rice pizza = ‘mizza’

advertising photo of Pizza Hut's rice pizza; the copy reads '?zza ???????fun'Something written with three different scripts (Chinese characters, zhuyin, and the roman alphabet) is very much the sort of thing that attracts my attention, as is a product that mixes scripts in its name. So this ad for a new product from Taiwan’s Pizza Hut definitely caught my eye, though it did not inspire me to actually taste the item being touted, which is a rice pizza. (Generally, I do not care for pizzas with Taiwanese characteristics, such as those with peas, corn, or squid. For that matter, I don’t even like pineapple on pizza.)

The name for this rice pizza, “?zza” (m?zza), is a portmanteau — using two different languages and two different scripts, no less. ? is the Chinese character for m?, which is used mainly in rice- and other grain-associated words. The second part of the word comes, of course, from “pizza.”

Let’s move on to the slogan:

?zza ????? ??fun

In romanization, this is

m?zza: ch?o h?ng m?iwèi — x?nxi?n fun

Here we have Chinese characters (?zza ???????fun), zhuyin (?zza ???????fun), and the Roman alphabet (?zza ???????fun). Three scripts in just one line! (Yes, yes, I know that a line in written Japanese will often have just as many scripts, if not more; but this is Mandarin.)

The zhuyin, ??, represent h?ng, a new slang word that, according to several people I have asked, has appeared within the last five years at most. It means “hot” in the sense of “extremely popular right now.”

Also, there’s a possibility that the English word “fun” is meant to echo the Mandarin fàn (? / ?/ “rice”). Such puns across languages are not uncommon here, especially in local Internet slang.

So, the whole slogan might be translated as “Rice pizza: the super-’hot’ delicious food — fresh, new fun.” Sorry, that’s not a very good translation; it works better in Mandarin.

I predict such portmanteaux and mixing will be increasingly common here in Taiwan, where code switching is a way of life for many people. “M?zza” could be the wave of the future — just not the culinary future, I hope.

source: Taiwan Pizza Hut menu page, accessed January 30, 2007

mother-bleeping X’s

Click to enlarge. Taiwanese movie poster for the Western film 'Severance' (???). It contains the line '????????? ????? Orz'

Language Log has had quite a few posts in recent months on the bleeping out of letters from obscenities. I’d like to add here an example of something bleeped out of a string of Chinese characters.

The other day I noticed an ad on the side of a bus for the forthcoming British slasher film Severance. (I didn’t get a good photo of this ad, so here I’m using an image of the poster for this movie.) In Mandarin this has the rather uninspired title of Duàntóu qì (???: “Severed Head Qi“).

What really caught my eye, however, was the tag line in Chinese characters:

????????? ????? Orz

This is interesting not just for the use of Orz, which is Net slang, but also for the bleeping out of the middle character of the obscenity t?m? de (???, sometimes seen as “tamade“), rendering it ?X?. (Note too that a Roman letter rather than a Chinese character was used for this.)

There’s nothing obscene about the middle character by itself (?). It’s used in writing words related to m? (“mother”). For that matter, there’s nothing in the least impolite about any of the characters by themselves or the individual morphemes they represent. The phrase as a whole literally means simply “his mother’s.” But as a whole the phrase works as something that youngsters would get into trouble for saying around their parents or elders and that would probably not be used on television (not without bleeping the subtitles, at least).

Lu Xun (L? Xùn/??/??) wrote a brief essay about the expression tama de. (For an English translation and notes of Lu Xun’s tama de essay, see Lu Xun on the Chinese “national swear”, an excellent post by Huichieh Loy of From a Singapore Angle.)

Back to the bleeping. As the results of Google searches show, ??? and ?X? are both common, though the original form is much more so.

  total of all domains within .cn domains within .tw domains
?X? 98,100 22,700 6,960
??? 1,910,000 173,000 903,000

Note that .cn (PRC) domains have 23.14% of the total ?X?s but only 9.06% of the total ???s. This difference is probably a result of China’s Net nanny culture. On the other hand, specifically PRC domains still have a lot of ???s. (Or rather ???s, using the so-called simplified form of ?.) Taiwan domains, however, have more than five times as many, which in the spirit of this post I should probably call a fucking lot of ???s.

Out of curiousity I also ran searches for the other letters of the alphabet and found a spike for the ?M?. The letter M serves here as an abbreviation for the ma of tama de. Accordingly, it’s no surprise to see that ?ma? is also found and that both ?M? and ?ma? are relatively rare in .tw domains (since people in Taiwan aren’t taught romanization).

  total of all domains within .cn domains within .tw domains
?M? 21,200 4,220 128
?ma? 12,400 2,620 168

To my surprise, I also came across a lesser spike for the use of the letter Y: ?Y?

  total of all domains within .cn domains within .tw domains
?Y? 8,450 1,520 14

The ?Y?s are mainly referring to a sadistic Flash game Pìpì ch?u t? Y de (????Y?).

