Lost in Translation: ‘A Boy Name Flora A’

Recently I’ve been getting into a Netflix adaptation of 《花甲男孩》, a book written by Yang Fu-min (楊富閔). The author was in the younger year of my graduate institute while I was studying at NTU and I previously interviewed him (awkwardness all round) here. The series is called ‘A Boy Name Flora A’ in English (not quite sure how that got past the editors). I’ve just started, but so far it’s quite funny. As a lot of the humor in the show involves wordplay, however, I have to wonder how much of it comes across in English.

One example is in the first episode, where you can see the difficulty in trying to translate a dad joke:

-欸,你懂易經嗎?
我只知道易經他媽是誰
-誰?
液*晶(yìjīng)螢幕 (易經in(他)母())

液 is normally pronounced yì in Mandarin in Taiwan, although elsewhere you’ll find it listed as yè

-Oi, do you understand the Book of Changes?
– I only know who the Book of Changes mother is
– Who?
– An LCD screen (homophone for “the mother of the Book of Changes” in Taiwanese)

So in, Taiwanese, “in ” means 「他媽」 or 「他母」. The in is sometimes written using the following character (a combination of 亻 and 因):

Alternatively 怹 can be used.

The translation on the Netflix series, understandably maybe, gives up on trying to show where the humour is:
– Hey, do you know what I-Ching is?
– I only know its mother.
– Who is it?
– It’s I-Ching as in an LCD screen.

It brought me back to my days hanging around with a crowd from Pingtung where all the punchlines of the jokes were in Taiwanese – and just didn’t sound funny when they “explained the joke” in Mandarin after the fact.

I imagine those translating it also struggled to make a distinction between the “feel” of the Taiwanese and the Chinese in the English translation.

Anyway – lunch-break is almost over, so I’ll leave you with another bit of slang the show taught me today:

「蛇」(snake) here is short for 「魯蛇」 which is a transliteration of “loser”:

「我一生下來也沒有這麼蛇啊」
(I didn’t start out a loser.)

I’d never heard 蛇 used independently of the 「魯」 in this way before.

Covid-19 Cases in Taiwan So Far (Updated Dec 2)

Six cases, three from Indonesia (Indonesian nationals), two from the US (one Taiwanese national and one Cypriot national) and one from France via Turkey (French national).

Found this cool infographic online and thought it would be cool to translate the info provided so far. I can try updating it as the epidemic continues if it doesn’t get completely out of hand here. Same colour means same cluster. You can also view it on Google Drive here.

 

Added a few stats below:

I’ve also listed details of suspected export cases from Taiwan below:

Other COVID-19 related resources can be found below:49565892377_f5a57db0bd_o

The Medcram series on the coronavirus has calmed me down when panic overwhelms.

The slightly less calming world stats on Worldometers.

The CDC website on which the above tables are based. More recently they’ve been releasing tables in Chinese listing all new cases.

An account of what it’s like to be quarantined in Taiwan from Jonathan Chen.

Tricky Taipei talks to coronavirus quarantiners.

You can also explore this treasure trove.

If you’re having visa issues, you can contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

If you believe you have symptoms of the virus, please call 1922 toll-free (+886 80 000 1922) to arrange a medical visit.

Reichmark Bond Protester Giving Up?

Outside 101 is a bit like Hyde Park Corner in London. Lots of “interesting characters” on soap boxes. This man was previously pictured protesting Germany’s alleged refusal to reimburse Reichmark bonds issued in Taipei by Japan in the 1920s, with the Japanese reportedly forcing many Taiwanese to buy them against their will. He’s actually posted screen shots from the European Press Photo Association on another placard beside him. He was suggesting their refusal constituted being Nazis again and his placard still says “Hitler Resurrected”. He’s resorted to passive aggression now, stating in English and Chinese that given Germany’s failure to address or engage with the argument and that “they can’t afford it anyway”, he was giving the bonds as a gift to Germany. For more info you can check out their Facebook Group The Old German Mark Association. Looks like he’s had some abuse about his use of the Nazi flag, as he or someone else has crossed it out and drawn a thumbs down on it. Lots of media coverage on his protest, so maybe that’s what has led to his change of heart.

MRT Poetry: ‘The Forgotten Ritual Site’ by Liglav A-wu 捷運詩句:利格樂·阿{女烏}的「被遺忘的祭場」

被遺忘的祭場

田中第一粒小米鼓漲的時候

電話那端傳來南方部落Ina*的聲音

空氣裡滿滿都是月桃花香

下個月圓時

回來參加Masalu**吧!

*Ina 排灣語,意指母親

**Masalu 排灣語,意指謝謝,在此解釋為豐年祭

The Forgotten Ritual Site

As the first grain of millet bursts out in the field

I hear Ina*’s voice on the phone from my tribal village in the South

The air is rich with the scent of shell ginger flowers

At the next full moon

I’ll go back for Masalu**.

*Ina means “mother” in the Paiwan language

**Masalu means “thanksgiving” in the Paiwan language, here it refers to the harvest festival

Liglav A-wu is from the Paiwan tribe and was born in the tribal village of Pucunug in 1969. She is best known for her essays and reportage on issues concerning aboriginal women and published her first collection in 1996, Who Will Wear The Beautiful Clothes I Wove 《誰來穿我織的美麗衣裳》 She was also worked with Walis Nokan on Hunters’ Culture (獵人文化) magazine. She is currently working as a professor at the Taiwanese literature department of Providence University.

Taiwanese phrase of the day: You can tell if people are stupid by looking at their faces 人若呆,看面就知 lâng nā gōng khòaⁿ bīn tio̍h chai

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I seem to have learned mostly offensive Taiwanese so far, but hopefully that will change as I slowly run out of offensive material. This is still one of my favourite phrases in Taiwanese, because it’s so cutting. The photo above (not mine, found on Facebook, but originally posted to ptt) had me laughing for a while during the Sunflower movement. Cabinet member Hsiao Chiachi (蕭家淇 Xiao Jiaqi) remonstrated with the press that someone ate his taiyangbings (太陽餅 a flat pastry filled with stuffing, like a moon cake) during the brief occupation of the Executive Yuan by students – obviously his major concern at a time when the Legislative Yuan was still occupied by students. The caption reads: “The ones I was going to give my colleagues were eaten too!” His words and his despair have spawned many a meme, but this one has to be my favorite. I don’t agree with the premise of the phrase, as it’s pretty offensive to call anyone stupid, and I don’t think Mr Hsiao is stupid either, his comments were just comically ill-timed. He was probably attempting to portray the students, who were being deified in the pan-green press at the time, as vandals (stealing, damaging property etc), and therefore undermine the support in Taiwan for the protest in the Legislative Yuan. This came across, however, as a passionate love for sun cakes, and utter disappointment that someone else had gotten to them first. Continue reading