「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.

‘Capable’ in Taiwanese: 「gâu」

framework2

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.

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

Greed,_1924,_06_banchetto
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

Taiwan slang: Shrimp 「蝦」 xia1 / 「蝦子」 xia1zi5

shrimpo

蝦子 (Shrimp/Prawn) – Keep the body, throw away the head

A Taiwanese friend was talking to me about an upcoming pool party when all of a sudden he said something along the lines of 「會去那邊的人一定都是蝦」 “Everyone who goes there are shrimps”. I asked him what he meant and he said that in Taiwan people generally use the term 「蝦」(xia1/ㄒㄧㄚ) or 「蝦子」 (xia1zi5/ㄒㄧㄚㄗ˙) to describe a guy with a ripped body (with the ribbed abdomen of a shrimp) but a head that nobody wants, hence their eagerness to take their shirts off. I’m not sure if this term exists in English or not, but thought it was amusing, if a bit harsh.

The term seems to have some traction in Hong Kong, as I found the words 「蝦子」 written under this unfortunate guy’s picture, under the caption “Ugly version of Gregory Wong” in the popular HK Golden forum:

shrimp1

There was a whole conversation about the term on PTT – a bulletin board system that was (and still is) super popular in Taiwan. The original poster asked whether people would be happy or offended to be called a shrimp:

Shrimpy

One of the funniest responses I saw was as below:

ptt2

Person A: It depends on the level of shrimp head. Haha XD. And the category of shrimp is a little unclear.
Person B: If it’s at lobster level then maybe it’s no problem XD

I’m guessing “lobster level” suggests a buffer body and that if the body is that muscular then any kind of face is OK.

So this post was just a bit of fun and obviously everyone is beautiful in their own way – I just thought it was an amusing term I’d never heard before.

Artwork from here

Ko P’s team gets it in the neck for Weibo proposal 王世堅說柯P「食碗內 洗碗外」

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.03.12 AMI don’t have a TV at home, so when I was recruited by a friend to wrap tamales at his house, I got a rare opportunity to watch some political talk shows, which are usually amusingly varied according to the political affiliation of the channel they’re broadcast on. This one from TVBS (relatively Kuomintang-leaning/blue), is called ‘The Situation Room’ in English and 「少康戰情室」 in Chinese. Footage from the Legislative Yuan is always a great opportunity to learn some Taiwanese of the shouty aggressive variety:

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Wang Shih-chien is upset because Taipei mayor (independent but largely seen as DPP leaning) Ko Wen-je proposed setting up a Weibo account for the Taipei City government in line with a suggestion from across the strait. Weibo is a social-media platform, similar to Twitter, but set up to conform with Mainland China’s censorship guidelines, which is why the DPP legislator isn’t a fan. This is the phrase in Taiwanese he uses with the Mandarin context:

台灣政治界沒有一個人
No-one in the Taiwanese political arena
會上去微博
Goes on Weibo
微博是給黃安們用的
Weibo is for the likes of Huang An (China-based Taiwanese singer)
你知道嗎?
Don’t you know?
莫名其妙
I’ve never heard the like of it
不務正業
It’s a dereliction of your duties
這典型的叫食碗內 洗碗外
This is a classic case of biting the hand that feeds you

The phrase is 食碗內 洗碗外 pronounced”chia̍h  óaⁿ lāi  óaⁿ meaning that you eat the provisions of your own community, but wash dishes for another community, and by extension, to bite the hand that feeds you.

The Ministry of Education Taiwanese dictionary, however, states the phrase as: 「食碗內,說碗外」, which makes slightly more sense, meaning “You eat food from your own community, but say that you got it from another community”, i.e. to bite the hand that feeds you, or deny gratitude to those who provide for you. The 說 is pronounced “seh or soeh” (depending on what variety of Taiwanese you speak), and 洗 is pronounced “sé or sóe” so there’s little difference of sound between them. Most places on the internet use 洗 however.

It’s equivalent to the Mandarin phrase 吃裡扒外 chīlǐpáwài.

Incidentally, the singer mentioned in the rant, Huang An, is quite famous as a traitor to Taiwanese independence by the independence lobby. He’s one of the people who criticized K-Pop singer Chou Tzu-yu for waving a Taiwanese flag and he’s for unification with China. Apparently he still loves one part of Taiwan though, the National Health Service

Here are the tamales in progress for anyone who is interested:

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And if you want to know what else I was watching, check out my post from the day before yesterday on 台灣國語 in the Taiwanese version of Adventure Time.

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:

zhuangjiaomian

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」.

 

Why is Taiwan’s FSA serving up beef? 「端出牛肉」的由來

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So, the Financial Supervisory Commission is serving up beef according to this China Times article…

獎勵Fintech專利 金管會端牛肉

The Financial Supervisory Commission is serving up beef (putting its money where its mouth is) to Incentivize Fintech Patents

What I love about Chinese and particularly news headlines in Taiwan is that the most random references in the world can become rooted in the language forever after (well according to what I could find online).

According to an online forum, this is a reference to the borrowing of a line from a 1984 Wendy’s ad by unsuccessful presidential candidate Walter Mondale (Yeah, I know, who the fuck knew?) during his campaign against incumbent Ronald Reagan in 1984. Mondale asked Reagan, “Where’s the beef,Mr. President — where’s the beef?”.

Here’s the ad for those under 30:

In Taiwan this was adapted into a popular saying, “serving up beef”  is to take direct action or put your money where your mouth is.

