Mixing Taiwanese Proverbs?: 「相罵無好話,打架恨無力」 sio-mē bô hó-ōe, sio-phah hīn bô-la̍t

So by now everyone’s quite likely seen the photo below of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) choking Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Chen Yi-min (陳宜民) over the latter’s attempt to disrupt the DPP’s passing of a holiday bill. The bill is an altered version of a KMT bill that the DPP had opposed while in opposition. The KMT reportedly has little opposition to the bill itself, but were objecting to what they see as DPP partisan hypocrisy in trying to pass a bill they had previously opposed and in passing the bill without allowing any time for debate. The KMT are not necessarily opposed to the practice of passing a bill without debate, but are rather a little miffed that the DPP is doing this despite praising and visiting students taking part in the Student Sunflower Movement, who were protesting the very same method of passing bills when the KMT was trying to pass a cross-strait trade-in-services act in 2014. Despite more publicity being given to the photo below, the KMT reportedly stuck the proverbial boot into a few DPP legislators too, but less conspicuously.

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Photo source: Wild East Magazine

Anyway, this post is not primarily concerned with politics, but rather with a Taiwanese phrase used by former New Party legislator Li Sheng-feng (李勝峰) when commentating on the scuffle on TVBS’s political chat show ‘The Situation Room’:

 

「相罵無好話,打架恨無力」 sio-mē    hó-ōe,  sio-phah  hīn bô-la̍t

Nothing good or auspicious is said when people are cursing at each other; people hate themselves for not being able to hit each other harder in a fight.

I originally thought that this was a mixture of two phrases in Taiwanese:

1. 「相罵無好話  相打無揀位」sio-mē     hó-ōesio-phah  kéng ūi which means “It’s easy to say awful things when arguing and to underestimate your strength in a fight”.

2. 「相罵恨無聲,相拍恨無力」sio-mē  hīn  bô-siaⁿ , sio-phah  hīn bô-la̍t which means “When in an argument, you hate yourself for not being able to shout them down louder, and in a fight you’ll hate yourself for not being able to hit them harder”, or, you’ll always try and find a way to bring the other person down.

But my (very gracious) Taiwanese friend called his mother in the south and she said that the phrase that the guy says on the TV program does actually exist and that it is the same as the meaning of No. 2 listed above. But she also pointed out that people in southern Taiwan say “hūn” instead of “hīn”.

Feel free to share your opinion or any similar phrases you have in the comments section.

 

Smear before bedtime in Taipei’s 8th electoral district 台北8號選區立委選舉抹黑戰爭

As the legislative and presidential elections draws near in Taiwan, politics is in the air… and on buses and on every street corner.

If anyone missed the first part of the presidential candidate debate on Dec. 27, you can view Part 1 here:

The next one is on Jan. 2 at 2pm.

Meanwhile, in District 8, independent Lee Ching-yuan (whose KMT membership was revoked in July due to his opposition to then KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu) is gunning for incumbent legislator Lai Shih-bao. He’s released two leaflets with the intention of smearing Lai, both on the basis of whether he’s actually living in the district and his alleged incompetence in dealing with food-safety issues surrounding the Ting Hsin oil scandal.

The first leaflet attacking Lai on the Ting Hsin scandal is below:

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The first page of the Continue reading

Smearing political rivals in Taipei: Freddie Lim take-down! 林昶佐被林郁方「抺黑」了

Have you been enjoying the flood of campaign leaflets flowing through your letterbox? I’m living near the boundary between the 5th and 8th electoral districts, so have been getting a range. One particular leaflet released by KMT candidate Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) caught my eye, as the entire thing was dedicated to smearing Lin’s rival for the 5th electoral district of Taipei, Freddy Lim (founding leader of the New Power Party (時代力量) and lead singer of heavy-metal band Chthonic):

whyyouburnflag The front side of the leaflet poses a question to Lim:

I want to ask Freddy Lim: “Why did you burn our national flag?”

Continue reading

Commemorative $NT10 pieces – the 50th anniversary of Taiwan being ceded to the ROC

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Geeking out again after discovering another commemorative coin. The front reads 「共同經營大台灣」 (Running Greater Taiwan together) and below that “搏聚休戚與共的生命共同體” (United together through thick and thin as a community of fate). It’s written in seal script, which explains why it’s quite hard to read. I thought 「共」 looked particularly unlike it’s seal script version:

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However, you can see the pattern when you compare it with 與, as the bottom of both characters is the same. You can download the seal script font for programs on your computer, including Word, here, although unfortunately you have to type in simplified for it to work (after unzipping drag the TTF file into your Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Fonts folder).

