People protesting on the morning of President Tsai’s 2nd inauguration. The sign has the not-so-catchy slogan you’d expect from someone who still doesn’t believe that Tsai has a doctorate:「妳有沒有羞恥心 當總統 沒有博士 真騙子」 ‘Don’t you have any shame? Being president without a doctorate, what a cheat’:Continue reading
One of the great things about living in Taiwan is that when political leaders make speeches, like the speech made by Xi Jinping on Jan. 2, there is a flurry of discussions and critique on political panel shows and on social media, and people aren’t scared to express their own opinions on them. This is also a great learning opportunity, as people are more likely to come out with an interesting turn of phrase when they’re not being overly careful about what they’re saying.
One, such political panel show that I’ve grown fond of over the years is TVBS’s political chat show ‘The Situation Room’. Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文), a politician and broadcaster previously aligned with the Democratic Progressive Party but who later became a Kuomintang member and is now the KMT Vice Secretary-General, is a regular on the show and is one of the more humourous panelists.
In critiquing Xi’s speech in which he proposed a “one nation, two systems” approach to Taiwan, she said that he’s trying to push cross-strait relations forward at such a pace that he risks not getting anywhere at all. She used a Taiwanese phrase similar to “more speed less haste”, 「食緊挵破碗」(lit. eating with such haste that you break your bowl), which is pronounced “Tsia̍h-kín lòng-phuà uánn“:
You can hear her say this phrase in Taiwanese while she’s primarily speaking in Mandarin at 5:27.
Photo by timlewisnm, licensed under Creative Commons.
This old man holding a People’s Republic of China flag is standing next to a sign reading:
「打倒日本侵略者，南京大屠殺罪惡」 “Overturn the Japanese invaders, and the evil of the Nanjing Massacre”
「反對台獨，反對戰爭，台灣要和平，不願子女當炮灰」 “Oppose Taiwanese Independence, Oppose War. Taiwan should be in peace, so that our sons and daughters don’t become cannon fodder”
「什麼叫作92共識？92共識便是体現咱們都是中國人的意思。蔡英文是日本人嗎？蔡英文為什麼不承認92共識拖累我們？」What is the 1992 Consensus? The 1992 Consensus embodies the idea that we are all Chinese. Is Tsai Ing-wen Japanese? Why does Tsai Ing-wen hold us back by not acknowledging the 1992 Consensus.
I was watching another KMT/blue-leaning political talk show earlier today and came across the following joke from talking head Tang Hsiang-lung (唐湘龍）:
A rough translation is as below:
I could call it the Tsai Yi-lin (Jolin Tsai’s Chinese name) cabinet
Because it looks as if Tsai Ing-wen (Jolin shares a surname with the president)
Is relying (the word for rely “依” is the second character of Jolin’s name) on Lin Chuan’s (the premier of Taiwan; his surname makes up the last character in Jolin’s name) methods
To form the cabinet.
I don’t know enough about the politics to comment, but just thought it would be amusing to see the kind of jokes that can be made in Chinese.
See him in action here:
「輸尬ㄊㄧㄢㄊㄧㄢ」 (Su kah thiám-thiám) which can also be written 「輸到添添」 means “to have been defeated by a large margin” or 「被打敗了」 or 「輸得很慘」 in Mandarin. You can leave out the 到 (kah) which is equivalent to the Mandarin 「得」, leaving you with Su thiám-thiám .
I thought this was an amusing use of Taiwanese, as it came at the end of an article which is pretty critical of the ability of Taiwanese students to compete with the drive of Chinese students. The author has to assert her identity as a Taiwanese person to show that she’s not an outsider making criticism, but rather an insider pushing for reform. You’ve no doubt seen this before with the awkward Taiwanese stumbling of waisheng (families which came from China with the KMT around 1949) politicians or foreigners trying to criticize Taiwanese culture without putting people’s backs up too much. Of course, you can put this to your own advantage by blunting any criticism you make of your friends by saying it in Taiwanese. Here’s the phrase in the context of the original article:
I’ll tell you a story. At first when I was at National Taiwan University (NTU) I only taught 50 students, but one of them was an exchange student from Tsinghua University in Beijing, because he’d missed the classes I gave there, he requested to join the class. He was a classic example of a Tsinghua student, with a real drive for achievement and a thirst for knowledge. When he was in Taiwan, the students from NTU didn’t really talk about him; when he left, they looked at each other uneasily. That’s right, everyone had the same feeling: “We can’t even compete!”
The education system in Taiwan has been the topic of a ream of articles recently, most of it criticism that it has not produced enough qualified professionals for industry here. In similar articles on Taiwanese students, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the Taiwanese hipster concept of 「小確幸」 – which translates roughly to “little things in life that make it worth living”. The term originates from a collection of essays by writer Haruki Murakami entitled ‘Ways of Looking for A Vortex Cat’ or 「うずまき猫のみつけかた」 in Japanese.
According to a blog entry I read, the term in Japanese is an abbreviation of 「小さいけれども、確かな幸福」, which means “small but concrete feeling of happiness” and comes from a collection of essays entitled ‘Ways of Looking for A Vortex Cat’ or 「うずまき猫のみつけかた」, as follows：
If you want to find small but concrete feelings of happiness in everyday life, you at least need some personal rules to respect.
He then cites the following example:
Like the sensation of having an ice cold beer, after biding your time through a vigorous bout of exercise.
This term really caught on in Taiwan and has become synonymous with lowering your expectations of life, and enjoying the little moments of pleasure that consumerism can offer – ie Instagram pics with a coffee at Starbucks after a long day shopping and the phrase 「小確幸」. What kind of numpty would buy into that kind of thing?
Presidential candidate, now president-elect Tsai Ing-wen used this term in one of the debates, attacking the Ma Ying-jeou administration and the KMT for encouraging young people to buy into 「小確幸」 as a replacement for real economic policy:
Here’s the sentence in which she uses it, (a larger section of the speech in Chinese can be found here):
When the government doesn’t have the capability to lead in a clear direction in the face of an economic slump, they can only put in effect some opportunities for the people to experience small pleasures, which are really limited in their effect.
I want to ask [KMT] Chair [Eric] Chu, where the KMT’s long-term economic plan for Taiwan is? People can pursue small pleasures, but whenever a government is only thinking about these small pleasures, the people will fall into grave misfortune.
The translation doesn’t really do her wordplay with the term any justice – 「幸」 also goes to make up the second part of the word for “misfortune” – but you get the gist.
In other news, I found this Chinese-language blog on Taiwanese language for anyone who wants to check it out.
Lead photo credit: Jessie Yang