I’m not sure quite what was going on with this angry red spoldge of red spray paint on the 「拍謝」 on the construction site sign below:
「拍謝」 is the informal way to write the Taiwanese term 「歹勢」 or “phái-sè”, which is the Taiwanese equivalent of the Mandarin term 「不好意思」 (sorry).
I’m curious about the motivations of the vandalizer. Are they against the use of Taiwanese on a formal sign? Are they against the borrowing of Mandarin sounds to represent Taiwanese, rather than the 「歹勢」 that is used more commonly? Or are they against the use of Chinese characters to represent Taiwanese at all? Or was it just a random stain that got on the sign somehow?
Given the history of its suppression, language tends to be a sensitive issue in Taiwan. Writer Huang Chun-ming (黃春明) even took off his shirt during a lecture back in 2011 due to a disagreement with Associate Professor Wi-vun Chiung (蔣為文) in the audience over the necessity for Taiwanese-language instruction for primary schools and Huang’s unwillingness to adopt Latin script to represent the Taiwanese language (as implied by the sign below).
Ironically you’ll see Professor Chiung uses the Simplified version of the character 「國」 in his sign. Linguistic hardliners are not really my cup of tea, and I much prefer the hodge-podge of English, Mandarin and Taiwanese that the construction site sign portrays.
I liked the code mixing between English, Mandarin and Taiwanese in this sign announcing construction work by the Hydraulic Engineering Office in the riverside park:
The Taiwanese reads: 「咱ㄟ卡緊呢」 lánēkākínne which means “We will speed up” or character for character:
咱 (我們) we ㄟ (會) will 卡 (加以) more 緊 (快) quickly/hurriedly 呢 (呀) exclamatory particle
The code mixing (as well as the PowerPoint style 3D characters at the bottom) are clearly aimed at softening the message of the sign which is an inconvenience to park users. The Taiwanese sounds much more down to earth and colloquial than the more formal 「造成您的不便，敬請見諒」 at the bottom.
It’s always fun to hear a piece of vocab you’ve learned previously in the wild.
When listening to the 「股癌」 (GooAye) podcast I heard the phrase 「佛系」 (Buddhist/noninterference approach) which is a variant of the 「佛系……法」 (Buddhist/noninterference approach to…) phrase I featured in a previous post here.
“Don’t try and explain rises and falls, but I’ve found that some people have taken what I said to the extreme, and they don’t try and look for reasons at all. It’s like they’re dedicated to noninterference and freedom.”
Here he is cautioning people not to try and try and explain short term rises and falls in stock prices, but then qualifying this by saying that they can look for longer term reasons for price rises and falls.
From listening over the last few months, I found out that the guy behind the podcast was hopeful that Trump would win the election, although his reasons are largely to do with financial policy. The podcast is definitely worth listening to for insights on Taiwanese society and the business world as well as analysis of trends in stocks and shares.
In the same week, the phrase also came up in the 台通 (Commute For Me) podcast in an interview with the spokesperson of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (台灣基進) Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), who led the recall petition movement against Han Kuo-yu (from 12:33 or -41:31):
Host: 那你有得到正面的回饋啊。 陳柏惟：對啊。所以那個不是自我說服唉，我覺得那個是有時間的過程。那個不是坐在家裡瞑想佛系態度。 Host: So you got positive feedback. Chen Po-wei: Yes. So I don’t think it was me convincing myself, I think it happened over time. It wasn’t like I was sitting at home meditating hoping that things would just fall in my lap.
This is also a reference to the 佛系 memes, which play on the Buddhist concept of noninterference that I featured in the previous post.
Chen also used the Taiwanese word 「𨑨迌／企投 」chhit-thô featured in a previous post as well at the 21:57 (-32:07) point. Although I only mentioned these two, there are lots of gems in this interview and it’s definitely worth a listen.
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穿褲 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!
There’s been a lot of media coverage in Taiwan and elsewhere over the past few days about the Chinese diplomats who allegedly put a Taiwanese official in Fiji in hospital after trying to take names and photos of guests at a Taiwanese reception in the country (seemingly to report to their superiors in Beijing and launch reprisals against said guests).
On my morning commute I was listening to Professor Su Hung-dah from National Taiwan University’s Department of Political Science (who also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs early in his career) talk about the incident on New98 (a light blue leaning radio station). He’s mainly calling out China for its clumsy efforts, in that actual diplomats showed up to do the dirty work, when a more cunning approach would have been to send some Chinese hooligans with no ties to the embassy to stir things up. He also suggested Taiwan start hiring security guards for these kinds of events. The show is broadcast on YouTube too, and you can rewatch below (the segment on Fiji starts at 5:15):
The interesting part for me was the use of a Taiwanese term in the middle of a flow of Mandarin (from 12:09):
(This wasn’t very high-level stuff from Mainland China, in saying today we’re gonna send a diplomatic official to go collect evidence. This is actually… it could very easily turn into a scandal, no?)
The characters 「凸槌」 (thut-chhôe / thut-chhê) are just borrowings from Mandarin to represent the sounds. The two main dictionaries I use seem to indicate that original characters would have been「脫箠」and it can mean “to make a mistake”, “to blow one’s cover”, “to make a fool of oneself” or “to go off the rails”.
Interestingly enough, the Taiwanese translation of the Rowan Atkinson spy comedy Johnny English is 『凸搥特派員』, which really does add a bit of comedy to the word choice.
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 iōnglān-chiáukòngchio̍h-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:
(“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.
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.
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):
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？ màikāma-mapiáneh。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.
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.
我們這個宮(kiong)跟另外一個宮(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
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)了 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 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:
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.
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」:
(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:
「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:
“Especially when at the minute everyone is actually waiting to see what crafty maneuver the DPP will end up pulling at the last minute.”
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」:
“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.”
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?”
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*.