deerly contested elections

Yeah, yeah, I know: For that pun I should be locked up. But, believe me, it’s in the spirit of Taiwan’s current electoral season.

Here, for example, is an image from the campaign literature for Zhāng Hóng-lù (???). Zhang has chosen a deer as his mascot because the final syllable of his name sounds like the Mandarin word for deer, lù (?). (Yes, that’s supposed to be a deer, not the result of some unholy experiment involving Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and an inflatable Bambi.)

Note the quasi romanization, on both the collar and headphones, of @ for “a,” which is a prefix for personal names. Thus, “@-lu” stands for “A-lu,” which is a meant as a friendly nickname for Zhang.

The A prefix might be familiar to Westerners through Lu Xun’s “The True Story of Ah-Q” (?Q??). (Lu Xun, by the way, was an important advocate of romanization.) The association in the campaign literature, however, is definitely intended to be with Taiwan’s president, Chen Shui-bian, whose nickname of “A-bian” was written in romanization on much of Chen’s campaign merchandise. Chen even refers to himself in the third person as “A-bian.” (For some reason most people in Taiwan don’t seem to find this affectation by Chen as disconcerting as Americans found Bob Dole’s odd habit of referring to himself as “Bob Dole.”)

Zhang is of course from the same political party as Chen.

As for the use of @ for “a,” this might be copied from Chen-related merchandise, though the only images I found in a quick search had “a-bian” rather than “@-bian.” The “a,” however, is often found within a circle, which may have led subsequent designers to the @ usage. There is, however, a small chain of soup-noodle stores named “@-Bian.”

The @ is of course a vague allusion to the Internet, with the intent of looking “modern.” The @ usage was copied (perhaps incorrectly) from some of Chen’s merchandise, affectations of modernity being pointless when it comes to otherwise unpretentious noodle stores.

The headphones on the deer, however, are a mystery to me. Then there’s the fact that they aren’t on the deer’s ears. Perhaps they’re a vague attempt to appeal to the youth vote.

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