㄣ(潘)系列」 Swill, leftovers, rice water and other delicacies

When browsing a few of the Chinese-language posts that come up on my Facebook feed, I saw the following (public) post from China Times journalist Feng Kuang-yuan:

The first section of the post reads as follows:

未命名

(之一)

昨天與女兒聊到一個話題
就是:家裡要不要來擬一份MENU
這樣,如果有客人來
就可以讓他們選擇想吃的餐點

我們都覺得這點子很好
就開始想菜單上的大類
我心裡想的是,漢堡系列、Omelete系列、或義大利
麵系列之類的
可是她提出來的第一個系列是:
ㄆㄨㄣ系列

(1)
Yesterday I was discussing something with my daughter
This was whether or not we should plan out a menu for our house
That way, if guests visit
We can offer them a choice of dishes

We both thought this was a good idea
So we started to think of different sections for the menu
I was thinking of things like a range of hamburgers, of omelettes, of pasta
But the first range she mentioned was
a range of leftovers

I found an article in the ET Today from 2014 which helped explain the meaning of the Taiwanese word 「ㄆㄨㄣ」 (pun/phun). It explains that Chinese character (本字) associated with the term is the popular surname 「潘」 (Pān in Mandarin), which originally meant “the water leftover after washing rice”. The term can now be used to refer to leftover foods or kitchen waste that is normally used to feed pigs, so another translation might be “swill” or 「餿水 sou1shui3」(food waste) in Mandarin.

This definition is also featured in the MOE Taiwanese dictionary as below:

未命名2

The character is pronounced “phun” (Click through to hear).

The ET Today article came out in the midst of the gutter oil scandals and apparently kids surnamed 「潘」 were teased at the time, being called 「ㄆㄨㄣ小孩」. Kids can be so cruel. A Taiwanese teacher cited in the article, suggested that an alternative character be invented to represent the word to avoid embarrassment for all the Mr and Miss Swills out there. He advocated the combination of the food radical 「食」 alongside 「賁」 (bēn in Mandarin). Although the latter means “energetic” on its own, he suggested it because it makes up the right part of the character 「噴」 (pēn in Mandarin), which means “to spray or spurt”:

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Afternote (Nov. 16, 2017): 饙 fēn (to steam rice) is in fact already a character, so in this case the Taiwanese teacher cited in the ET Today article is suggesting borrowing this character for a new purpose, rather than creating a new character.

泊車 paak3 che1 English interpreted through Cantonese to Mandarin – Parking

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Parking Lot APP CEO Ronald Yu (second from left)

I recently attended a conference in Taipei at which the CEO of parking app 「停車大聲公」 (ParkingLotApp) Roland Yu (余致緯) described his company’s transition from a mobile-based valet parking application to an app that provides information to drivers on cheap and convenient parking spots near their destination where they can park themselves, allowing them to pre-book times and check availability. It was an interesting question and answer session and I’ll go into it in more depth in the IP Observer later this month.

What interested me in terms of language, however, was that although his app bears the word 「停車」 (ting2che1), meaning “to park”, Ronald kept using the word “pa車” during his speech.

During his brief introduction to his business, he mentioned that he’d written an article online detailing his company’s transition. On inspection of this, I found that he’s used the term 「泊車」, which although looks temptingly like 「怕」 is pronounced “bo2che1”. So why was he pronouncing it “pa”?

Continue reading

Responding Passive Aggressively to Passive Aggressive Note Posting: A Guide

Classic example here of tearing up a note, but leaving it up to show the person what you think of their message (there was a trash can just beside the elevator).

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We’ve used the latest digital methods to enhance and reconstruct the original note as below:

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The note reads:

「請不要將廚餘、垃圾放在地上」 (Please don’t put kitchen waste or rubbish on the ground)

Note: I did not take any part in the writing or tearing of this note

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:

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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)

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)

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.

 

Flowery Wordplay 「我想要兩朵花」

My manager at work brought me back a little souvenir from her holiday in Singapore – a coin purse with a joke on it:

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The joke plays on the two meanings of 「花」 which means “flower” when used as a noun and “to spend” when used as a verb. As Singapore uses simplified characters, you’ll notice the characters are all in simplified form:

我想要两朵花:
有钱花,随便花!

This literally translates to

“I want two flowers: to have money to spend, and to be able to spend it however I want!”

So 「有銭花」 and 「随便花」 are jokingly posited as the two kinds of flowers referred to in the first sentence, while they actually mean “having money to spend” and “being able to spend it how one likes”.

Everyday Variants: 垃圾「乱」丟

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I walked past this sign the other day near Dingxi MRT station and was reminded of how often Taiwanese people use simpler variants of some characters when writing some of the more complex Chinese characters, many of which were adopted in China as the standard simplified version of the character:

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It reads:

乱丟

6千元

袋子不行丟到裡面

Dumping rubbish
[Incurs a] fine [of]
NT$6000

It’s not OK to throw bags inside

Here 「亂」, meaning here “carelessly” or “against the rules”, is written using the variant 「乱」, which is identical to its simplified form.

