From 穿褲仔 to the 婆/T dichotomy Lesbians and putting on a spread in Taiwan

You have to respect a gay male podcast host for doing an entire episode on middle-aged and elderly lesbians! That’s exactly what the WetBoyRoom ( 「潤男的Room」) podcast host did this week, interviewing the contributors to a book about this subject called 《阿媽的女朋友》 (Grandma’s Girlfriends), lesbians from older generations in Taiwan.

If you’re not super familiar with the lesbian scene in Taiwan, many of them of about my generation (30s) tend to identify as either 「T」 (short for the English word “Tomboy”) or 「婆」 (lipstick lesbian). With time, the lines between these categories have blurred just as they have in the male gay community, and many people now consider these terms outdated and being a heteronormative way of perceiving gay relationships (i.e. trying to figure out who is “the man” and who is “the woman” in the relationship). It was interesting to hear in the podcast that this dichotomy was actually a more recent phenomenon in the lesbian community, but a Taiwanese term in the podcast really peaked my interest. At the 10:55 mark, one of the characters is described (in a Mandarin sentence) in Taiwanese as 「漂撇 ê 穿 仔」phiau-phiat ê chhēng khò͘ á (瀟灑的穿褲子/ dashing trouser-wearer). Although I think the host actually said 「穿褲ê」, 「穿褲仔」 or girls who wore trousers, could be identified more easily as lesbians (if they were in fact lesbians) back in the day. So, it can be considered as an older version of the concept of 「T」.

Another handy Taiwanese term in the podcast (which you could likely insert in a Mandarin sentence to compliment a dinner-party host, or, more likely, to mock your friend’s paltry offering of a packet of Lays as an hors d’oeuvre) is 「腥臊」 chhe-chhau (also pronounced chheⁿ-chhau or chhiⁿ-chhau), which is equivalent to the term 「豐盛」 in Mandarin, meaning “rich and sumptuous”:

那天同媽準備了很豐盛的食物,不只是麻油雞,我記得她準備了一整桌非常腥臊chhe-chhau click for audio) 的菜。

(That day, Aunty Tong prepared a bounty of food, not just sesame oil chicken, I remember she prepared an entire table of rich sumptuous food.)

Definitely looks like an interesting books to read, will have to add it to my list!

Penis Jokes Without Borders: Decoding Taiwanese

I heard this joke referenced on yesterday’s Commute for Me (臺通) podcast. The host didn’t actually tell the whole joke, but just the punchline:

「有兩個人一起生活 一個名叫詠蘭,另一個名叫貢九 詠蘭負責打獵,貢九則是負責在家煮飯做事 有一天,家裡發生大火,有人就趕快去通知在外打獵的詠蘭,要詠蘭快去叫貢九逃。 詠蘭叫貢九逃 用懶叫打石頭(台語)」 (I found the original joke on Dcard here).

(“There were once two people who lived together, one was called Yonglan (詠蘭) and the other was called Gongjiu (貢九). Yonglan took responsibility for hunting, while Gongjiu cooked at home and did the chores. One day there was a big fire in the house, so someone quickly went to find Yonglan, who was out hunting, to tell Gongjiu to flee. Yonglan told Gongjiu to flee.”)

Haha, right? (*smile, nod and no-one will notice you didn’t get it*). Yes, the joke doesn’t work in English because it plays on the differences between Mandarin and Taiwanese. So the phrase 「詠蘭叫貢九逃」(yǒnglán jiào gòngjiǔ táo / “Yonglan tells Gongjiu to flee”) in Mandarin, sounds like the Taiwanese 用 lān鳥 摃 石頭 iōng lān-chiáu  kòng chio̍h-thâu (“Using your penis to hit rocks”). Brings back the heady whiff of teenage angst and high school locker rooms, right?

You can listen to one of the hosts telling this joke on the podcast below from the 9:38 point:

「這故事我從頭到尾有點忘記了,然後呢,最後就是出現一句話。詠蘭,裡面有個角色,阿姨叫貢九,然後詠蘭叫貢九逃。是台語『用 lān鳥 摃 石頭』。」

(“I’ve forgotten the ins and outs of the story, but, there’s a sentence at the end. Yonglan is one of the characters, and her aunt is Gongjiu. And so, YongLan tells Gongjiu to flee. Which sounds like “Using your penis to hit rocks” in Taiwanese.

