Taiwanese word of the day: to fall off your motorbike (but forget to let go of the handles) 犁田 (雷殘) lê-chhân

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I was discussing Taiwanese expressions that are quite hard to translate today with my coworkers over lunch, and one word they mentioned really stayed with me because it evokes a very comic picture in your mind. The phrase is 「犁田」lê-chhân and is often rendered phonetically into Mandarin as 「雷殘」. It’s original meaning is to plough fields, but it has been extended to mean when people fall off the back of their motorbikes but keep holding on to the handles so that they get dragged behind, like a man driving a plough, although it can be applied to falling off your bike or motorbike in general. It is a jokey term, so only really appropriate for minor scrapes. It is another of these Taiwanese terms that you can use in Mandarin, the equivalent (but without the comic image) is 「摔車」. Drive safe people!

The Ministry of Education’s Taiwanese dictionary provides this example:

伊昨暗車騎無好勢,犁田矣。I cha-àm chhia khiâ bô hó-sè, lê-chhânah. (他昨晚車子沒騎好,就摔車了) Last night he wasn’t driving carefully, and fell off his bike.

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

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
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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 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.

Sing to speak Taiwanese: Verse 1 ‘The hustle and bustle is all a dream’ 會唱就會講台語:〈繁華攏是夢〉第一段

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This song was a big hit for Taiwanese singer Jiang Hui (江蕙) but I first heard a cover version by Crowd Lu (盧廣仲) – the guy with the bowl-hair cut and socks up to his knees from that annoying breakfast song with “duiya duiya” consisting of at least half the lyrics.

The lyrics as they are often written in KTV are written with some characters that are simply rendered phonetically into Mandarin and aren’t the original Taiwanese characters: Continue reading