I heard the phrase 「有紅花也要有綠葉」 in a conversation between two colleagues in the tea room about a prospective KTV session. The guy was singing as he made his coffee, and the other colleague asked why he was so happy. He replied that it’s not that he’s super happy but that given the arrival of a new colleague, he’s looking forward to a KTV sesh. The colleague replied modestly that she is silent as the grave in KTV sessions. The guy then said in jest 「有紅花也要有綠葉」 (lit. You can be the green leaves that set off the red flower). This is used as a metaphor for how a great musician/great actor needs supporting musicians/actors for their performance to be carried off, which made me think of the microaggression that is Bette Middler’s song “The Wind Beneath My Wings”. Of course, he followed it up with a 「沒有啦」 to ensure his modesty was in tact, before blasting another view verses of the song he’d been rehearsing.
Although not to everyone’s taste, this noodle shop is one of the most well-known in Taipei and you’ll have to line up in a quick-moving queue to get your order in. As i was waiting for my friend to get his order, I noticed these signs on the pillar that separates the store from its neighbour:
As well as the English-language sign on the left which states rather directly: “Don’t eat noodle here”, there’s a Chinese-language sign on the right. For those lacking super vision, here’s the enlarged version:
This sign reads as follows:
Compatriots who are fans of flour noodles, don’t let your rubbish fall on the ground. Don’t cause people problems, thanks!
Although the word 「同胞」 technically means simply “compatriots”, it is frequently used by people on both side of the Taiwan Strait to refer to the other side, more frequent when Chinese people refer to Taiwanese people.
For example, the permit (as their passports aren’t officially recognized) that Taiwanese people have to get to enter Mainland China are called 「台胞證」(Taiwan Compatriot Permit) a more casual way of referring to the 「台灣居民來往大陸通行證」 （Permit to allow residents of Taiwan freedom of passage to and from Mainland China).
In my mind this suggested that the sign was probably aimed primarily at Mainland Chinese tourists, many of whom visit the noodle shop while in Taipei.
Another passive aggressive note that reads as follows:
- 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 💩。
非常感謝！ Thanks a lot!!
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」
You Can’t Drive Into Taipei City by Hsieh Kai-te
In that instant, I thought of my father carrying a big bag of his things on his back, with his electric drill, his hammer and countless other tools I don’t even know the name of inside. Under contract from the moneyed classes to build the city of Taipei, he consulted the architect’s blueprint and listened to the instructions of the foreman, before, just like the scaffolding and walls of plants from the building site, weathered by the wind and rain then scorched by the sun until hollowed out, he returns to obscurity, sheepishly withdrawing from the city, allowing these symbols of grandeur to establish themselves there.
It was he who built this city, but he who is held beyond its limits.
This kind of prose always repels me to some extent, although I admire the imagery of the scaffolding. One reason for this is because I always think that overtly political art (with the possible exception of newspaper cartoons) generally comes across as preachy and tends to oversimplify nuanced issues. This was also one of the reasons I really didn’t like a lot of the work of theatre director Wang Molin. Another reason is that it echoes a lot of the political rhetoric of trade unionists and implies a sense of unpaid debt to the imaginary working class builders, mechanics and plumbers that pepper the speeches of Conservative politicians when they’re trying to incite anger against immigrants or intellectuals. The subtext to this is an implication that newcomers to the city and non-working class people are being rewarded at the expense of working class people. This kind of notion is often what feeds the xenophobia and inter-class resentment that featured heavily in both the Brexit referendum campaigns and in the recent US election campaign by Donald Trump.
Despite this, I do have sympathy for the chip on the shoulder view of Taipei that many people from central and southern Taiwan have, as I had the same chip on my shoulder when visiting London from Belfast growing up. Lots of people in Taiwan call Taipei the 「天龍國」 and Taipei citizens 「天龍人」. This is a term suggesting that they are elitist and look down on others. It takes its origins in the term “World Nobles” (Japanese: 天竜人 Tenryūbito) from Japanese manga One Piece and literally means “Heavenly Dragon Folk”, snobby arrogant elites who serve as the world government in the manga.
I previously posted about passive aggressive notes in Taipei related to parking. But this post couldn’t really be described as “passive aggressive” as it is pure aggression from start to finish:
You can see the shutter of a shop in the reflection of the car window, which reads 「請勿停車」, which means “Please do not park”. And here’s a close-up of the note:
The note reads:
Or in English:
By puncturing my tires you’ve already broken the law! Today I already went to report it as a crime and we’ve gone through the CCTV footage. I’ll give you three days to own up and come to an agreement, otherwise I’ll proceed through legal means. If you had the guts to do it, have the guts to behave like a gentleman about it. If you don’t deal with this honestly don’t regret the unpleasantness that comes!
We’ve got witnesses and evidence
It’s interesting that the author used the shorthand 「当」 for the character 「當」, which is the same as the simplified version of the character used in China. They also use the shorthand 「処」chu3, which is a variant which differs from both the standard version of the simplified (处）and traditional character (處）:
This explains that 「処」 is a variant of 「處」（as is the simplified character）.