But it appears this isn’t really intended to be the letter Y from the Roman alphabet. Instead, Y appears to be used in place of zhuyin fuhao’s similar-looking ?, which represents the sound that Hanyu Pinyin assigns to the Roman letter A. Thus, ?Y? is not read “ta Y de” but more like “taaa de.” (See Some Things Chinese Characters Can’t Do-Be-Do-Be-Do.) Oddly enough, there are thousands of pages with ?Y? (Roman letter Y) but just a handful with ??? (bopo mofo ?). This may be from the relative ease of typing the letter Y instead of zhuyin’s ?. Another odd result is that many of the ???s are within .cn domains but in traditional Chinese characters. [Later addition: See the comments for clarification on this.]

Since the subject of zhuyin fuhao came up, I made some additional searches:

  total of all domains within .cn domains within .tw domains
?????? 0 0 0
???? 142 0 55
??? 3,820 16 1,410
??? 408 0 2

“TMD” is another extremely common way to indicate tama de. But too many unrelated results turn up in searches for me to give useful numbers for this.

OK, I’m finally finished with this tama de post.

ensure zhuyin is taught thoroughly: education official

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education is worried that with so many students entering first grade already knowing zhuyin fuhao, having learned it from their parents or at a buxiban (cram school) or preschool, some teachers are neglecting to ensure that all their students have a thorough grounding in this script. Since zhuyin is used to help teach students Chinese characters, a lack of proficiency in reading zhuyin could severely hamper a child’s ability to perform well in school.

I’ve seen reports from China of related worries there — but regarding Pinyin, not zhuyin, of course.

The original article in Chinese characters is no longer online, so I’m supplying the full text in Pinyin (which is all I have now).

K?ixué le, duì xi?o y? x?nsh?ng láishu?, zhùy?n fúhào shì y?wén l?ngyù de zhòngdi?n, yu? x? shàngkè 10 zh?u, què y?n bùsh?o yòuzhìyuán y? tíqián ji?o guò, bùfen xi?o y? l?osh? y? du?shù xuésheng y? xuéhuì, lüèguò bù ji?o. Jiàoyùbù zuóti?n zh?ch?, rúgu? y?u zhèizh?ng qíngxing, ji?zh?ng y?ngg?i xiàng l?osh? hé xuéxiào f?nyìng.

Ji? nián y?guàn kèchéng gu?dìng, xi?o y? shàng xuéq? jiùyào shúxí, rèn dú, zhèngquè sh?xi? zhùy?n fúhào y?jí p?ny?n f?ngf?, Jiàoyùbù guójiào s? gu?nyuán bi?oshì, w?ngnián d?u y?u bùsh?o ji?zh?ng tóusù, bàoyuàn xi?o y? de l?osh? y?nwèi b?n shàng du?shù xuésheng y?jing xuéhuì zhùy?n fúhào, sh?nglüè bù ji?o, y?ngxi?ng qít? xuésheng de shòujiào quán.

Jiàoyùbù zh?ngy?ng kèchéng y? ji?oxué y?wén k? f?d?o z?xún l?osh? Wú Huì-hu? zh?ch?, shàngxué q?yu? y?u 21 dào 22 zh?u, g?njù kèchéng ?npái, xi?o y? zhùy?n fúhào yào shàng 10 zh?u, zh?hòu l?osh? huì k?ish? ji?o guózì.

Wú Huì-hu? shu?, gè b?nb?n kèb?n y?ugu?n zhùy?n fúhào jiàof? bùtóng, xiànzài y? h?n sh?o ànzhào zìm? shùnxù, y?ude zhào m?y?n, y?ude zé ànzhào kèb?n nèiróng, rú “xi?o bái’é, ài chàngg?” zh?ng, huì xi?n ji?o b?jiào ji?nd?n de “?” “?” d?ng, bùsh?o l?osh? dàgài lìyòng 8, 9 zh?u shàng wán, ji?zhe tì xuésheng fùxí.

Wú Huì-hu? shu?, bùsh?o ji?zh?ng pà l?osh? bù ji?o zhùy?n fúhào, háizi sh? zài q?p?oxiàn shàng, y?nc? shàng yòuzhìyuán shí, huò xi?o y? rùxué qián, jiùràng háizi xi?n xué, huò qù b?xí.

G?njù gu?nchá, xi?o y?sh?ng yu? y?u 6, 7 chéng y? huì zhùy?n fúhào, dàn chéngdu luòch? h?n dà, bùsh?o xuésheng kàn le huì niàn, dàn p?nxi? bù ch?lai.

