Neighbourly Notes: Don’t Drive the Light

My note-writing neighbour (you can see their doctoral thesis here) has been at it again, although, to be fair, this doesn’t rank up there with their more passive-aggressive notes (although I would have appreciated a 「請」 thrown in there somewhere). I almost identified with them on this note, as it represents a phenomenon I often encounter when learning other languages, the tendency to assume that a specific usage of a multipurpose verb in your language can apply to all the usages of the verb in your target language, illustrated brilliantly below:

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壞了,一直在閃、很危險、不要開。 Don’t drive.

Broken, it keeps flashing, it’s dangerous, don’t turn it on.

「開」 in Chinese means “to start” or “to turn on”, in conjunction with 「車」 it can also mean “to drive”. So I’m guessing they googled “不要開” and got “Don’t drive.” I guess the solution is to always search for the terms you Google translate to see if it matches the idea you were going for and is used commonly in the target language. The only example I can think of going the other way is the tendency of foreigners to use 「是」 for adjectival phrases in Chinese, 「我是熱」, for example, as an overly literal translation of “I am hot.” Can you think of any examples that fit the brief more accurately?

My neighbour clearly hasn’t been taking notes since I corrected their previous note which was either on door closures or dog euthanasia:

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‘Summer Stretched Like Gold Leaf’ by Jing Xiang-hai

I liked this poem because it had something of a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe to it and it serves as a necessary reminder that you can’t always play by the rules or take everything so seriously:

Anyway, on with the poem:

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I thought this poem on the MRT was quite nice:

金箔般延長的夏天 鯨向海

彷彿又回到
勾肩搭背吃冰淇淋的學生時代
因為蹺了一堂爛課而感覺
整個夏天
皆被延長了節課的時光,而深深感覺
這一輩子,都因多了這一小時的悠閒打磨
而熠熠生輝

Summer Stretched Like Gold Leaf
by Jing Xiang-Hai

It feels like a return to
Eating ice-cream as students, your arm on my shoulder
Skipping one lousy class made us feel as if
The entire summer
Was stretched out by the duration of that one class, and we sensed deep inside
That this carefree hour had burnished our whole lives
Making them glisten more brightly

P.S. The poem is not a reference to 趴趴走ers, fleeing from quarantine (sorry did I ruin the mood by bringing up the dystopia that is our current reality?).

Posters Surrounding the Abandoned Taipei Dome Construction Site

Ko Wen-je still seems to enjoy quite a lot of popularity as Taipei mayor, despite being increasingly distant from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which did not nominate a candidate in the mayoral election in which he was elected. There has been talk this time round of DPP politicians running against him, but Ko has so far come out on top on polls (reference).

Ko’s reign as mayor has not been all smooth sailing by any stretch, however, and one of the major controversies of his term is still in evidence at the abandoned construction site of the Taipei Dome where posters denouncing Ko can still be found plastered over the walls of the site:

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(Top) “Protect old trees before the election
Move old trees after the election
‘Making Real Change’ (from the title of Ko’s second book White Power 2: Making Real Change)
Start with changing yourself”

(Bottom) 7 Questions for Ko Wen-je
Mayor Ke Wen-je, Are you going to let the construction of the corrupt landmark restart?
1. Have you completed the renegotiation of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Contract?
2. Have you dealt with FarGlory’s illegal breach of contract?
3. Have you dealt with the controversy surrounding the Taipei Dome scandal?
4. Did FarGlory complete the implementation of the seven public safety standards?
5. Have you passed the changes to the Urban Design Review, the environmental impact assessment and the building license?
6. Have you realized the concept of “lining roads with trees” (a campaign slogan)?
7. Have you dealt with the impact on traffic after the capacity was dramatically expanded?

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Here the Chinese for Songshan Cultural and Creative Park have been defaced to read “Songshan Logging Park”. Under this is a another poster, which reads as follows:

“The Big Scandalous Egg (a corruption of the Chinese for Taipei Dome) is facing a lawsuit for profiteering, we ask that the administration of Mayor Ko Wen-je end the contract and revoke the construction permit.
Don’t exchange fairness and justice for money, don’t renegotiate the contract for the flawed scandalous egg (Taipei Dome), cancel it.”

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(Top right) Ko Wen-je and Farglory are both telling lies, until the public safety appraisal has been completed, plant it with trees.”
(Bottom) “The scandal hasn’t been cleaned up, cancel (the project) and put trees in its place.”

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This piece of graffiti has a more interesting story behind it. It reads, “The purity of youth has fooled the whole country to their deaths.” This sounds like something reminiscent of the criticism of the Student Sunflower Movement. However, according to a news article, a man in his 50s went across Taiwan graffitiing this message on a range of different landmarks in 2016. There are picture of him in action here, although I’m not sure if this is a copycat or an original creation.

For an interesting explanation of Wayne Chiang’s recent decision not to run in the mayoral election, check out this Frozen Garlic update.

「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.

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.

 

Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodles and their Passive Aggressive Neighbours

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Photo credit: Chi-Hung Lin

Although not to everyone’s taste, this noodle shop is one of the most well-known in Taipei and you’ll have to line up in a quick-moving queue to get your order in. As i was waiting for my friend to get his order, I noticed these signs on the pillar that separates the store from its neighbour:

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As well as the English-language sign on the left which states rather directly: “Don’t eat noodle here”, there’s a Chinese-language sign on the right. For those lacking super vision, here’s the enlarged version:

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This sign reads as follows:

愛吃麵線的同胞們,垃圾不要落地,不要造成困擾,謝謝!

Compatriots who are fans of flour noodles, don’t let your rubbish fall on the ground. Don’t cause people problems, thanks!

Although the word 「同胞」 technically means simply “compatriots”, it is frequently used by people on both side of the Taiwan Strait to refer to the other side, more frequent when Chinese people refer to Taiwanese people.

For example, the permit (as their passports aren’t officially recognized) that Taiwanese people have to get to enter Mainland China are called 「台胞證」(Taiwan Compatriot Permit) a more casual way of referring to the 「台灣居民來往大陸通行證」 (Permit to allow residents of Taiwan freedom of passage to and from Mainland China).

In my mind this suggested that the sign was probably aimed primarily at Mainland Chinese tourists, many of whom visit the noodle shop while in Taipei.

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”.

Another Year Another Sign: Vet Wei-shyue Chang Opposes Radioactive Imports from Japan 張維學又在反對

I’ve previously dedicated a long post to the various signs that have popped up around the Zhongzheng bridge that separates the Yonghe area from Guting (my morning commute), with everything from an urge to protect Taiwan’s claim on the Diaoyu Islands, to support for former KMT presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and demands that the Japanese government apologize to “comfort women” – the women who were forced into sexual slavery under Japanese rule. Although only one of the signs has his signature, I assume that they’re all the handiwork of Wei-shyue Chang (張維學), director general of the Association of ROC Veterinarians and senior vet at Jinhua Animal Hospital.

A new sign has been up for quite a few months now, but I only really got the chance to get a clear picture a few days ago:

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It reads

反對日本核災食品進口

Oppose imports of food affected by the nuclear disaster

This refers to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the continuing debate over the standards used to judge food safety and concerns over the alleged mislabeling of provenance of affected foods.

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