Phrase of the Day – Duck hears thunder 鴨仔聽雷

 鴨仔聽雷 ah-á thiaⁿ lûi

A very apt description for the way some people have looked at me when I try to speak Taiwanese to them, somewhat equivalent to “like a deer in the headlights”, but in reference to hearing something that you can make neither head nor tail of. It’s nice that it conjures up a very specific image in your head. Suggested use – if you can get it out and be understood – is to use it to break the ice after a Taiwanese friend looks at you like a duck hearing thunder.

I will update the google doc soon. Feel free to contribute phrases you’ve heard, songs you can sing in Taiwanese, or recordings of you speaking Taiwanese.

(No ducks were harmed in the making of this post)

Phrase of the day – Dead man’s bones 這是什麼死人骨頭?


這是啥物死人骨頭? chit sī siánn-mih sí-lâng kut-thâu?

Note: 啥物, sometimes written phonetically as “蝦米” means 什麼 in Mandarin or “what” in English

My coworker told me about this phrase recently, meaning “What the heck is this?”, or “What’s this nonsense?”, though it literally means “What kind of dead man’s bones are these?” – kind of equivalent to “這是什麼鬼?” in Mandarin. It can be used for comic effect, when someone does, has, wears or says something weird:

For example when looking at the “Retrospective tea” advertised on a sign at a Gongguan teashop featured above, one might ask one’s friend: “這是啥物死人骨頭?”

Beware though, it can be offensive if you use it on strangers.

Here’s the updated Google doc, noting patterns between Mandarin and Taiwanese or lack thereof.