This variant form is listed in the MOE’s Variant dictionary:

001

Church Leaflet Fancy Talk:「纔」vs 「才」

I got this leaflet through the letterbox the other night (the people called up to ask if they could put it inside) from a group called “The Church in Taipei”.

RealTRUTH

RealTRUTH2

Leaflet from The Church in Taipei (highlights mine)

Although the content of the leaflet was largely unremarkable (we will help you find meaning for your life/true freedom), a few things about it did catch my eye.

The first was a detail of the story:

一個在美國讀過小學,隨父母回來臺灣的小孩,直吵着要回美國。問他爲甚麼,他振振有辭的說,『因爲美國的學生比較自由阿!』這是小孩所要的自由-不用穿制服,不用背書包,不用讀太多書,也不必被體罰!

A child who had gone to elementary school in the US and returned to Taiwan with their parents was going on and on asking to go back to the US. When you asked him why, he said precociously “Because American students have more freedom!”. This is freedom for a child – not having to wear a uniform, not having to carry a schoolbag, not having to read too many books  and not having to undergo corporal punishment.

Leaving aside the suggestion that American kids don’t have to read or carry school bags, I thought it interesting that the author was unaware that corporal punishment is illegal in Taiwan.

The other aspect of the leaflet that I found interesting was the choice of characters, which suggested the author wasn’t using the most common input system Zhuyin (Bopomofo), and that they were trying to some extent to sound authoritative through the use of more traditional variants. Some can be, perhaps, be ascribed to font choices, but I’m inclined to believe it is more of a stylistic choice. Examples are as below:

爲 vs 為

「爲」 is used in all cases in the leaflet above, rather than the more commonly seen 「為」, including together with the more  formal 「甚麼」 in place of 「什麼」. If you’re typing in zhuyin you have to scroll to access the character 「爲」 whereas 為 will come out in combination with 什麼 and 甚麼 automatically:

wei

Perhaps the author uses Cangjie or Sucheng, more popular input methods among older people in Taiwan.

着 vs 著

The character 「着」 is a variant of the character 「著」 and it’s also listed the standard simplified character, but it’s not often used in Taiwan:

纔 vs 才

I remember at university we had to learn to read texts in traditional Chinese. Many of the pre-Revolutionary texts from China used the traditional form 「纔 」 as opposed to 「才」 to mean “only then”. At several points in the text the author uses this more traditional form, however, both are listed in the Ministry of Education dictionary in separate listings, 「才」 has the additional meaning of talent or ability, but in this context they have similar meanings and 「才」is also the simplified version of 「纔」.

群 vs 羣

「羣」 is a variant of 「群」 and also suggests a stylistic choice made, rather than an accident.

This perhaps all makes sense when you think of the language used in the Bible in English and its surrounding literature, so this is perhaps an attempt to echo this kind of usage in Chinese.

Passive Aggressive Notes – Raincoat Thief 雨衣小偷

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A note posted by a busy intersection in Dingxi

你拿走義交  You took away the volunteer transport guard’s
雨衣 raincoat
請還回來吧 Please return it, OK?

I saw this note a while ago, and it remained there for a good few days during the early summer rains. It conjured up an image in my mind of the poor transport guard’s face when he discovered it missing just as the rain was coming on but you have to admire his trust in his fellow citizens that it would be returned if he stuck this note up.

Pro-unification Signs in Ximen 西門町統一分子

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This old man holding a People’s Republic of China flag is standing next to a sign reading:

「打倒日本侵略者,南京大屠殺罪惡」 “Overturn the Japanese invaders, and the evil of the Nanjing Massacre”

This video features several posters featuring the following messages:
「反對台獨,反對戰爭,台灣要和平,不願子女當炮灰」 “Oppose Taiwanese Independence, Oppose War. Taiwan should be in peace, so that our sons and daughters don’t become cannon fodder”
「什麼叫作92共識?92共識便是体現咱們都是中國人的意思。蔡英文是日本人嗎?蔡英文為什麼不承認92共識拖累我們?」
What is the 1992 Consensus? The 1992 Consensus embodies the idea that we are all Chinese. Is Tsai Ing-wen Japanese? Why does Tsai Ing-wen hold us back by not acknowledging the 1992 Consensus.
This is the spot where Taiwanese Independence activists gathered each week when the Kuomintang were in power.
Nearby here were the Falungong protesters, with posters and broadcasts calling for the arrest of former People’s Republic of China president Jiang Zemin for presiding over policies which purportedly allow for the harvesting of organs from political prisoners whilst still alive:
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These guys have invested in an English translation however:
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The sign on the left says “Bring Jiang Zemin to Justice” and on the right you can see
“Stop the Chinese Communist Party from violently harvesting organs from live donors”.