A nose for foreign food?

Imagine some white guys in a fairly large U.S. city open a restaurant named “Mr. Taiwan Slant-Eyes Asian Cuisine.” And imagine that this restaurant specializes in distinctly Americanized dishes such as egg foo yong, fortune cookies, and California wraps. Now imagine the response. Isn’t this fun?

OK, now imagine a different situation: In Taiwan’s fifth-largest city some locals open a place specializing in Taiwanized Western food and dub their restaurant “Miss UK Cafe Pointy-Nose Foreign Food.”

As you’ve probably guessed, the second scenario is real. The “Miss UK Cafe ??? ????” (Miss UK Cafe a-tok-a yìguó m?ishí) recently opened not far from my apartment in Banqiao.

A-tok-a (???) is Taiwanese for “pointy nose” (i.e., Westerner), though perhaps the common translation of “big nose” conveys the spirit a little better. As Tempo Gain explains in the Forumosa thread on this word, “the initial ‘a’ often preceds names, and the final ‘a’ often is attached to nouns like the Mandarin ‘zi’ haizi, chezi, etc.”

Although most foreigners I know in Taiwan find the use of a-tok-a offensive to some degree, reactions are usually tempered by the knowledge that the word is very seldom used intentionally as a pejorative. It’s just the word most Hoklo speakers would use for “Westerner,” and they mean nothing bad by this and perhaps even see it as “cute” in a favorable way. So since I’m certain the restaurateurs didn’t intend any insult in choosing this name, I’m not going to carp about this any more than I already have — which is not to say that I will ever buy anything from that restaurant.

It’s still an interesting name, though. (Actually, this is probably two names: the standard one (??? ????), which is for most people, and the English one (Miss UK Cafe), which is probably there in an attempt to look modern/foreign/cool.)

For those keeping count, that’s three scripts and as many languages on just one sign.

  • Miss UK Cafe: English, in the Roman alphabet
  • ???: Taiwanese, in a mixed script of zhuyin (?) and Chinese characters
  • ????: Mandarin, in Chinese characters

The mixing of scripts in “???” is representative of the sad fact that most people in Taiwan are unsure how to write Taiwanese. Here are some of the ways this word gets written, along with the number of Google results and Baidu results for that exact phrase.

  • ??? Google 555 / Baidu doesn’t recognize the ?
  • ??? 3,440 / Baidu 1,320
  • ??? 6,730/ Baidu 13,400
  • ??? 11,300 / Baidu 2,810
  • ??? 12,500 / Baidu 24,700
  • ??? 12,500 / Baidu 24,700 (Google and Baidu apparently refuse to differentiate ? and ?)

Also interesting is the use of yìguó (??) instead of the more common wàiguó (??), for “foreign.”

  • “??” Google 1,510,000 / Baidu 14,700,000
  • “??” Google 6,420,000 / Baidu 46,500,000

Yìguó m?ishí, however, is more common than wàiguó m?ishí.

  • “????” Google 41,100 / Baidu 26,400
  • “????” Google 114,000 / Baidu 152,000

This, I suspect, is because yìguó m?ishí “sounds fancier” because of how relatively common the word waiguo is.

photo of the storefront of the restaurant discussed in this post

further reading:

13 thoughts on “A nose for foreign food?

  1. Here’s another Hanzi version I’ve seen: ???.

    A Google search gives 206,000 results:
    http://tinyurl.com/239epc

    The “????” construction sounds like it is meant to invoke imaginings of “exotic cuisine.” But do they serve truly “exotic” foods like alligator piquante, turtle soup, rabbit stew, and rattlesnake jerky, or is it merely the ubiquitous whitebread sandwiches and coffee? ;-)

  2. ?????????????????
    ?????????

    The correct character is ?, as in “woodpecker”.

    The other characters suggested aren’t even of the historical “entering
    tone”.

    One could sit-in on some ??? historical Chinese phonology classes.

  3. Pingback: Pointy-Nose Foreigner Food | Doubting to shuo: Chinese, Investing, EFL and Being a Geek in Taiwan

  4. “???: Taiwanese, in a mixed script of zhuyin (?) and Chinese characters ”

    Just to be REALLY nit-picky….? (ya1) is a character in its own right and not necessarily zhuyin. However I don’t know the Taiwanese Minnan pronunciation of this character and it very well may be zhuyin; I have seen Taiwanese people use zhuyin in place of characters when typing or writing (like ?? in lieu of ?…ex: ???)

  5. The fact that you won’t see restaurants called “Mr. Taiwan Slant-Eyes Asian Cuisine” in the U.S. is because of decades of political struggle for minorities. Unfortunately the foreign population in Taiwan isn’t big enough to truly make any major impact on the society yet.

    BTW, does anyone remember Aunt Jemaima or Uncle Ben? ;)

  6. Pingback: News bits and interesting posts from 2007 - Taiwan | Fili's world

  7. Tell them “If I am ???? then you are ???”.
    “If I am a pointy nose, you are a flat nose”.

    Notes:
    ? (dok) is the exact ? of ??? “woodpecker”.
    ??? is also the name of ex-President Chen “Count TheTowels” Shuibian.

  8. I have heard that Taiwan people sometimes refer to other Taiwan people as having a ”wax apple” nose…..have you
    heard that before? …….they call themselves or their friends in a humorous way
    that they have a wax apple nose….so it cuts both ways….hehe…….they think their noses look like the ends of wax
    apples…..that is self-depreacting TW humour. i love it.

    One very old gentleman, 75, a retired doctor from Taiwan who lives in USA now, told me: “When we call you an adoah , it is a compliment. We really admire your pointy noses….” he added: “you should take it as a compliment…..it means something like “Hey Handsome!”

    SURE……

  9. A Japanese friend in Tokyo read this article and wrote:

    Dear Dan,
    I read your article about “adoah,” and it’s interesting. The article reminded me of the
    old signboard “ALIENS” that was formerly used in the immigration area at airports
    in Japan. The term “Aliens” has been replaced by “Non-Japanese” as you know.
    I agree with Mrs Liu Yu-hsia who you wrote in your story. I think that Taiwanese people as well as Japanese people
    are generally not sensitive to the matter of how Western people feel uncomfortable
    about those words. It may be a little extreme opinion, but I think that many Asian
    people have inferiority complex against people from Western countries, because they
    think “Western people are taller, look nicer with larger eyes and higher nose
    (of course we envy large eyes and high nose), have larger houses or larger lands,
    etc. etc.” Therefore, it is difficult for Asian people to imagine Western people’s feeling
    of sadness when treated lightly.

    When Satoru and I were living in Los Angeles and when we were
    referred to as “Non-Americans,” we felt nothing. It is a fact that we are not Americans.
    That’s all. “Japs” made us feel sad, but “non-Americans” or “foreigners” made us feel
    nothing.

    Actually, your article made me realize the importance of being sensitive to what others
    are thinking. To be sensitive to other people’s feeling and sympathize with others is one
    of the most important thing that I would like to teach Ryosuke. In this light, I agree with
    Dr Chen Chun-kai in your article , and the saying of Confucious is right. Do not do unto others what you
    would not want others to do onto you. We all should learn this!

    So, I really thank you
    for sharing your article with us!!!

    Mitsuko and Satoru
    Kobe, Japan

  10. ”In this light, I agree with
    Dr Chen Chun-kai in your article , and the saying of Confucious is right. Do not do unto others what you
    would not want others to do onto you. We all should learn this!”

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