The curious case of 「開嘜」

I was at my bus stop this morning when I saw this sign on a shop that pricked my curiosity:

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The first bit is the classic shaven ice dish that’s very popular in Taiwan 「剉冰」(Mandarin cuo4bing1), almost always referred to by its Taiwanese pronunciation: chhoah冰

(Side note, you should definitely try this place if you want some pretty stylized shaven ice – 路地 氷の怪物 (Street Ice Monsters) – there are two in Taichung and one in Taipei)

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)

Anyway, it was the second two characters that intrigued me more: 「開嘜」.

Looking online I found several examples of its usage, but they all seemed to point to a different meaning, referring to starting filming or broadcasting. One of my friends suggested that 「嘜」 is short for 「麥克風」, a borrowing from the English microphone, with an additional mouth radical to emphasize the difference from the original meaning of 「麥」, “wheat”. So in this sense it would be something similar to where the director shouts “rolling” on a film shoot, referring to when the sound starts getting recorded.

This meaning is suggested by the Executive Yuan’s Youtube channel, titled 「行政院開麥啦」 (notice the 口 in front of 麥 isn’t included), translating roughly to “The Executive Yuan start broadcasting”.

Likewise with this article on the broadcasting of judicial proceedings: 「司法,開嘜啦!」.

This doesn’t really help us with the sign at the bus stop, however, and it’s most likely that the character 「嘜」 `(mai4 ㄇㄞˋ) is just standing in for its homonym 「賣」(mai4 ㄇㄞˋ), although I’m not exactly sure why. It could just be to attract attention or for comedic effect. If anyone has a better suggestion, feel free to put it out there in the comments section.

 

Everyday Variants: 垃圾「乱」丟

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I walked past this sign the other day near Dingxi MRT station and was reminded of how often Taiwanese people use simpler variants of some characters when writing some of the more complex Chinese characters, many of which were adopted in China as the standard simplified version of the character:

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It reads:

乱丟

6千元

袋子不行丟到裡面

Dumping rubbish
[Incurs a] fine [of]
NT$6000

It’s not OK to throw bags inside

Here 「亂」, meaning here “carelessly” or “against the rules”, is written using the variant 「乱」, which is identical to its simplified form.

This variant form is listed in the MOE’s Variant dictionary:

001

Church Leaflet Fancy Talk:「纔」vs 「才」

I got this leaflet through the letterbox the other night (the people called up to ask if they could put it inside) from a group called “The Church in Taipei”.

RealTRUTH

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Leaflet from The Church in Taipei (highlights mine)

Although the content of the leaflet was largely unremarkable (we will help you find meaning for your life/true freedom), a few things about it did catch my eye.

The first was a detail of the story:

一個在美國讀過小學,隨父母回來臺灣的小孩,直吵着要回美國。問他爲甚麼,他振振有辭的說,『因爲美國的學生比較自由阿!』這是小孩所要的自由-不用穿制服,不用背書包,不用讀太多書,也不必被體罰!

A child who had gone to elementary school in the US and returned to Taiwan with their parents was going on and on asking to go back to the US. When you asked him why, he said precociously “Because American students have more freedom!”. This is freedom for a child – not having to wear a uniform, not having to carry a schoolbag, not having to read too many books  and not having to undergo corporal punishment.

Leaving aside the suggestion that American kids don’t have to read or carry school bags, I thought it interesting that the author was unaware that corporal punishment is illegal in Taiwan.

The other aspect of the leaflet that I found interesting was the choice of characters, which suggested the author wasn’t using the most common input system Zhuyin (Bopomofo), and that they were trying to some extent to sound authoritative through the use of more traditional variants. Some can be, perhaps, be ascribed to font choices, but I’m inclined to believe it is more of a stylistic choice. Examples are as below:

爲 vs 為

「爲」 is used in all cases in the leaflet above, rather than the more commonly seen 「為」, including together with the more  formal 「甚麼」 in place of 「什麼」. If you’re typing in zhuyin you have to scroll to access the character 「爲」 whereas 為 will come out in combination with 什麼 and 甚麼 automatically:

wei

Perhaps the author uses Cangjie or Sucheng, more popular input methods among older people in Taiwan.

着 vs 著

The character 「着」 is a variant of the character 「著」 and it’s also listed the standard simplified character, but it’s not often used in Taiwan:

纔 vs 才

I remember at university we had to learn to read texts in traditional Chinese. Many of the pre-Revolutionary texts from China used the traditional form 「纔 」 as opposed to 「才」 to mean “only then”. At several points in the text the author uses this more traditional form, however, both are listed in the Ministry of Education dictionary in separate listings, 「才」 has the additional meaning of talent or ability, but in this context they have similar meanings and 「才」is also the simplified version of 「纔」.

群 vs 羣

「羣」 is a variant of 「群」 and also suggests a stylistic choice made, rather than an accident.

This perhaps all makes sense when you think of the language used in the Bible in English and its surrounding literature, so this is perhaps an attempt to echo this kind of usage in Chinese.

