A Taipei city councilor with the KMT on Tuesday launched an attack on President Chen Shui-bian disguised as a signage proposal. His idea: Change the name of Ketagalan Boulevard (?????? K?idágélán Dàdào), the street leading to the Presidential Office.
The city councilor, Yang Shi-qiu (???, Yang Shih-chiu), called for a change to L?-yì-lián Dàdào, which is literally Propriety, Righteousness, [and] Honesty Boulevard. While that might sound nice, it’s actually a disguised insult.
John DeFrancis was all over this word play a long time ago in “The Singlish Affair,” the biting satire that leads off his essential book The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. DeFrancis explains assigning the name Li Yilian to a person in his story:
The most complex is the name L? Yìlián. Those who know Chinese may get the point if it is written in characters: ??? or, in simplified characters, ???. The three characters mean respectively “propriety, morality, modesty” and form part of a four-character phrase listing a number of Confucian virtues of which the fourth is ? (ch? “a sense of shame”). The omission of the fourth character is part of a Chinese word game in which the reader is supposed to guess the last item when it is omitted — much as if we had to tell what is lacking in the list of the three Christian virtues of “Faith, Hope, and ______.” The omission of the fourth character is expressed as ?? or ?? (wúch? “lacking a sense of shame”). In short, calling someone Mr. L? Yìlián seems to praise him as Mr. Propriety, Morality, and Modesty but actually insults him as Mr. Shameless.
By renaming the street “people will know that the person who works at the Presidential Office at the end of the boulevard has no sense of chi [?, shame],” Yang said.
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who also serves as chairman of the KMT, didn’t care for the idea of his city having a L?-yì-lián Dàdào or Wúch? Dàdào (both of which could be translated as “Shameless Boulevard” — the first figuratively, the second literally) but said that the name L?-yì-lián-ch? Dàdào (“Propriety, Righteousness, Honesty, and a Sense of Shame Boulevard”) could be discussed.
The name of Ketagalan Boulevard is especially interesting from a number of standpoints.
- Since the street is named after a tribe that lived long ago in what is now Taipei, Ketagalan Boulevard is one of the only road names in all of the capital of Taiwan that has much of anything to do specifically with Taiwan, as opposed to China. (Jilong/Keelung Road is the only other one that springs to mind at the moment.)
- It is one of the only Taipei street names that isn’t bisyllabic.
- The street itself is not really independent as much as an extention of Ren’ai Road. (Don’t forget that apostrophe.)
- The name has been changed before. As Mark Caltonhill notes in What’s in changing a name?, “the vast majority of the island’s streets and even many towns were simply renamed by the KMT regime”. But in this case I’m referring to a relatively recent renaming. In 1996, Chen Shui-bian, who was then mayor of Taipei, oversaw the renaming of the street from Jieshou Road (??, Jièshòu Lù, i.e., “Long Live Chiang Kai-shek Road”).
- Chinese characters aren’t a good fit for “Ketagalan,” which comes out ???? (K?idágélán).
Here’s a Mandarin-language story on this:
Miànduì dào Chén Shu?-bi?n huódòng bùduàn, Táib?i Shìyìyuán Yáng Shí-qi? j?nti?n bi?oshì, t? y? zh?nk?i lián sh?, tí’àn b? Ketagalan Dàdào g?ngmíng wéi L?-yì-lián Dàdào; Táib?i shìzh?ng M? Y?ngji? su? rènwéi y?u chuàngyì, dànshì y?u màrén “wúch?” zh? xián, t? bù zànchéng.
Táib?i Shìyìhuì xiàw? j?xíng shìzhèng z?ng zhìxún shí, Yáng Shí-qi? zhìxún bi?oshì, Chén Shu?-bi?n z?ngt?ng zài Táib?i shìzh?ng rènnèi zài wèij?ng mínyì zh?ngxún xià, jiù b? jièshòu lù g?imíng wéi Ketagalan Dàdào, rìqián yòu làngfèi X?n Táibì shàng yì yuán, b? Zh?ngzhèng Guójì J?ch?ng g?ngmíng wéi Táiw?n Táoyuán J?ch?ng. Yáng Shí-qi? y? lián sh? tí’àn, y?oqiú shì-f? ji?ng Ketagalan Dàdào g?ngmíng wéi “L?-yì-lián Dàdào”.
M? Y?ngji? huídá shu?, dàolù y? zhèngmiàn mìngmíng wèi yuánzé, ér bù shì fùmiàn mìngmíng, yìyuán de yòngyì y?u chuàngyì, dànshì kèyì sh?nglüè jiùshì màrén “wúch?” zh? xián. Yáng Shí-qi? huíyìng shu?, ruò shì-f? y?u yíl?, Ketagalan Dàdào k? g?iwéi “L?-yì-lián-ch? Dàdào”.
M? Y?ngji? huíyìng shu?, t? bù zànchéng Ketagalan Dàdào g?iwéi “L?-yì-lián Dàdào”, zhèyàng huì biànchéng “Wúch? Dàdào”, dànshì ruòshì “L?-yì-lián-ch? Dàdào”, zhè k?y? t?olùn.
Yìyuán Ji?ng N?i-x?n suíhòu qiángdiào, Yáng Shí-qi? de tí’àn jiùshì tíx?ng wéizhèng zh? bùk? wúch?, ruò M? Y?ngji? d?nx?n bèi rén zh?wéi y?u màrén wúch? de yìsi, t? jiànyì g?iwéi “Bùk? Wúch? Dàdào”. M? Y?ngji? xiào shu?, zhèige jiànyì gèng y?u chuàngyì, dànshì x? j?ngguò shì-f? nèibù t?olùn.
- The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, by John DeFrancis
- ‘Reds’ set to head back to Ketagalan, Taipei Times, September 20, 2006
- Ketagalan Dàdào g?imíng L?-yì-lián Dàdào? M? Y?ngji?: bù zànchéng (?????????????????), CNA, September 19, 2006
- What’s in changing a name?, by Mark Caltonhill, Taiwan Journal, August 25, 2006
- ‘Hot-Milk Road’ and other street-name errors, Pinyin News, February 9, 2006
- Apostrophes in Hanyu Pinyin: when and where to use them, Pinyin Info