Variant radicals on parade with the Tudigong: 「蹺境/遶境/繞境」

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I saw this notice stuck on a traffic light from the bus this morning.

These notices are stuck along lamp posts and walls when a temple parade is going to pass by this area. As well as including the blessings 「國泰民安」(a secure country and safety for the people), 「合境平安」(Peace for everyone and everything), 「風調雨順」(No rain or wind) and a fourth I can’t quite make out 「? 去? 千 ?」, the basic information is listed:

「店仔街福德宮

福德正神謹訂於

農曆106年2月2日9時

國曆106年2月27日9時

境、出巡 」

Dianzai Street (lit. Vendor Street) God of the Earth Temple Notice

The God of the Earth (also known by the name Tudigong, but here Fudezhengshen) is set

on the 2nd day of the 2nd month of the 106th year (sic.) of the lunar calendar

on the 2nd day of the 2nd month of the 106th year of the Republic of China

to tour the streets on inspection.

What should be noted here, is that according to the lunar calendar, this is the 丁酉 year, not the 106th year (a borrowing from the National calendar).

There’s also what I think is probably either a mistake, or an attempt to render the notice in Taiwanese, with the use of the character 「蹺」 (qiao1) instead of 「遶」 or 「繞」 (both variants of each other) in the phrase 「繞境」。

A quick Google search can confirm that it was probably a mistake, as there are only 1,390 results for 「蹺境」 overall, and only one result in a news search. Whereas 「遶境」 produces 515,000 results overall, and 85,200 results in a news search, and 「繞境」 produces 423,000 results overall, and 17,700 results in a news search.

‘Capable’ in Taiwanese: 「gâu」

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A scene from the play; Source: Greenray Theater Company

I spotted this word used in three places in the second of the Human Condition (《人間條件》) series of plays, ‘Her and the Men in Her Life’, by Wu Nien-chen.

The first situation is when a man discovers his wife, from a Taiwanese-speaking family) is capable of speaking Mandarin well:

Yuki: 我是議員太太的是我都記得要捲舌……

先生很意外,沈默了一下。

先生:這麼gau哦,若這樣,囝仔[小孩子]的北京語妳順便把伊[他]教乎好,北京話不輪轉的人,後擺免[不用/別]想要在社會跟人站起……

《人間條件2:她與她生命中的男人們》臺北市: 圓神文叢,2007年。

This translates as follows:

Yuki: When I say “I’m the legislator’s wife” I even remember to curve my tongue for the consonants.

Her husband is taken aback and is silent for a moment.

The husband: How capable you are. Since this is the case, you should teach the children Beijing-style Mandarin while you’re at it. Anyone who can’t get by in Beijing-style Mandarin won’t be able to make it in society…

Pronounced gâu, the “gau” above is equivalent to “能幹” in Mandarin and “capable” or “skilled” in English.

The second instance is an exchange between two friends who haven’t seen each other in a while. One of them has gone from selling clothes in a market to heading up a company and is being modest about it:

Yuki: 上遍[次]看到你的時候,你在市場賣衫……越一個頭,尚沒也是一個企業家……總是有一些鹹酸苦ㄐㄧㄚ……

武雄:那是機會好,不是我gau……

《人間條件2:她與她生命中的男人們》臺北市: 圓神文叢,2007年。

This translates as follows:

Yuki: Last time I saw you, you were selling blouses at a market… and now in the blink of an eye, at the very least you’re an entrepreneur… Whatever the case you seem to have gone through a lot…

Wu Hsiung: It was just a good opportunity, it’s not that I’m particularly talented

The third instance is as follows:

Yuki:你兒子開7-11哦?幾間?三間……哪會麼gau……

《人間條件2:她與她生命中的男人們》臺北市: 圓神文叢,2007年。

Which translates to:

Yuki: Your son opened a 7-11? How many stores? Three… Who knew he was so capable

The gâu also features in the phrase 假gâu (ké-gâu) for “trying to be clever” which I previously posted on.