I don’t know what the situation is exactly and if the car belongs to the person who put the “no parking” sign on their shutter or someone else. I’m also not sure what the 「85-7-留」 means, thought it might be a license plate or a reference to a law, but it doesn’t seem to be the latter. Let me know if you know!
Another day, another opportunity to lean over someone to take a photo of the poem on the MRT behind them. This one’s by Chen Ke-hua and I thought it was pretty appropriate for this humid summer night.
沸騰之夜， The Simmering Night,
將她最燙的一塊皮膚 Lays the most scalding piece of its skin
貼在我頰上。 Against my cheek.
我疼出淚來，說：不， I cry tears of pain and say, “No”,
這不是我最需要溫暖的位置。 This isn’t where I’m most in need of warmth.
Chen was born in 1961 and was born in Hualien in Taiwan, although his family were originally from Wenshang in Shandong. After graduating from Taipei Medical University he started his career in medicine. In 1997 he studied at the Harvard Medical School, returning to Taiwan in 2000. He now works at the Department of Ophthalmology of Taipei Veterans General Hospital and as an assistant professor at the medical school of National Yang Ming University. As well as his medical career, he’s also a poet, an author, a painter and a photographer.
I 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:
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:
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?
蝦子 (Shrimp/Prawn) – Keep the body, throw away the head
A Taiwanese friend was talking to me about an upcoming pool party when all of a sudden he said something along the lines of 「會去那邊的人一定都是蝦」 “Everyone who goes there are shrimps”. I asked him what he meant and he said that in Taiwan people generally use the term 「蝦」(xia1/ㄒㄧㄚ) or 「蝦子」 (xia1zi5/ㄒㄧㄚㄗ˙) to describe a guy with a ripped body (with the ribbed abdomen of a shrimp) but a head that nobody wants, hence their eagerness to take their shirts off. I’m not sure if this term exists in English or not, but thought it was amusing, if a bit harsh.
The term seems to have some traction in Hong Kong, as I found the words 「蝦子」 written under this unfortunate guy’s picture, under the caption “Ugly version of Gregory Wong” in the popular HK Golden forum:
There was a whole conversation about the term on PTT – a bulletin board system that was (and still is) super popular in Taiwan. The original poster asked whether people would be happy or offended to be called a shrimp:
One of the funniest responses I saw was as below:
Person A: It depends on the level of shrimp head. Haha XD. And the category of shrimp is a little unclear.
Person B: If it’s at lobster level then maybe it’s no problem XD
I’m guessing “lobster level” suggests a buffer body and that if the body is that muscular then any kind of face is OK.
So this post was just a bit of fun and obviously everyone is beautiful in their own way – I just thought it was an amusing term I’d never heard before.
Amused that the Ice King and Lemongrab speak 台灣國語 (Taiwanese influenced Mandarin) in Adventure Time in Chinese and use lots of Taiwanese words, whereas Jake speaks Cantonese influenced Chinese. Heard the Ice King use lots of Taiwanese expressions, like 跟他切(che̍h)了 for 跟他分手. Finn said around two words the whole episode, so couldn’t really tell how he speaks, but it seemed to be normal Chinese with a little bit of Taiwanese too. Interesting though. I know baddies in old films in Taiwan normally spoke Taiwanese, but think that it’s likely just coincidence here, and an attempt to replicate the crazy English voices in the original, as Lady Rainicorn, who speaks only Korean in the original only speaks Taiwanese in the Taiwan version.
Thanks to Keith Menconi (@KeithMenconi) at ICRT (@ICRTnews) for providing a link to an interview he did with April Chang, the woman in charge of dubbing for Cartoon Network in Taiwan, which is totally cool.
So, the Financial Supervisory Commission is serving up beef according to this China Times article…
The Financial Supervisory Commission is serving up beef (putting its money where its mouth is) to Incentivize Fintech Patents
What I love about Chinese and particularly news headlines in Taiwan is that the most random references in the world can become rooted in the language forever after (well according to what I could find online).
According to an online forum, this is a reference to the borrowing of a line from a 1984 Wendy’s ad by unsuccessful presidential candidate Walter Mondale (Yeah, I know, who the fuck knew?) during his campaign against incumbent Ronald Reagan in 1984. Mondale asked Reagan, “Where’s the beef,Mr. President — where’s the beef?”.
Here’s the ad for those under 30:
In Taiwan this was adapted into a popular saying, “serving up beef” is to take direct action or put your money where your mouth is.
If this really is the origin of the phrase, it just goes to show how influential US culture has been in Taiwan.
On a side note, if you want a brilliant satirical read on this theme, you should check out Rose, Rose, I Love You (《玫瑰玫瑰我愛你》）by Wang Chen-ho (王禎和）either in Chinese or in translation. It is set in a village in Taiwan as they prepare for the imminent arrival of US troops, coming for R&R from the Vietnam war during the 1960s and the author pokes fun at the blind worship of US culture in Taiwan at that time, with all the cultural misapprehensions that go alongside it.