Year of the Rooster Couplets

Here’s a few couplets and Chinese New Year decorations from around my neighbourhood:

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「心靜自得詩書味,室雅時開翰墨香」 “With a steady heart, finding joy by oneself in poetry and scholarship, one can smell the ink and brush in the elegant surroundings.”

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「修雙慧福」、「修福粒米藏日月,持慧亳芒有乾坤」
“Cultivating both wisdom and merit”, “By cultivating merit, a grain of rice can block the sun and the moon, by cultivating wisdom, the tiniest hair can hold the universe”

Incidentally, this has been announced as the official slogan of 2017 by Tzu Chi (慈濟), one of the most renowned Buddhist organizations and charities in Taiwan.

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「丁酉年
爆竹千聲歌盛世,金雞報喜唱豐年
靈昱秀
刻印」

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Passive Aggressive Notes: Poop Drawings and Urine Variants

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Another passive aggressive note that reads as follows:

街坊鄰居您好:

  • 這附近很少有流浪犬,卻常在巷口這一帶見到狗狗的[drawing of pool of dog piss]和 💩。
  • 請想想出入踩到的人心情有多差…😞
  • 煩請發揮公德心&飼主之義務,勿放任家犬便溺卻不清理!

非常感謝! Thanks a lot!!

[Translation]

Dear block neighbours:

  • There are very few stray dogs around here, but I often find doggy and [drawing of pool of dog piss] and 💩 around the mouth of the alley.
  • Think of how this affects the mood of people who step on it when they come in or out… 😞
  • Please have some common decency & take responsibility as a pet owner, don’t let your pet dog defecate and urinate without cleaning it up!

THANKS A LOT!

The friendly tone of the note, but insistent use of emojis qualify it as passive aggressive.

Also interesting is the use of the character 「溺」(here niao4/ㄋㄧㄠˋ) as a variant for 「尿」

Tea Trademarks and Chinese Variants: King of Teas/Ali One Tea Dispute 茶裏王/阿里王商標大戰

13730546_10102616344538349_1668283995_oI thought that the recent trademark dispute between Taiwanese tea brands 「茶裏王」 (King of Tea) and 「阿里王 Ali One」 that resolved in favour of the former was interesting because two characters 「里」 and 「裏」 have been seen by the Taiwan Intellectual Property Court as the same character.

「茶裏王」 was launched in the early 2000s by Tainan-based international food conglomerate Uni-President Enterprises Corporation, while 「阿里王 Ali One」 was launched in 2014 by a woman called Huang Yi-zhen (黃逸蓁).

The name 「茶裏王」 translates to “King of Teas” because the 「裏」, a common variant of the character 「裡」, means “among” or “in”  – so it’s literal meaning is “among teas a king”. 「阿里王」 however, just uses 「里」 as a phonetic particle as part of 「阿里」which alludes to 「阿里山」 (Alishan National Scenic Area) – which itself is a transliteration of the Tsou (鄒) aboriginal name for the area “Jarissang”. In fact, although 「里」 means “in” in simplified Chinese, in which it is used in place of 「裡」 and 「裏」, in traditional Chinese, it is only used as a unit of measurement (approx 500m) and for an administrative unit under township (neighborhood/village). Each district in Taipei has an individual li, as shown in the street sign below:

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While the 「王」 in 「茶裏王」 means “King”, the 「王」 in 「阿里王 Ali One」 appears primarily to be a transliteration of the English word “one”, hence the product’s English name. A similar example is the 「旺」 in 「旺旺集團」, which is anglicized using the English word “want”, to give you the Want Want Holdings Group – the company at the center of the media monopoly protests in Taiwan and my former employer. However, there’s also a sense that the 「阿里王 Ali One」 trademark is also playing off the use of the word 「王」 as both a transliteration and for its literal meaning as “king”, i.e. King of Ali (referencing Alishan, an important tea-growing area in Taiwan). So the case for the third character is not as strong as that for the second, in my unqualified view.

Thus, the Intellectual Property Court finding as quoted by this report on the trademark case would seem to be incorrect:

智財法院認為,「茶裏王」、「阿里王Ali ONE」商標都是用於茶葉商品,第二個字皆有「里」字,第三個字皆為「王」字,對消費者而言近似程度高,加上「茶裏王」商標使用久、知名度高,因此應給「茶裏王」較大的保護,今判統一勝訴,智財局須撤銷「阿里王Ali ONE」商標註冊,全案仍可上訴。

The Intellectual Property Court found that the trademarks “茶裏王” (King of Tea) and “阿里王 Ali One” are both used to market tea products, and that the second character in each is “里” while the  third characters in each are both “王” (King), so they are very similar for consumers. In addition because the “茶裏王” trademark has been in use for a long time and is very well-known. because of this, “茶裏王” should have greater protection, so Uni-President Enterprises Corporation won the case today, and the Taiwan Intellectual Property Bureau rescinds the trademark granted for “阿里王Ali One”, although the case is still subject to appeal.

The 「茶裏王」 bottles have recently been featuring thought-for-the-day style “profundities” (note the use of speech marks) such as the one below, which I thought was particularly apt to go with this post:

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Photocopy machines are used to remind you

That if you only copy

You’ll stay in the corner forever

Have you done something innovative today?