Mixing Taiwanese Proverbs?: 「相罵無好話,打架恨無力」 sio-mē bô hó-ōe, sio-phah hīn bô-la̍t

So by now everyone’s quite likely seen the photo below of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) choking Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Chen Yi-min (陳宜民) over the latter’s attempt to disrupt the DPP’s passing of a holiday bill. The bill is an altered version of a KMT bill that the DPP had opposed while in opposition. The KMT reportedly has little opposition to the bill itself, but were objecting to what they see as DPP partisan hypocrisy in trying to pass a bill they had previously opposed and in passing the bill without allowing any time for debate. The KMT are not necessarily opposed to the practice of passing a bill without debate, but are rather a little miffed that the DPP is doing this despite praising and visiting students taking part in the Student Sunflower Movement, who were protesting the very same method of passing bills when the KMT was trying to pass a cross-strait trade-in-services act in 2014. Despite more publicity being given to the photo below, the KMT reportedly stuck the proverbial boot into a few DPP legislators too, but less conspicuously.

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Photo source: Wild East Magazine

Anyway, this post is not primarily concerned with politics, but rather with a Taiwanese phrase used by former New Party legislator Li Sheng-feng (李勝峰) when commentating on the scuffle on TVBS’s political chat show ‘The Situation Room’:

 

「相罵無好話,打架恨無力」 sio-mē    hó-ōe,  sio-phah  hīn bô-la̍t

Nothing good or auspicious is said when people are cursing at each other; people hate themselves for not being able to hit each other harder in a fight.

I originally thought that this was a mixture of two phrases in Taiwanese:

1. 「相罵無好話  相打無揀位」sio-mē     hó-ōesio-phah  kéng ūi which means “It’s easy to say awful things when arguing and to underestimate your strength in a fight”.

2. 「相罵恨無聲,相拍恨無力」sio-mē  hīn  bô-siaⁿ , sio-phah  hīn bô-la̍t which means “When in an argument, you hate yourself for not being able to shout them down louder, and in a fight you’ll hate yourself for not being able to hit them harder”, or, you’ll always try and find a way to bring the other person down.

But my (very gracious) Taiwanese friend called his mother in the south and she said that the phrase that the guy says on the TV program does actually exist and that it is the same as the meaning of No. 2 listed above. But she also pointed out that people in southern Taiwan say “hūn” instead of “hīn”.

Feel free to share your opinion or any similar phrases you have in the comments section.

 

Taiwanese phrase: Pretence of diffidence when you really can’t help yourself -「愛甲給細二」/「愛食假細膩」 ài chia̍h ké sè-jī

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I was talking to my friend when he started talking about the vibe in Taipei bars, in the sense that people always complain about them every week, but still end up there anyway, due to fear of missing out. He said the following:
每周都出現在同樣夜店的人 嘴中總是掛著"I hate this place" “so boring here”但還是每周都出現,「愛甲給細二」。
(The people who turn up at the nightclubs every week are always saying “I hate this place” and “It’s so boring here”, but every week they turn up, they pretend diffidence, but they love it really despite themselves.)
The Taiwanese phrase he uses 「愛甲給細二」 is likely 「愛食假細膩」 ài chia̍h  sè-jī. This is equivalent 「貪吃假裝客氣」 in Mandarin, so “people who love to eat, pretending to be polite about it”.
There is also an alternate phrase with the same meaning in Taiwanese, which is pointed out at the Taiwan Language blog:
「iau(夭)鬼假細膩」  iau-kúi  sè-lī  which translates as “a glutton pretending to be polite”.
 Photo from Greed (1924) – Public Domain

Old lady with Taiwanese song sheet on the bus 方怡萍的「夢袂醒」

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Spotted this old lady practicing her Taiwanese song skills on the bus – I wonder if she was just getting her KTV on point or is planning get her man back? Before looking more closely at the lyrics I’ll admit that I thought it was a hymn sheet. Have you seen song sheets like this? There seems to be a cool notation system a little bit like TAB for the guitar.

The song is “Not yet awake from a dream” or 「夢袂醒」bāng bōe chhíⁿ  by Fang Yi-ping:

People in Mainland China can watch it here.