你有多菜? Huh!? How much food are you?

Reila Liu, Creative Commons 2.0

「菜鳥」cai4niao3 for “rookie” or “beginner” is quite a common term in the Chinese-speaking world although it reportedly has its roots in the Taiwanese term 「菜鳥仔」 chhài-chiáu-á (the pronunciation is slightly better here). It can also be used as an adjective, i.e. 「很菜鳥」, but this is often abbreviated to 「菜」. This is helpful when you want to crush the hopes and dreams of new and enthusiastic colleagues, by sucking your teeth and whispering 「他很菜ㄟ」 (**smirks** Such a noob, eh?) in the boss’ ear when one of them gives a constructive solution to a problem.

You can hear the guys at 台通 (Commute For Me) discussing how the job of ordering bento boxes for work always tends to fall on the shoulders of the noobs from 14:12 below:

-而且我覺得通常接到訂便當工作這個人
-都比較菜
-都很菜
(-And I feel like that the person who has to order the bento boxes
-Is always quite new to the office
-Yeah, very new to the office

Podcast Code Switching: 好命囝 hó-miā-kiáⁿ Born with a silver spoon in your mouth

It’s always interesting to me to see which Taiwanese words people choose to use in otherwise Mandarin sentences, and it’s fun to speculate on the possible reasons behind the choice to switch, whether it’s humour, an attempt to sound down-to-earth or because the person being cited isTaiwanese.

I’ve become a regular listener to 台灣通勤第一品牌 (Commute For Me), and the largely Mandarin-speaking hosts used Taiwanese words and phrases from time to time.

Yesterday they used the term 好命囝 hó-miā-kiáⁿ

Context: 我媽都說我們是很 好命 hó-miā 了,不過我看到其他同學他們是更 好命 hó-miā。你們這些 好命囝 hó-miā-kiáⁿ 齁。其實 好命囝hó-miā-kiáⁿ 是一個很負面的詞。
對對對,是在批評人家,酸的時候才講。
( – My mum always said we were born with silver spoons in our mouths, but looking at my other classmates, they were even more like that. All you kids born with silver spoons in your mouths. Actually that term is quite a negative one.
– Yes, yes, it’s critical of others, you only say it when you’re bitter.
Listen here from 37:50

They’ve also been having fun with the Studio Ghibli movie stills on their Facebook Page (and in the comments section):

It’s time to start talking about sex

See the full post here:

There were a few other Taiwanese phrases peppered in there as well, but got blank stares when I tried to repeat them to my colleagues:

44:12 我信心put-tit – I didn’t have the confidence?

我媽有一陣子這樣子問我…….不一樣的事,還是問得我很煩。一直問我說,真的沒交女朋友?真的沒交齁? mài ma-ma pián eh。問到有一年我跟她說我陽痿了。
(For a while my mum kept asking me… about something different, and she got me really annoyed because she kept asking. She kept asking, “Have you really not got a girlfriend? You really haven’t? Don’t lie to your mother now. She asked me so much I told her one year that I was impotent.)
Listen from 45:26 – there were some Taiwanese interjections I didn’t catch just after this point, so appreciate any help.

Taiwan Slang: 𨑨迌/企投 Rolling with the Homies 被ㄠ/被凹 Forced into or Taken Advantage of

In retrospect, I was perhaps a little harsh on the Commute For Me (台灣通勤第一品牌) podcast, as it has grown on me in the time since I penned this blog on Chinese-language podcasts from Taiwan. The interview style is quite intimate and discussions are quite frank, although you have to keep up to know who and what they’re talking about, as they don’t give their guests much of an intro.

Anyway, I was listening to their interview of hip hop artist Chunyan 春艷 and it was an interesting conversation about his life as an introvert in different subcultures (temple gangs, graffiti art, hip hop). More importantly, there was quite a lot of Mandarin-Taiwanese code-mixing, which is always fun.