 

 

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」.

 

Another Cangjie Geek Post: 「節」Variant and the Taipei International Book Expo

The character 「節」 can mean ‘festival’, ‘a joint or node’ or it can also mean ‘to use restraint’ or ‘to economize’. The Cangjie code when looking at the character is pretty straightforward: 「竹日戈中」. For those of those unfamiliar with Cangjie, you can find more info at the Cangjie input Wikipedia page. Basically for a character with three elements like 「節」 we break it into three constituent parts: 竹, the abbreviated form of 艮 and 卩. We take the 1st and last element of the first part – here that would be 竹 (which serves as both the first and the last element of the first part of the character), then the first and last element of the second part of the character which are 日 and 戈 (the dot on the bottom) and the last element of the final part of the character, which is 中 (a vertical line. This leaves us with 「竹日戈中」(hail) , however, when presented in certain fonts, like the one I found below, the appearance of the character in variant form, suggests alternative ways to write the character that do not work:

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This rendering of the character 「031」 suggests the Cangjie code 「竹竹心中」(竹 is the first and last element of the first part; 竹 (the top stroke of 白) and 心 (which is used to represent 匕) are the first and last elements of the second part and 中 is still the final element of the final part, however, this obviously doesn’t work, as the standard form is the one the code is based on. If anyone knows which font throws up this variant of 「節」 please let me know. You can find more variants of 節 at the Ministry of Education variant dictionary.

Speaking of variant forms, after penning my last post on the variant forms of 「免」 I was amused to see the variant form 「001」 used in a poster advertising the upcoming  Taipei International Book Exhibition on the MRT:

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Incidentally, the book exhibition is well worth a visit – it’s going to held from February 16-21 at the Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Halls 1 and 3. It’s open 10am-6pm, with late night sessions until 10pm on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th, as well as until 8pm on Sunday the 21st. The first day at Exhibition Hall 1 is just for professionals, so you can visit from the 17th to the 21st, whereas Exhibition Hall 3 is open the whole time to everyone. It’s also free for under-18s.

Visit the MOE Variant Dictionary here.

Non-Cangjie Geeks Should “Avoid” This Article (Snort)

I was doing an exam on a computer when I came across 「免」(avoid), and couldn’t for the life of me remember how to write it in cangjie. This is because the font on my computer used a variant form of 「免」, as below:

001

According to cangjie logic this should be written 尸竹日竹山(shahu), with the 刀 similar to that on the top right part of 「解」(弓月尸竹手/nbshq), but, of course 免 is written 弓日竹山(nahu), following the logic of 色。

Other variants of 免 can be found here, one of which bears a striking resemblance to 「兑」 the simplified version of the character 「兌」(dui4/ㄉㄨㄟˋ to exchange).

Curious if anyone knows what fonts feature the variant of 「免」, I also wonder if there are any plans (as unproductive a goal as it may be) to add variants to unicode, as I think they add something to the language.

If you have an unhealthy obsession with Chinese characters and want to share some of your observations, you can contact me or comment below.

If you want to see a similar post to this one, click here.

Awkwardly Phrased Passive Aggressive Note

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親愛的鄰居,
此處 禁止
蹓狗時,狗狗
在此隨地大便
~感謝您的留意~
Dear neighbours,
In this place it is forbidden
When walking a dog, for the dog
To shit anywhere here
~Thanks for your attention

The text I’ve marked in bold (thinner characters on the note in the photo) as if it was added on later, which suggests the person who wrote it was inadvertently accusing his or her neighbours of having a sneaky No. 2 in the alley while walking their dogs before realizing their mistake. They do not seem to have been arsed to redo the whole thing after putting a bit of effort into the ornate characters only to realize their mistake, which resulted in the sign being posted with rather odd grammatical structures. The “此處” (this place) makes the “在此” (here) a little unnecessary and the juxtaposition of “在此” (here) and “隨地” (anyplace/wherever one pleases) is a little odd too, as if the author thought that people might not realize that “anyplace” is inclusive of “here”.

There’s also a pseudo-typo, in that 「遛狗」 is the more accepted way of saying “to walk a dog”, as opposed to the 「蹓狗」 written here. The character 「蹓」 comes from 「蹓躂」, a variant of 「遛達」 meaning to stroll, or to walk. Technically 「蹓」 can be seen as a variant, but doesn’t seem to be accepted as correct. When you type 「蹓狗」 into Google for example, you get the following prompt:

LIu

The search results that are currently displayed are from: 「遛狗」

You can change back to search for: 「蹓狗」

「遛狗」 fetches 1,060,000 results, whereas 「蹓狗」 only fetches 181,000, which suggests it’s not in standard use. I think these little idiosyncrasies are what make handwritten notes like this so interesting, as they inadvertently reveal certain characteristics of their authors.

After receiving some complaints about my previous post being more “openly aggressive” rather than “passive aggressive”, I think the 「新愛的 (scatological) 鄰居」 line makes this more of a passive aggressive post.

Let me know if you see any passive aggressive (or openly aggressive) notes in your area and feel free to submit anything you want featured!