Let’s All Stop Pretending We Can Do Anything About Chen Shui-bian: Breaking It Down in Taiwanese「免安呢假心」 bián án-ní ké-sim

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A picture of Chen Shui-bian on his release from prison with the caption “Chen Shui-bian gets out of prison and waves to his supporters to show his gratitude to them”; Source

In a discussion between panelists from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Kuomintang (KMT) and media commentators on whether former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian is too healthy to remain on medical parole from jail on TVBS’s ‘Situation Room’, the former DPP legislator Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) broke into Taiwanese to try and cut through some of the political bullshit being spouted by both sides. The gist of his point was that nobody in the studio really believes that Chen Shui-bian will go back to prison during the four years the DPP are in power, so there’s no point in arguing over this or that medical report. He also says that given Chen Shui-bian is on medical parole for political reasons, then he should be less provocative about it and not argue with people. This is in reference to his argument with a street pedlar selling bread in a Kaohsiung park who filmed Chen Shui-bian walking in the park. Chen and his friend approached and threatened him with a lawsuit and an “anonymous” tip-off later caused the bread seller to get in trouble with the government. You can get a sense of the effect of Shen using Taiwanese in the middle of a conversation being conducted in Mandarin from the wry smiles of the other panelists. Use of Taiwanese in Taiwan is generally more direct and emotive than Mandarin, so it’s often used when politicians want to convey sincerity (or forthrightness).  I’ve indicated the code-switching between Mandarin and Taiwanese below:

Taiwanese: 免安呢假心  bián án-ní ké-sim   ( 不用那麼假惺惺  / Let’s not pretend )

Mandarin: 也不用定期有醫療報告  (And we don’t need regular medical reports)

Mandarin: 我們大家也不要在這裡吵來吵去 (And we don’t need all of us sitting here arguing back and forth)

Mandarin: 因為這個都是一種表態而已 (Because it only serves to show where we personally stand on the issue)

Taiwanese: 我ê感覺是按呢   góa  ê  kám-kak   án-ní (Mandarin: 我的感覺是這樣子 / English: My feeling is)

Taiwanese: 阿扁啊,即然會當行到這個地步 到厝裡 更加出來散步 a píⁿ a  kì-jiân  ē-tàng  kiâⁿ-kàu chit-ê  tē-pō͘  tńg  kàu  chhù  nih   kèng-ka chhut-lâi  sàm-pō͘ (Mandarin: 阿扁啊,即然可以走到這個地步 回到家裡 還能出來散步 / English: Since Chen Shui-bian has already come this far – he’s returned home and he can even go out for walks)

Mandarin: 我覺得要守份一點,要低調一點 (He should wind his neck in a little and do things a little more low key)

Mandarin: 不要給人口舌啦 (Don’t give people anything to talk about)

Taiwanese: 對無對   tio̍h    tio̍h (Yes or no?)

Taiwanese: 別囂掰啦   m̄-ài hiau-pai la (Mandarin: 別囂張啦 / English: He shouldn’t be arrogant)

Mandarin: 不要給人家看到這個樣子 (He shouldn’t let other people see him act that way)

Taiwanese: 你若想講我按呢做時 人看著礙目      sióng kóng  góa án-ní  chò  ,  lāng  khòaⁿ-tio̍h  gāi-ba̍k  (Mandarin: 你若想講我這樣做的時候,人家看到會覺得礙眼 / If I do this kind of thing, people  will get irked by seeing it.

看到 khòaⁿ-tio̍h (Seeing that)

真的很刺眼 (Is really irritating)

I wonder will Chen Shui-bian take his advice.

If I’ve made any mistakes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Taiwan slang: Shrimp 「蝦」 xia1 / 「蝦子」 xia1zi5

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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:

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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:

Shrimpy

One of the funniest responses I saw was as below:

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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.

Artwork from here

有的沒的 ū ê bô ê Something and nothing/nonsense/trivialities

The phrase “melter” in Belfast slang refers to someone who prattles on endlessly without seemingly ever saying anything that means anything, hence the phrase, “I’m going to go over there now, you’re melting my head!” Taiwanese has a similar sentiment manifested in the phrase “有的沒的”, meaning “Something and nothing/nonsense/trivialities” which can be used in both Mandarin (you3de5mei2de5) and Taiwanese (ū ê bô ê – audio available here).

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The handy thing about this phrase is that you can use the Taiwanese in Mandarin and in Taiwanese, or you can just use the Mandarin if you can’t recall the Taiwanese.

It can be used as a noun or an adjective and I’ve included an example below:

你不要在那邊講那些[有的沒的/ū ê bô ê], 無聊死了!

I wish you’d stop going on about all this crap, it’s so dull!

The ū ê bô ê in question can either be something trivial, or in some contexts gossip, but expresses the speaker’s opinion that they are above gossip.

These are various examples I’ve found on the internet:

看看一堆有的沒的是非問題

有的沒的聊了幾句便睡 *Note – in this phrase 有的沒的 is used as an adverb with the 地 omitted.

Feel free to contact me with any cool Taiwanese words or phrases you hear and want featured on the blog.

Taiwanese phrase of the day: You can tell if people are stupid by looking at their faces 人若呆,看面就知 lâng nā gōng khòaⁿ bīn tio̍h chai

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I seem to have learned mostly offensive Taiwanese so far, but hopefully that will change as I slowly run out of offensive material. This is still one of my favourite phrases in Taiwanese, because it’s so cutting. The photo above (not mine, found on Facebook, but originally posted to ptt) had me laughing for a while during the Sunflower movement. Cabinet member Hsiao Chiachi (蕭家淇 Xiao Jiaqi) remonstrated with the press that someone ate his taiyangbings (太陽餅 a flat pastry filled with stuffing, like a moon cake) during the brief occupation of the Executive Yuan by students – obviously his major concern at a time when the Legislative Yuan was still occupied by students. The caption reads: “The ones I was going to give my colleagues were eaten too!” His words and his despair have spawned many a meme, but this one has to be my favorite. I don’t agree with the premise of the phrase, as it’s pretty offensive to call anyone stupid, and I don’t think Mr Hsiao is stupid either, his comments were just comically ill-timed. He was probably attempting to portray the students, who were being deified in the pan-green press at the time, as vandals (stealing, damaging property etc), and therefore undermine the support in Taiwan for the protest in the Legislative Yuan. This came across, however, as a passionate love for sun cakes, and utter disappointment that someone else had gotten to them first. Continue reading

Taiwanese word of the day: sông (俗) (Did you buy that at Walmart?) sông

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This is an amusing term, as it describes the Walmart-esque fashion often showcased on 9gag, and the Taiwanese equivalent of it – the red tint to the hair, the blue and white flip flops, leopard prints, teeth stained by betelnut, pretty much the calling card of the 台客 – and is generally considered the broader version of the phrase 你很台 (You’re very into Taiwan style – puzzling enough this is not a compliment, it’s kind of like calling someone a chav (痞子pízi in Mandarin) in the UK).

This word is really common, and you’ll often hear it (with Taiwanese pronounciation) in Mandarin. It’s often written using the character 俗, but I don’t think that this is the actual character that it’s derived from, as the dictionary lists the romanization sông, and 俗 is pronounced sio̍h and sio̍k and means cheap when used in isolation. The other character I found it listed under – 倯 – appears just to be a phonetic rendering into Mandarin, as it doesn’t appear in any dictionaries – although I could be wrong.

This phrase is pretty useful as it can be used in Mandarin in phrases like 他很sông, to indicate your disapproval at someone dressing like they’re from Kaohsiung (only joking Kaohsiung, most Kaohsiungers are really well dressed – I’ve just been living up north for too long to have sense). The Taiwanese equivalent to that phrase would be:

伊足sông i chiok sông
or
伊真sông i chin sông

伊 i he/she 他/她
足 chiok 很*
真 chin really 真
sông out of touch/unfashionable

*There are also other ways to say 真 or 很 in Taiwanese.

A word of warning, although you may be eager to try out your Taiwanese on people, make sure that you don’t offend anyone. This may be alright to joke about with friends, but might not be appreciated if said to strangers or people you don’t know very well.

Feel free to contact me with any cool Taiwanese words or phrases you hear and want featured on the blog.