I’ve listed some of the phrases below, although there were a lot more.

One of the most interesting was 𨑨迌 (normally the characters 企投 are borrowed to represent the sound):

𨑨迌 chhit-thô, which literally means to play or “遊玩” in Mandarin, but in the context of this conversation means getting up to no good in a gang context (what gang banging meant before porn redefined it), commonly referred to as “混” (hùn) in Mandarin:

“其實那裡就是不挑人 說真的 但我不能說這是陣頭 它只是一個𨑨迌(chhit-thô)”
(Actually, they are not selective at all about people to be honest. But I’m not saying that this is really a temple parade (zhentou), it’s just messing around with gangs.)
Listen here from 43:49

被ㄠ/被凹 phē au is an interesting one because the Mandarin and Taiwanese are similar enough that the bei is often pronounced in Mandarin, with the au being pronounced in Taiwanese. It means being forced into things or taken advantage of or “被勉強” in Mandarin.

你那時候去是有被挺的感覺
更多的時候是你要挺
對啊,因為是互相的 所有別的人來的時候你就要挺他
所以有時候會覺得被凹,對不對
挺你一而已 不過你要挺他五
(-So when you went there, you felt they had you back
-More often it’s you that has to have their back
-Yes, because it’s mutual, so anyone who came there, you had to have their backs
-So sometimes you’d feel forced into things, right?
-They have your back over something trivial, but you have to have theirs over something really serious)
Listen here from 44:51

Another example is captured here in people trying to get engineers to reformat their computers for free (found on a jobs page on Facebook):

(Tell us how people try and take advantage of your profession!
“You’re a doctor? You have time to do me a favor and take out this tumor, right?”
“You just have to talk right, why don’t you just do me a favor and argue my lawsuit for me! It’s pretty easy for you as a lawyer, no?”
“You’re an engineer, right? Can you fix my computer for me? You wouldn’t charge a friend though, right?”)

Other bits and pieces I thought were fun, was the use of the Taiwanese word for temple (宮kiong) in the context of a Mandarin sentence to indicate that the temple here stands in for gang affiliation – although it’s not explicit. The other one was a phrase I’ve heard a lot but couldn’t quite pin down. Looking it up in dictionaries, it is defined as “to stand up” but 徛起來(khiā-khí-lâi) seemed to imply being worked or hyped up here, which is why it stuck with me more.

kiong

我們這個(kiong)跟另外一個(kiong)的一個年輕人 有人有衝突,然後聽說等一下會有人來處理這件事情。
(A young person from our temple got into a conflict with someone from another temple, and some people were coming in a bit to sort things out.
Listen here from 28:46

徛起來(khiā-khí-lâi)

那我朋友就說,我要去打
不要啦
我要去我要去
他那時候就整個徛起來(khiā-khí-lâi)
我要去我要去
(My friend said, I wanna go fight
Don’t
I wanna go, I wanna go
He’d already gotten all worked up at that point
I wanna go, I wanna go)
Listen here from 29:09

Any additional suggestions welcome!

You can see the rap battle they repeatedly reference here:

The Ko Wen-je collab here:


And more of Chunyan’s music here.

Slang from Taiwan: 很「派」 Very Pie = Fierce

The Taiwanese equivalent to 「兇」 (Mandarin xiong1 fierce/ferocious/tetchy/short-tempered) is generally written as 「歹」(dai3 in Mandarin) and pronounced pháiⁿ. However, recently, the substitution of the word 「派」(pai4) has been cropping up in otherwise Mandarin sentences, often in an indication of an underlying irony or sarcasm behind the comment.

This first came to my attention, when an acquaintance posted this meme in response to another person’s comments in a Facebook thread:

What the f.ck are you talking about?

咧 here stands in for the Taiwanese for 在 (Thanks for the tip Leon)
工 is standing in for the Taiwanese pronunciation of 講
三 is standing in for what
小 is standing in for the Taiwanese word for sperm, but here it’s just like using f.ck or hell.

