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

shrimpo

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:

shrimp1

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:

ptt2

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

Taiwanese word of the day: Fail to hit the mark/to muck up 脫箠(凸垂) thut-chhôe

脫箠(凸垂) thut-chhôe to make a mistake, to muck up; Mando: 出差錯
download
One of my friends used this word in a message he sent me today. The message read as follows:

在工作…客人要來工廠我很忙>_<
我怕我講英文惠[sic. should be 會]凸垂
緊張!!!!

I’m working… a client is coming to see the factory [so] I’m really busy>_<

I’m worried I’ll make a mistake with my English

Nervous!!!!

Continue reading

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

1911723_10101379799983549_200901851_n
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

5235

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

4e38ad95
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

659334_0
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

download
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

Taiwanese phrase of the day: If there’s no fish, shrimp’s ok too 無魚,蝦嘛好 bô hî, hê mā ho

988877_10101404290429499_8759969377619195241_n

無魚, 蝦嘛好    (Click each syllable for pronounciation or click below for whole phrase)

This phrase basically means, “something’s better than nothing,” rather loosely illustrated here in a drawing by Arvid Torres (you should have been happy with the shrimp). It can be used to refer to someone’s partner too, as in, “he really scraped the bottom of the barrel with that one,” as used in Taiwanese author Li Ang’s latest novel, to portray the racist and misogynist tendencies of Taiwanese men in the anti-government pro-democracy protests of the 1980s:

陳英俊因一般女性仍不敢靠近,基本上沒有太多的選擇,加上林慧淑頗具吸引力的姿色,很快的確定了兩人的關係。

(As no normal women [Lin Hui-shu is the product of a mixed marriage between a mainland soldier and an aboriginal woman] dared to be associated with Chen Ying-jun, he really didn’t have much choice, and as, Lin Hui-shu was really quite attractive, the two quickly entered into a relationship.)

雖然偶有政治犯同學戲稱他無魚蝦也好,但多半是羨慕又帶嫉妒。 (Although some of his political prisoner comrades joked with him that he was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, most admired him with a little bit of jealousy mixed in.)

You’ll note that she uses it directly as an adjective here, Subject + adjectival phrase.

This phrase also works in Mandarin – hurrah!

Taiwanese phrase of the day: A tattletale/an informant 抓耙仔 jiàu-pê-á

640x360

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve been reading《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》(Everyone nibbles on sugar cane at the edge of the road) by Li Ang (李昂). The book has already thrown up a few interesting phrases in Taiwanese, such as 抓耙仔 jiàu-pê-á (click for link to dictionary entry with audio – the normal dictionary I use isn’t working today) – which can mean tattletale in a playground context, or informant, or just someone who gives away someone’s secrets, although it literally means a tool used to scratch one’s back).

The first sound is somewhere between a j and an r.

I’ve give the context below for those interested:

「妳以前睡過那麼多男人,都很好?」 (You’ve slept with so many men, were they all good in bed?)

林慧淑知道「黨外無袐密」,她自己也說,也有那些特務、抓把仔會通風報信好藉此羞辱他。 (Lin Hui-shu knew that there were no secrets amongst the opposition to the government, she said it herself, and there were spies and informants who would reveal the information to shame him.)