Waiting on Tenterhooks:「剉哩等」 chhoah leh tán


I found this Taiwanese phrase in the CNA article ‘The Legislative Challenge: Can Taiwan Keep Up with the TPP‘ from March:



Observing the TPP chapters dedicated to intellectual property rights, strengthening protection for the rights of original drug producers  will undoubtedly increase protection for domestic drug producers who engage in research and development, but domestic generic drug producers will be waiting on tenterhooks.

Unusually for a Taiwanese phrase used in a Mandarin sentence, there was no explanation in brackets afterwards, which suggests it’s pretty commonly used and understood. The first two characters used are just rendered phonetically with similar Mandarin characters:

Mandarin pronounciation: Cuo4li5deng3      Taiwanese pronounciation: chhoah leh tán

One Chinese-language blog I found suggested that the original Taiwanese character for 「剉」 is 「瘛」(chi4), a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) term for “clonic convulsion”, but here it means to shake or shiver (with nerves). The leh is sometimes represented by 哩 or 咧 in written form, but the original Taiwanese character is unknown. It is used in a similar way to 「著」 in the phrase 「坐著看」,i.e. Verb A 著 Verb B (to do Verb A continuously while doing Verb B). 「等」is the original Taiwanese character.

Photo by AFGE [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons