Shamelessly Ashamed: 「不恥」or 「不齒」 Part 3

I previously posted two blog posts  looking at how 「不恥」 and 「不齒」 are used as homonyms to mean “shame” in Ruan Ching-yue’s short story ‘The Conman’ (translation available here) and in A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong (review available here), despite the former actually meaning “unashamed”. This suggested that most Taiwanese now use 「不恥」 rather than 「不齒」 , while reading 《斷代》 by writer Kuo Chiang-sheng however, I discovered a counterexample:

13078157_10102468049637519_1647047856_o

In this sentence, 「不齒」 is used as follows:

…展現的仍是令開放的同類不齒的無知與無奈…

… showing still the ignorance and helplessness that is such a source of shame for those gay people who are open…

The book is really good so far and I’d definitely recommend it.

Addicted to ‘Addicted’《上癮》上癮了

So I watched Addiction/Addicted or 《上癮》 the gay-themed Chinese drama that got banned recently and… I thought it was great for a Chinese drama. If you don’t want spoilers skip down past the first photo. Although let’s face it, spoilers aren’t really a concern with formulaic but fun dramas.

Albeit it’s a little bit problematic that stalking, rape, kidnapping and violent jealousy are treated as normal (and almost comical) ways in which the couple finally get together. If I hadn’t seen a lot of straight Chinese dramas along similar themes, I would think this was an attempt to demonize the gay community, but in other series that don’t feature gay themes and even in the straight relationships featured in the series, bat-shit crazy is seen as a normal expression of love. Although it may be seen as encouraging unhealthy behaviour in relationships, let’s face it, this is a soap opera, so drama is par for the course. It was therefore a little bemusing to see the couple waking up as lovers the night after the kidnap before – but let’s not try and find too many life lessons here and explore some of the language instead! My friend told me the book is worth a read and is a bit of a tear-jerker, but can’t find it on online bookstores.

cha2

So this may all be common knowledge for those of you who studied Chinese in Beijing, but for learners in Taiwanese, it can raise a few eyebrows. Here we see the phrase 「每次都找我的茬」「茬」(chá) could be replaced by 「麻煩」, as the phrase means  “He’s always trying to make trouble for me”.

The second word 「慫」 (sǒng) seems to mean “I couldn’t be arsed arguing with you, so you can have it your way” – a super long explanation for one tiny word, lol.
怂

The next term 「奴家」 isn’t really a slang term, I just thought it was funny to hear in the context of banter between two bi-curious guys in a Chinese drama

nujia

Dahai uses 「奴家」(a humble self-referential term used by women) as a jokey self-reference.

Below we’ve got the old classic 「咋了」 which just means 「怎麼了」

za

Happy to get an earful from any Beijingers who take issue with any of the interpretations here or just be nice and leave some more Beijing slang in the comments section.

Fake it ’til you make it: Inappropriate wordplay using characters from Jin Yong’s martial arts novels

1280px-Gay_Pride_Taiwan_2009If you’ve been in Taiwan for a substantial period of time but didn’t grow up here, chances are you’ve sat on the outskirts of an hilarious conversation involving characters from the books of martial arts novelist Jin Yong (also known as Louis Cha) during which you’ve had completely no idea what was going on, or what the jokes were about. This has been my fate on several occasions, as, although I’ve bought several volumes of Jin Yong’s novels, I’ve never mustered up the courage to commit to reading a whole one and they’re currently rotting on my shelves. Given that generations of teenagers in Taiwan have read most of the Jin Yong canon, there are a lot of mainstream cultural references that revolve around these books.
When listening to this rather racy podcast on four Taiwanese guys’ experience of “romantic” dalliances with gay foreigners in Taiwan (click here to download it directly or click on 「台灣及其他國家」 under the 「收聽下載點」 section after following the link), I was perplexed when everyone started laughing at one point in the podcast over the nickname that one of the hosts had adopted for the show: 「獨孤求幹」. “Lonely, asking to be fucked” is the literal reading of the nickname, but this in itself was too crude to inspire so much mirth. The wit (well, you can call it wit), comes because the phrase is a corruption of the name of a Jin Yong character, 「獨孤求敗」”Lonely in search of defeat”. He has this name because he is so expert at swordplay that he wants to be defeated just to find someone who is on par with his skill.
Now the joke is starting to become a lot clearer – swordplay, seeking someone equally skilled at… There we go.
For those still none the wiser: The 「幹」 meaning “fucking” suggesting that he is a master at it, but is looking for someone that can beat him in terms of skill and, here, suggests that he could be turned from a “top” to a “bottom” if he found someone more skilled at it.
I’ve found that in Chinese tones being the same, ie 敗bai4 and 幹gan4 both being fourth tones, tends to be more important in wordplay than rhyme or off-rhyme as in English.
Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience in finding a Jin Yong reference that you just didn’t get.
Quick note that the podcast contains some very adult content.
Lead photo credit: Liu Wen-cheng

What I’m Reading Dec 2015-Jan 2016 我最近在看什麼書?

Just a quick update on what I’ve been reading and what I plan to read over the coming months.

getImage

I bought a book called 《斷代》 by  Taiwanese author Kuo Chiang-sheng (郭強生) after the salesperson recommended it at the GinGin Bookstore and have just begun to read it. I suspect the title is a piece of wordplay, as it can mean “to divide between distinct periods of history” and by extension hints that the book goes into the division between the older and younger generation of gay men in Taipei and the driving ideologies behind their attitudes (this certainly seems to be the case from what I’ve read so far); in addition to this, however, 「斷」 also means “cut” and 「代」can mean “successor” – which suggests the title also points to the gay experience as the final generation of a family (in that they cannot reproduce). This put me in mind of a passage from Chu Tien-wen’s (朱天文) brilliant Notes of a Desolate Man (《荒人手記》):

我站在那裡,我彷彿看到,人類史上必定出現過許多色情國度罷。它們像奇花異卉,開過就沒了,後世只能從湮滅的荒文裡依稀得知它們存在過。因為它們無法擴大,衍生,在愈趨細緻,優柔,色授魂予的哀愁凝結裡,絕種了。

《荒人手記》,朱天文,時報文化,二版,臺北市,65頁

Translated by the talented Howard Goldblatt Continue reading

‘The Con Man’ by Roan Ching-yue 〈騙子〉阮慶岳

12179644_10153746244263593_3432586_n

He was a con man.

He felt like a cotton-bound paper lantern, panicking that he would be seen through at any moment, giving off, as he was, a glow of affability and affection from every pore, both tantalizing and haughty. After he’d finished a con, he gave his arrogance even freer reign, but he wasn’t normally able to trust his feelings to others. They were his private hoard, a secret love affair, delectable, but not to be shared out loud. Sometimes he felt so stifled that it was as if his insides would rip open in a roar, but then he would use a soothing motherly tone to subdue his organs, bursting as they were with pride-fed excitement, saying, Be good now, I know… but you can’t tell anyone! You can’t tell anyone! You should all be quite aware of that now, shouldn’t you!

The jubilation was like an infant wailing for its mother’s breast, making him feel like a helpless new mother cradling it closer to his chest, rocking it and saying, Don’t cry, don’t cry, come on! Let’s go for a walk to the riverside and see the rainbow. On the street he would be even more cautious, not allowing his arms to fall from his body for even an instant, for fear that the infant inside him would start to wail. Try though he might to contain himself, he wasn’t able to disguise an appearance of self-satisfied mirth and haughtiness, in the drab blur of the crowds, especially with his lantern-like translucent splendor.

His organs would be soothed by the sight of the rainbow and enter into the heavy slumber of sated beasts. However, sometimes the joy he felt was so strong, it would wake him up at night and he would break his taboo by spilling all to his beloved stuffed goose. Like tonight… he couldn’t get images of A out of his head, flowing like restless spirits struggling to emerge from within him, scattered over the countless past months, like colored flags which circle happily in the wind over time, illuminating the lantern case which shrouded him to such an extent that it was as if he would burst into flame any minute.

On nights like this he was left with no other option but to tell the story of A at length to the attentive-looking stuffed goose.

I Lie Because I Love You Continue reading

Review of ‘Scars on Memory’ a documentary by Mickey Chen 陳俊志的《無偶之家,往事之城》 影評

f48a5bc55fab76e0d4d353a35bd60654The Chinese title of this documentary translates literally to “A home without a spouse, the city of the past.”  It is directed by Mickey Chen (陳俊志), who wrote quite a good biographical book Taipei Dad, New York Mom (《台北爸爸紐約媽媽》) a few years ago. I’m halfway through it, but I would recommend what I’ve read so far – as it is a touching account of a gay man’s life without being trite or shmaltzy. Continue reading

‘The Pretty Boy from Hanoi’ by Roan Ching-yue 阮慶岳的〈河內美麗男〉

Tháp_Rùa_6

Translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart. This is a short story taken from City of Tears (哭泣哭泣城 kuqi kuqi cheng, 2002) by Roan Ching-yue (阮慶岳) , an architect and professor based in Taipei.

Can I still be heart-broken

He arrived in Hanoi in the afternoon. He didn’t know what to do, so he just wandered around the busy districts and the little alleys near Hoan Kiem Lake, buying a few things for the sake of it, then an old opera house building towering at the end of the street drew him over; there were people queuing up to buy tickets at the booth, he approached and asked a woman what was going on, she said it was an event celebrating the fortieth anniversary of something, and that there was an opera performance from Paris, she said it would be really good and that he shouldn’t miss it.

There was still some time remaining after he’d bought the ticket, and after turning a few corners he came across a beer garden where he sat down to order a drink; there were a few western patrons scattered throughout the bar, mostly in couples or in groups, he was sitting alone, feeling a strange unsettling feeling of not knowing where to direct his gaze. He was still unable to convince himself that he was already here in Hanoi, or indeed of the reasons why he had come, it didn’t seem that this was the course his life should be running, but he really sitting here now, it was strange but inescapable.

The sky darkened suddenly, he paid the bill and then made his way gradually back to the opera house. Along the road there were young pedlars, one of them wouldn’t go away and followed him through a few alleys, a beggar woman urged her daughter, who couldn’t have been older than three or four years old, to hold on tight to his trouser leg; this all made him rather uncomfortable, he had a french opera to enjoy, if only these people, the onslaught of which he was helpless against, would stop appearing in front of him, in the square in front of the opera house he could still see the young policeman standing at attention, indifferently looking on without seeing, he even began to feel resentment against the Vietnamese government for allowing these two completely different worlds to coexist, such inappropriate neighbours with no way to avoid clashing. Continue reading