Taiwanese phrase of the day: Taiwanese people are up to their ankles in money (throwback) 台灣錢,淹腳目 Tâi-ôan chîⁿ im kha-ba̍k

10_Custom_Gold_Units_1930台灣錢,淹腳目  Tâi-ôan chîⁿ im kha-ba̍k In Taiwan, they’re rolling in money (lit.Taiwanese money floods your ankles)

If you buy Ma Ying-jeou’s line on the cross-strait trade-in-services and trade-in-goods pact, though many don’t, the end is nigh for Taiwan if it doesn’t sign. So the idea of Taiwanese swimming in money might seem slightly incredulous, but it wasn’t always this way – back in the 1980s, the “economic miracle” was in full swing, and in the words of Li Ang in her new book 《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》 (Everybody nibbles on the sugar cane at the side of the road):

要等到多年後台灣經濟蓬勃發展、八〇年代的台灣錢淹腳目,帶著大筆現金橫掃歐州精品店:「這個、這個,那個不要,其他的包起來」。

It wasn’t until years later, when Taiwan’s economy began to take off in the 1980s that the Taiwanese were really rolling in money, and swept through boutiques in Europe loaded with cash, saying: “I’ll take this, and this, I don’t want that, but can you bag up everything else for me”.

台灣 Tâi-ôan Taiwan

錢 chîⁿ money

淹 im flood or drown

腳目 kha-ba̍k ankles

Feel free to contact me with any cool Taiwanese words or phrases you hear and want featured on the blog.

Taiwanese word(s) of the day: country bumpkin face 莊腳面 chng-kha bīn ; ‘Ancient meaning’=earnest 古意 kó͘-ì

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I was flicking through one of Wu Nien-zhen’s plays the other day, called Human Condition 2 (《人間條件2》) and came across two phrases that I thought sounded rather funny. The first was 莊腳面 chng-kha bīn (click for pronounciation) , basically meaning that someone’s face looks like they’re from the countryside, or a bumpkin – which got me wondering what this kind of face looks like. It’s not always used in the negative, as it can imply innocence or directness and honesty too, I guess it depends on what your opinion on people from the countryside is. I found an answer on Yahoo which gives quite a good explanation of 莊腳 and other terms, although I’m not sure if the first three are still used in Taiwanese: Continue reading

Taiwanese word of the day: the bed god 床母 chhn̂g-bó

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床母 chhn̂g-bó  A bed deity in Taiwanese folk religion, who protects children and ensures they grow up safely.

Found this in Li Ang’s 《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》 (Everybody nibbles on the sugar cane at the side of the road), the context is below:

陳俊英還會不時與她作這類的談說:

「我小時候聽過床母,都說床母是神。」他回復了一貫的平和:「真好,睡的眠床也有神,我便總感覺有人抱著我睡,很安全、很被照顧著。」

Chen Junying would say this kind of thing from time to time:

“When I was little I heard about the bed deity, with people saying that it was a god.” He recovered his normal composure: “It was great, even the bed I slept in had a god, I always felt that someone was holding me while I slept, I felt really safe, like someone was looking after me.”

Quick update: the book is as sexually explicit as the 18+ label suggests.

Taiwanese phrase of the day: Ha Ha Ha! (I’m crying inside) 鬱鬱在心底, 笑笑陪人禮 ut ut tsāi sim té, tshiò tshiò puê lâng lé

鬱鬱在心底, 笑笑陪人禮 ut ut tsāi sim , tshiò tshiò puê lâng

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This phrase is one of a list that I got one of my friends to recite for me, it basically means that somebody is all smiles on the outside but is miserable inside. Just because you want to use the phrase, however, is not a valid enough reason to suggest to someone that they’re fun-loving friend might need therapy, although I have met a lot of people to whom this phrase could be applied. The audio is below, along with a helpful explanation in Mandarin.

Quick note just to say that I use two different but similar dictionaries for this blog, a university one and the Ministry of Education one, but one of them keeps breaking down, the phonetic system used is the same on the whole, but there are some differences, for example “tshiò” here for 笑 is written “chhiò” in the other dictionary and similarly “tsāi” here for 在, can also be written “chāi”, though this is just two representations of the same sound.

I haven’t yet updated the google doc of differences between Taiwanese and Mandarin pronunciation for this post (an ongoing experiment), but check it out here and see if you observe any patterns.

Photo: Cheezburger.com

Phrase of the Day – Duck hears thunder 鴨仔聽雷

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 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)