Another friend then said “很派” in response. And given who the friend is, I’m assuming the sarcasm was intended.

A more obvious example, is here, as used on ptt:

魯妹拿出逗貓棒準備跟灰塵貓來場激烈的運動 沒想到貓貓一把搶走逗貓棒自己玩得很開心 還露出凶狠的表情
(The single loser that I am took out a cat teaser so Dusty could get some vigorous exercise, but with one swoop the cat took the teaser and started playing with it himself all happy, and even flashed me a fierce look.)
With reference to this image:

很派
(So ferocious)

[…]

學姐貓只有在等罐頭的時候很派
(My cat is only ferocious when he’s waiting for me to open cans.)
With reference to this image:

Another example is when last year, Taipei’s subway lines all got their own Facebook accounts, and the Orange or Zhonghe-Xinlu Line (中和新蘆線) was called out as being 「很派」:

大膽起用次文化用語,扭轉刻板印象

而臉書上討論度最高的、最受歡迎的,是「很派」(台語諧音,意指很兇)、動不動就罵人「88-1」(88-1=87,白癡的諧音)的中和新蘆線。人物設定參考三重、蘆洲許多重義氣的宮廟兄弟形象。在和網友互動過程中,鮮明性格吸引多網友排隊「討罵」。

(Brave choice to borrow terms from sub-cultures to subvert stereotypes

And the most talked about on Facebook and most popular, was the vicious Zhonghe-Xinlu Line, which never shied from calling people 88-1 (87, Taiwanese pronunciation of 白癡). It’s character was based on the image of loyal temple brotherhoods (read: gang members). While it was interacting with internet users, its unique character had internet users lining up to be cussed out.)

Hmm… yeah, I’m not really clear on how that was subverting stereotypes either, but ok…

OK, before class is dismissed, time to set some homework: use the following words in your Facebook comments over the next week to try and add a little maturity and open-mindedness to the conversation:

Vocab List:
88-1
討罵
魯妹
腐女
很派
到底咧工三小

Pulling a fast one with 奧步 àupō͘

「奧步」 is the common written form for the Taiwanese expression 「漚步」 àupō͘ meaning a sly or crafty move.  This is just one of those phrases you’ll hear again and again. I heard it a while ago in the run-up to the election:

「尤其是大家其實現在都在期待就是民進黨最後會出什麼奧步。」

“Especially when at the minute everyone is actually waiting to see what crafty maneuver the DPP will end up pulling at the last minute.”

arc

You can hear it around the 11:04 point in the video below:

I heard it again just now while getting my hair cut (shorn off), in the Taiwanese soap opera 《炮仔聲》 (Ep 327) playing in the background.  It was translated into Mandarin in the subtitles as 「耍手段」:

「這個江宏傑真的有夠可惡,只會耍手段,不是用錢收買人,就是抓人的親人來威脅。」

“That Kang Hong-kiat is a real piece of work, he’s always got some sly trick up his sleeve. If he isn’t buying people off, he’s using people’s families to threaten them.”

arc

You can hear her say it here (1:46;47).

Earlier in the episode, one character describes getting a woman drunk in order to get her into bed (quite rightly) as an 「奧步」, although this time it’s translated into Mandarin as 「卑鄙手段」 “how could I use that kind of dirty tactic?”

arc

You can hear him say it here (0:40:56).

It’s one of those really useful phrases that’s really hard to find the right situation to use. In the first example I used, it’s used in a Mandarin sentence, so you can use it that way too, but make sure your tones are on point if you’re going to, or you’ll stand there shamefacedly repeating yourself until you have to spell it out like I did in the kitchenette at work when I called my colleague a 抓耙仔 jiàu-pê-á/liàu-pê-á (a snitch). I said bei instead of pei or something *shrugs*.