The lyrics are as below – it’s pretty easy as it’s just one section repeated over and over:

英暗的這杯酒 是咱最後的溫柔
This glass of alcohol tonight, is the last warmth we have
過去親像夢一場 明日咱變成朋友
The past seems like a dream, tomorrow we become friends
講要牽手天長地久 為何對我下毒手
We said we’d hold hands for eternity, why are you plotting against me
無論怎樣苦苦哀求 擱懇求返來這個巢
However miserably I beg and beseech you to return home

放你自由甭強求 我的心肝結歸球
I’ll set you free, there’s no point in forcing you, my heart is in a knot
叫我怎樣來接受
Making it hard for me to accept

英暗的這杯酒 是咱最後的溫柔
This glass of alcohol tonight, is the last warmth we have
過去親像夢一場 明日咱變成朋友
The past seems like a dream, tomorrow we become friends
講要牽手天長地久 為何對我下毒手
We said we’d hold hands for eternity, why are you plotting against me
無論怎樣苦苦哀求 擱懇求返來這個巢
However miserably I beg and beseech you to return home
放你自由甭強求 我的心肝結歸球
I’ll set you free, there’s no point in forcing you, my heart is in a knot
叫我怎樣來接受
Making it hard for me to accept

講要牽手天長地久 為何對我下毒手
We said we’d hold hands for eternity, why are you plotting against me
無論怎樣苦苦哀求 擱懇求返來這個巢
However miserably I beg and beseech you to return home
放你自由甭強求 我的心肝結歸球
I’ll set you free, there’s no point in forcing you, my heart is in a knot
叫我怎樣來接受
Making it hard for me to accept

Some useful words in case you need to shout at your boyfriend for breaking up with you:
英暗/盈暗 êng-àm (今晚/晚上) this evening/evening
過去 kòe-khì (過去) the past
親像 chhin-chhiūⁿ (好像) to seem as if
朋友 pêng-iú (朋友) friend
kóng (講) to say
下毒手  hē-to̍k-chhiú (下毒手) to plot against someone
自由  chū-iû (自由) free (as in liberty)
結歸球 kat-kui-khiû (糾成一團) to be tangled in a knot
怎樣  chóaⁿ-iūⁿ (怎麼樣) how
接受 chiap-siū (接受) to accept

It seems like a great simple song to start you learning Taiwanese if you don’t know it already!

Taiwanese Language: Indonesian 印尼語也是台灣的語言之一

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Creative Commons License John Anderson

I was recording some notes in a Starbucks* on Shida Road when two people sat down next to me and, given their proximity in the crowded store, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. They were speaking a language I couldn’t really place. At first I thought it was Korean, but after listening to it more carefully, it sounded a little bit more like Thai, but not quite the same (this is to someone who speaks none of these languages). I left my device recording and asked my friend (Mr Popular), who has lots of friends throughout Asia if he could ask some of his friends around Asia to identify the language. He tried Thai, with no success and he found out that it wasn’t Tagalog either. He finally got a hit with an Indonesian friend, who wrote out the conversation as below:

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The conversation is about a birthday event that someone has planned for a Thursday at 8:30pm and the man and the woman are complaining that about the time, saying that 8:30pm is a difficult time and that they think 10:30pm would be better, then they add that as Thursday is a normal work day that Saturday would be better.

It got me thinking about how many languages are actually spoken in Taiwan everyday by the offspring of marriages between parents from different cultures, by students and by professional and blue collar expats from Indonesia and elsewhere living in Taiwan. When reading up about Indonesian I was surprised to learn that it’s actually the mother tongue of a very small proportion of Indonesian people, and therefore there are lots of regional variations and dialects influenced by other mother tongue languages like Javanese. It was also interesting to learn that Indonesian, like Taiwanese aboriginal languages, is an Austronesian language and Taiwan is supposed to be the origin place of the entire Austronesian language family. So you can look at the language as “returning home” in a sense.

It also borrows a range of words from Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese (including Hokkien/Taiwanese), Portuguese and Dutch, as well as from other local languages.

One example of a borrowing from Arabic is the first word “Kamis”, taken from the Arabic “الخَمِيس ‎(al-ḵamīs)”, meaning “Thursday” and “Sabtu” which occurs near the end of the conversation, taken from the Arabic “سبتsabt-u”, meaning “Saturday”.

*To all those opposed to Starbucks culture and all it represents, this is some food for thought on how hipster-style cafes are actually spaces with less cultural and class diversity than the big corporate cafe chains (Although the whole episode is interesting the discussion on this issue starts around 19:00). This is largely a product of their uniformity across regions and the fact that ordering procedure is clear from the outset, which means people of differing classes, or cultural backgrounds don’t feel intimidated on entering these spaces or feel like they will make a fool of themselves.

There’s also this wikipedia page on Indonesian slang terms.