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):


Why was the inauguration unable to proceed?


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.

Gone to sh*t! 走鐘(精)

For anyone keen on keeping up with current affairs in Taiwan but with a funny edge to it, I really recommend ‘Stand up, Brian’ (博恩夜夜秀). It takes its cue from Western late night formats and isn’t afraid to take the piss.

The show was crowd-funded and is run by young comics, so there’s a lot of contemporary slang and references which is quite fun to parse.

In this short clip, they’re taking the piss out of Taiwanese diet supplement advertisements. A woman says she’s lost her figure completely after having seven kids, but she uses the phrase 「走精」 (tsáu-tsing), commonly represented by the characters 「走鐘」 (presumably because they are pronounced the same in Taiwanese 「精」 (tsing) and 「鐘」 (tsing) ).  The phrase can be roughly translated as “losing your former lustre/losing your sex appeal”. The sentence starts at 0:39 in the clip below:


(Mandarin: 我的身材在生完第七胎以後
After having my seventh (child),
Taiwanese: 著(就)規個(整個)走鐘(精)去啊啦
My whole figure has gone to shit.

著規個走精去了 tio̍h kui-ê tsáu-tsing khì ah lah

Big in Taiwan: Bobby Hill – 佛系[Insert your job here]法

Recently I’ve started to hear the term 「佛系……法」 a lot. The term plays with the Buddhist concept of noninterference, essentially suggesting that instead of trying to follow your boss’ direction/ study in school/encourage internet users to Like your page/earn money etc., you should just resign yourself to the fact that things are beyond your control and that if what you want is meant to be, it will happen without any effort from you. In one sense it can be used as an attack on the perceived lack of a work effort among millenials, suggesting that they think they deserve to get their dreams served to them on a plate, while millenials themselves have adopted it to counter this narrative, as an expression of their cynicism at how much of a difference they can make by following the rules. Different verbs or job titles can be inserted into the blank depending on what the author is describing.

The first time I saw it was when a friend sent a meme featuring a familiar cartoon character, Bobby Hill from King of the Hill. Although my friend had no idea who Bobby Hill was, the meme featuring him meditating while incense burns in the foreground seems to have caught the Taiwanese imagination. I’ve put some examples of the use of the meme I found on the internet below. There was one example I saw of an English use of this meme, but it doesn’t seem to have caught the imagination of the English-speaking world quite so much:




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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:


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」.


Taiwanese: Little Monkey 猴囡仔 kâu-gín-á


A few years ago I was digging around trying to find some good Chinese-language podcasts to listen to when I came across an old radio program which had been archived online called 「真情酷兒」(Sincere Queer). As I was working on a piece for eRenlai involving the gay rights movement in Taiwan I got in touch with the presenter of the program Vincent Huang. I ended up interviewing him on his role as an activist for gay and disabled rights as well as disabled rights within the LGBTI community, which you can view below:

Vincent has recently relaunched the program on another platform, branding it 「真情酷兒1.0」(Sincere Queer 1.0). In the 「年夜飯」(Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner) edition, he talks to Taiwanese gay couple He Xiang and Wang Tian-ming (何祥和王天明) – featured in an Isabelle gay wedding cake (喜餅) commercial that got a lot of media attention when it came out- who have been together now for over 30 years. You can watch the commercial below:

The podcast is an interesting look into what it’s like to be an out gay couple in Taiwan, particularly on family occasions. As well as this, at around 7:37 in the download version of the podcast, the presenter uses the Taiwanese word 「kâu-gín-á」 (alternative Taiwanese audio here) in the context of the following Chinese sentence concerning mahjong:

「 雖然他們需要耐心,跟我這個kâu-gín-á打麻將。」

Although they need patience, to play mahjong with a … like me.

I’d heard the word “gín-á” or 「囡仔」 meaning children before, but not with the prefix “kâu” added. This rather appropriately for the time of year, turns out to mean “monkey”. So the term 「猴囡仔」 kâu-gín-á literally means an infant monkey, but is used in an affectionate way to refer to human children, in much the same way as we sometimes refer to kids as “little monkeys”. Here it is used as a form of self-effacement, in that he is referring to himself as relatively young and not as skilled at mahjong as his boyfriend’s mother. This kind of code-mixing between Taiwanese and Chinese is particularly common when it comes to humor, so it’s always good to learn Taiwanese if you want to be able to get the joke in conversations.