If this really is the origin of the phrase, it just goes to show how influential US culture has been in Taiwan.

On a side note, if you want a brilliant satirical read on this theme, you should check out Rose, Rose, I Love You (《玫瑰玫瑰我愛你》)by Wang Chen-ho (王禎和)either in Chinese or in translation. It is set in a village in Taiwan as they prepare for the imminent arrival of US troops, coming for R&R from the Vietnam war during the 1960s and the author pokes fun at the blind worship of US culture in Taiwan at that time, with all the cultural misapprehensions that go alongside it.

Taiwanese Phrase: ‘Washing your Trousers while You’re Picking Clams’ 摸蜊仔兼洗褲 bong lâ-á kiam sé khòo

1280px-Nuns_clamming_-_Toni_Frissell_LC-F9-04-5709-012-17I found the Taiwanese equivalent for the phrase ‘catching two birds with one stone’  in the book I’m reading at the minute:

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The phrase, which literally means ‘washing your trousers while you’re picking clams’ varies slightly from the written form in the Ministry of Education Taiwanese dictionary, which lists it as 「一兼二顧,摸蜊仔兼洗褲」 pronounced “It kiam jī kòo, bong lâ-á kiam sé khòo” (Click through link and press green button). You can see that the 「蜊」is rendered here with a 「蛤」, but this is just an attempt to find a stand in Mandarin character to render the Taiwanese word. The book also only uses the second half of the phrase as listed by the dictionary – bong lâ-á kiam sé khòo – this is as common in Chinese and Taiwanese as it is in English, in that you don’t have to state a whole phrase to get your point across.

I thought the image of people standing in the sea thinking they’re washing their trousers while they’re picking clams was quite amusing.

I also came across a Taiwanese word that is extremely common in Taiwanese Mandarin and is usually rendered using zhuyin (注音):

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The word 「ㄍㄧㄥ」 has a variety of uses – but it generally means to tense up, either emotionally or physically. Here it is physical  – “You have to tense up all the muscles in your body.” In emotional terms, it can be seen as an equivalent to “clamming up”, or can be used to describe someone’s personality to mean that they’re unable to express themselves or express emotion normally, like repressed.

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.

Photo of nuns picking clams by Toni Frissell

LKK/老扣扣/洛可可/老硞硞 láu kho̍k-kho̍k Out of touch/ fuddy duddy

LKK/老扣扣/洛可可/老硞硞  láu kho̍k-kho̍k (audio available here) Out of touch/ fuddy duddy

This is an adjectival phrase that most commonly appears using the roman letters LKK . It means old and out of touch and has the sense of being behind the times or of an older order. Surprisingly the roman letters often appear in news articles and novels as opposed to the Chinese characters. This took me by surprise as I thought that using roman letters was usually something quite informal – like the 火星文 that features widely on BBS.

OldPeople

When I asked my coworkers for examples, one of them cited Andy Lau’s attempts at street dancing as LKK.

I also found the following examples on the internet:

為了不讓自己顯得LKK,我決定在生活中多學習新世代用語 (I have decided to learn phrases used by the younger generation, so as not to not appear so out of touch)

from the Liberty Times in which it is used as an adjective.

這屆海峽兩岸圖書交易會將邀請知名作詞人方文山、製作人王偉忠等人出席相關活動,吸引年輕人參加,讓圖交會不再「LKK」。 (Renowned lyricist Vincent Fang and TV producer Wang Wei-Chung, among others, will attend this year’s Cross-strait Book Fair, in order to get young people to attend and to prevent the book fair from being out of touch with the younger generation.)

from CNA, in which it’s used as an adjective.

And this rather more current example from ET Today:

網評/得網路者得天下 屁孩成就國民黨LKK的慘敗 (Social media: Whoever rules the internet, rules the world; the brat generation succeed in defeating the out of touch KMT)

In this last example I had to rearrange the words in the translation, but essentially LKK is an adjective here too, describing it as an “out of touch crushing defeat”.

Feel free to contact me with any cool Taiwanese words or phrases you hear and want featured on the blog.

Photo credit: Politics & 2P

有的沒的 ū ê bô ê Something and nothing/nonsense/trivialities

The phrase “melter” in Belfast slang refers to someone who prattles on endlessly without seemingly ever saying anything that means anything, hence the phrase, “I’m going to go over there now, you’re melting my head!” Taiwanese has a similar sentiment manifested in the phrase “有的沒的”, meaning “Something and nothing/nonsense/trivialities” which can be used in both Mandarin (you3de5mei2de5) and Taiwanese (ū ê bô ê – audio available here).

Chocolate02

The handy thing about this phrase is that you can use the Taiwanese in Mandarin and in Taiwanese, or you can just use the Mandarin if you can’t recall the Taiwanese.

It can be used as a noun or an adjective and I’ve included an example below:

你不要在那邊講那些[有的沒的/ū ê bô ê], 無聊死了!

I wish you’d stop going on about all this crap, it’s so dull!

The ū ê bô ê in question can either be something trivial, or in some contexts gossip, but expresses the speaker’s opinion that they are above gossip.

These are various examples I’ve found on the internet:

看看一堆有的沒的是非問題

有的沒的聊了幾句便睡 *Note – in this phrase 有的沒的 is used as an adverb with the 地 omitted.

Feel free to contact me with any cool Taiwanese words or phrases you hear and want featured on the blog.