This coin was issued in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Taiwan being ceded to the Republic of China by Japan after World War II. This is commonly referred to as 「光復」(guang1fu4) in Chinese, which literally means “to restore the light”.

This term has sparked a certain amount of controversy given its implication that those living in Taiwan under Japanese rule were living in “darkness” until Chiang Kai-shek came to bring them to the light. The government of Taiwan launched a series of campaigns to attempt to “re-sinicize” and the populace of Taiwan, which the Republic of China government felt had been brain-washed or “enslaved” (奴化) by the Japanese in during the 50 years of colonial rule. The local population had been introduced to modernity under Japanese rule, but many artists and writers faced persecution or marginalization under the new Kuomintang government, as they were seen as collaborators by the new regime or never properly got to grips with writing in Chinese. Those who had been formally educated in the Japanese language had to learn Mandarin and this led to much of their work being overlooked until more recently, when it was translated from Japanese.

There is an excellent book on this period by historian Huang Ying-che (黃英哲) called Uprooting Japan; Implanting China: Cultural Reconstruction in Post-War Taiwan 1945-1947 (《「去日本化」「再中國化」戰後台灣文化重建(1945-1947)》): Continue reading

A Review of Li Ang’s ‘Everyone Chews on Sugarcane by the Side of the Road’ 李昂的《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》書評

lubianWarning: there is adult content in this post.

This is Li Ang’s much anticipated follow up to her 1997 book Everybody sticks it in the Beigang Incense Burner (《北港香爐人人插》), which I’ve yet to read. At first glance it is an irreverent look at the misogynistic self-aggrandizement that characterizes the generation of democracy campaigners who rose to fame after being imprisoned in the martial law era in Taiwan, some of whom later formed the Democratic Progressive Party and went into government under former president Chen Shui-bian. The book also deals with the symptomatic nature of the way the February 28 incident and the White Terror continue to manifest themselves in the political arena. Although this might seem a rather obscure or outdated theme, it can give us an insight into the background of the political mindset in today’s Taiwan, particularly in light of the recent Sunflower Movement and the problems in governance that it has highlighted. The attempt to smear the participants of the Sunflower Movement in March and April as violent rioters, for example, is reminiscent of the Kuomintang’s rhetoric against democracy protesters during the 1980s and 1990s that features in the book.

The book centres around the life of Chen Junying (陳俊英) from his youth as a dissident during the Martial Law era, to his slow drift into irrelevance as a retired politician living in the US in his later years. Li Ang goes to great pains in the introduction, stating several times that the character isn’t based on any one person in particular – her protestations are so frequent however that it’s almost as if she’s prompting us to take this denial with a pinch of salt.

Chen feels owed by Taiwanese society and Taiwanese women in particular and he has a mantra that recurs throughout the book which rationalizes his misogynistic behavior:

(My translation) He was forever the one being let down, it wasn’t just the Taiwanese people who owed him, didn’t Taiwanese women owe him too‽ So it was natural for him to sleep with a good number of women when he came out of jail.

The book can be read as a satire up to a point and parts of it are quite funny, recalling the satirical bite of Wang Chen-ho’s Rose, Rose, I Love You /玫瑰玫瑰我愛你》, like the protagonist’s assumption that he will ejaculate more than other men because of the years he spent in prison, and because he thinks so much of his own masculinity:

(My Translation) She discovered that Chen Junying was excessively liberal with toilet paper after making love. When he climaxed, he didn’t leave that much ejaculate in her (his sperm wasn’t particularly greater in volume than other men, nor did it smell fishier), and not much of it would drip out of her vagina after they’d finished, so one or two sheets of toilet paper would have been enough to absorb it all. He would grab a handful of tissue from the box, however, and pass her a pile, watching her as she meticulously wiped herself clean of any trace until all of the tissue was used up.

In the same vein, Chen takes a very chauvinistic attitude during sex, as, despite being reviled as a dissident by many women in his youth, he still finds time to grumble about the only girl who is willing to get together with him, and treats her with scorn, viewing her status as the product of a “mixed marriage” between a mainland soldier and an aborigine as below his – with a lot of his fellow dissidents using the phrase 「無魚蝦也好」 (bô hî, hê mā ho – If there’s no fish, you can make do with shrimp) to  tease him Continue reading