Many Shrimp: Thanks in Taiwanese! To-siā/多謝/多蝦

So previously we learned that 蝦 xiā (shrimp) in Mandarin can be slang for guy with a hot body but an ugly face (not you, you’re beautiful!). We also learned to pun with shrimp in Mandarin here, and learned the Taiwanese phrase 「無魚,蝦嘛好」 (bô hî, hê mā ho) here. Today, however, we’re going to mix it all up, with a Mandarin/Taiwanese/pun crossover:

20200312_111904

These commemorative stamps (they can’t actually be used as postage stamps, they’re just decorative) were launched by the Taiwan Anti-Tuberculosis Association. The one with all the shrimps on it is their way of saying thank you to those who bought stamps in support of the cause.

Why does a bunch of shrimps mean thank you? 多蝦 duō xiā (many shrimps) is a transliteration of the Taiwanese for thank you to-siā (the actual characters are likely 「多謝」 which is how it is normally written).

So next time you’re in a taxi with a driver with a nice body but whose face has a “nice personality”, remember “many shrimp” and you can charm him by saying thanks the Taiwanese way.

 

The Control Yuan vs Getting 3 Meals a Day 「逐工就是顧三頓」

shabu-shabu-foodTVBS’s ‘The Situation Room’ has returned to talking about the impeachment proceedings launched by the Control Yuan against National Taiwan University President Kuan Chung-ming after he’d been in the post just a week. The discussion reveals a lot of interesting theories about the role of the「獨派」, or ‘pro-independence’, faction within the Democratic Progressive Party, who President Tsai is said to have appointed to the Control Yuan as a compromise, but who are now allegedly going rogue.

Kuan has been accused (so far) of having a second post while being an official, writing editorials in Yizhoukan (一週刊), although there is a lot of debate as to whether or not this constitutes a second post, as contributing to magazines and newspapers is quite a common practice among officials.

In the course of this debate, Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) used a Taiwanese phrase *09:50* to try and communicate what she feels is the disconnect between the priorities of the DPP and of the public:

老百姓(in Mandarin) 逐工著是顧三頓爾(in Taiwanese)

逐工 ta̍k-kang 就是 tiō sī 顧三頓  kòo-sann-tǹg 爾爾 niā-niā*

逐工 ta̍k-kang is equivalent to 每天 in Mandarin (every day)

就是 tiō sī is the same as Mandarin (are just)

顧三頓 kòo-sann-tǹg is equivalent to 顧三餐 in Mandarin (to concern oneself with getting three square meals)

爾爾 niā-niā is equivalent to 而已 in Mandarin (and only that)

*I’m not sure if she says niā once or twice here. 

From the context of her comments, we can guess why she chose to use a Taiwanese phrase. She’s talking about and appealing to the common man who hasn’t got time for politics, and Taiwanese is a way of appealing to this Taiwanese everyman.

Interestingly in the 五月天 (Mayday) song ‘I Love You無望’ both the phrase 逐工 ta̍k-kang (0.20), and ‘每一工’ muí tsi̍tkang (0.31) are used, to mean “every day”. In Mandarin 逐日 is more formal and is closer to on a daily basis, whereas 每天/每一天 is less formal. I’m not quite sure of the differences in Taiwanese, although one Taiwanese friend suggested that 逐工 can mean “the entire day”.

 

An Overbearing Duck? 「鴨霸」

ducks-3826244_1920Ko Chih-en (柯志恩), a KMT legislator-at-large, is another regular on TVBS’s political panel show ‘The Situation Room’.

In an interesting discussion on the long delay to Kuan Chung-Ming’s inauguration as President of National Taiwan University, she used the Taiwanese term 「鴨霸」(ah-pà) in the middle of a Mandarin sentence on political panel show ‘The Situation Room’, as follows (from roughly 5:29):

他為什麼會被卡

Why was the inauguration unable to proceed?

就是因為全面執政太鴨霸

Because the ruling party has been too overbearing about it all

 

According to the information I can find, it’s unlikely that 「鴨」(ah)  is the original character in the expression, and it’s likely used as a stand-in for either 「」(a) (as the original form of 「惡」 or「」(ah) (according to the Ministry of Education dictionary). The nearest Mandarin equivalent is probably 「霸道」, although 「鴨霸」 can also be used in Mandarin.

For another duck-related phrase, you might want to check out my previous post here.