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.

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.


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

Don’t try to be clever, son! Lí mài teh ké-gâu! 你 mài teh 假 gâu!

Feel like your friend’s being a pretentious ass and want to take him down a peg or two? This is the phrase for you!


Ké-gâuF39A– translated into 自作聰明 or “trying to be clever, thinking you’re clever” (when you’re not).

Lí mài teh ké-gâu!  mài teh 假gâu!

It can be adapted into Mandarin too, so you can say:

你不要在那邊ké-gâu! Stop trying to be clever!

One example would be a recent ad I heard on the radio the other day, which used a quote from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, specifically about the Übermensch to advertise apartments in Hongshulin.

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

Taiwanese word of the day: to fall off your motorbike (but forget to let go of the handles) 犁田 (雷殘) lê-chhân

I was discussing Taiwanese expressions that are quite hard to translate today with my coworkers over lunch, and one word they mentioned really stayed with me because it evokes a very comic picture in your mind. The phrase is 「犁田」lê-chhân and is often rendered phonetically into Mandarin as 「雷殘」. It’s original meaning is to plough fields, but it has been extended to mean when people fall off the back of their motorbikes but keep holding on to the handles so that they get dragged behind, like a man driving a plough, although it can be applied to falling off your bike or motorbike in general. It is a jokey term, so only really appropriate for minor scrapes. It is another of these Taiwanese terms that you can use in Mandarin, the equivalent (but without the comic image) is 「摔車」. Drive safe people!

The Ministry of Education’s Taiwanese dictionary provides this example:

伊昨暗車騎無好勢,犁田矣。I cha-àm chhia khiâ bô hó-sè, lê-chhânah. (他昨晚車子沒騎好,就摔車了) Last night he wasn’t driving carefully, and fell off his bike.

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

Taiwanese word of the day: Fail to hit the mark/to muck up 脫箠(凸垂) thut-chhôe

脫箠(凸垂) thut-chhôe to make a mistake, to muck up; Mando: 出差錯
One of my friends used this word in a message he sent me today. The message read as follows:

我怕我講英文惠[sic. should be 會]凸垂

I’m working… a client is coming to see the factory [so] I’m really busy>_<

I’m worried I’ll make a mistake with my English


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Taiwanese word of the day: sông (俗) (Did you buy that at Walmart?) sông


This is an amusing term, as it describes the Walmart-esque fashion often showcased on 9gag, and the Taiwanese equivalent of it – the red tint to the hair, the blue and white flip flops, leopard prints, teeth stained by betelnut, pretty much the calling card of the 台客 – and is generally considered the broader version of the phrase 你很台 (You’re very into Taiwan style – puzzling enough this is not a compliment, it’s kind of like calling someone a chav (痞子pízi in Mandarin) in the UK).

This word is really common, and you’ll often hear it (with Taiwanese pronounciation) in Mandarin. It’s often written using the character 俗, but I don’t think that this is the actual character that it’s derived from, as the dictionary lists the romanization sông, and 俗 is pronounced sio̍h and sio̍k and means cheap when used in isolation. The other character I found it listed under – 倯 – appears just to be a phonetic rendering into Mandarin, as it doesn’t appear in any dictionaries – although I could be wrong.

This phrase is pretty useful as it can be used in Mandarin in phrases like 他很sông, to indicate your disapproval at someone dressing like they’re from Kaohsiung (only joking Kaohsiung, most Kaohsiungers are really well dressed – I’ve just been living up north for too long to have sense). The Taiwanese equivalent to that phrase would be:

伊足sông i chiok sông
伊真sông i chin sông

伊 i he/she 他/她
足 chiok 很*
真 chin really 真
sông out of touch/unfashionable

*There are also other ways to say 真 or 很 in Taiwanese.

A word of warning, although you may be eager to try out your Taiwanese on people, make sure that you don’t offend anyone. This may be alright to joke about with friends, but might not be appreciated if said to strangers or people you don’t know very well.

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