Wú Huì-hu? bi?oshì, jísh? b?n shàng y?bàn y?shàng xuésheng d?u y? xuéhuì zhùy?n fúhào, l?osh? háishi y?ngg?i ànzhào kèbi?o shàngkè, yóuqí bùnéng fàngqì hái bù huì de xuésheng, gèng yào zhùyì chéngdu shàng de luòch?.

Zhùy?n fúhào jí p?nzì shì guówén zhòngyào j?ch?, Wú Huì-hu? shu?, ji?zh?ng m?iti?n k? hu? y?di?n shíji?n, yào háizi l?ngdú shàngkè de nèiróng, tì háizi fùxí, duì háizi xuéxíhuì y?u b?ngzhù, dàn bùbì tài ji?ol?, bùx? wéixué zhùy?n fúhào qù b?xí.

source: Xi?o y? bù ji?o zhùy?n — ji?zh?ng k? f?nyìng (?????? ?????), September 1, 2006

Courage… Cabnap… Grunplitk: zhuyin and the movie Fearless

Many Westerners are so attracted by Chinese characters, which tend to be absurdly exoticized as symbols [sic] or ideograms [sic] of deep meaning, that they place them here and there as if they were some sort of pixie dust that bestows coolness upon any object (or body). Often when they do so, they write these characters incorrectly or are mistaken about their meaning, as Tian of Hanzi Smatter continues to note. But you’d think that at least those who make trailers for Chinese movies would be a little better informed.

Fearless (Mandarin title: Huò Yuánji? / ???), which is billed as Jet Li’s final martial-arts movie, has been out in Asia since January but won’t reach the States until later this year. (I have no plans to see this movie, which appears from the trailer to be a string of the usual clichés. And, anyway, I have yet to forgive Jet Li for appearing in Hero, which is probably the biggest cinematic valentine to totalitarianism since Triumph of the Will.) One of the trailers for Fearless features a number of Chinese characters. They’re even written correctly. But, oddly enough, interspersed with the Chinese characters are zhuyin fuhao, also known as bopo mofo, a semi-syllabic script used in Taiwan mainly to help teach children to read. Odder still, the zhuyin make absolutely no sense.

Here’s how Taiwanonymous, on whose site I found this story, puts it:

Intercut with scenes from the movie was a burnt-yellow background, suggesting aged parchment, with Chinese characters flying past. Along with the Chinese characters were some Mandarin phonetic symbols (zhuyin fuhao ????). It’s bad enough that they included phonetic symbols (which are mainly used in Children’s books) in the flying sea of what wanted to be an ancient Chinese text, but the symbols flew past in strings of gibberish! Imagine the following text dramatically moving across the screen, “Integrity… Peace… Courage… Cabnap… Grunplitk… Uwsugls.” Gives you chills just thinking about it.

Here’s a screenshot from the trailer:
gibberish zhuyin in the background

Just below COMING SOON is a giant ?. For something written in English this would be the equivalent of putting a large letter G on the screen.

Along the right side of the screen is the following, in zhuyin fuhao: ?????. This, in Hanyu Pinyin, would be “maixrici,” which is complete gibberish. The other vertical lines of text are also nonsense in zhuyin fuhao.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with how these are written. It’s just that they’re no more meaningful than a random string of letters.

Here’s one more shot:
gibberish zhuyin in the background
The zhuyin fuhao on the left read, from top to bottom, ?????, which would be “chjktp” in Hanyu Pinyin. As I think should be obvious even to those who don’t know Mandarin or any other Sinitic language, this is simply nonsense.


bopomofo: the band

I suppose it was inevitable: a Taiwan band named after bopomofo (a.k.a. zhuyin fuhao), the semi-syllabic script still used in Taiwan schools in place of a romanization system. I need to remember to ask Poagao or Sandy of David Chen and the Muddy Basin Ramblers if the band is any good.

So, does anyone know if anyone in China or elsewhere has named a band after Pinyin? So-and-so and the Hanyu Pinyins might work for a doo-wop group; but I’m guessing that particular musical style has never really taken off in China. So there’s probably not much hope either for “Y.R. Chao and the Gwoyeu Romatzyhs.” But maybe a punk or metal band could name itself Tongyong.

via The Real Taiwan blog

campaign poster, zhuyin, and the color purple

closeup of banner, showing zhuyin for two characters

campaign banner with zhuyin to help people read the candidate's nameI’ve already written some about campaign banners and literacy. But it’s campaign season again in Taiwan, with elections for neighborhood chiefs to be held this Saturday, and Taffy of Taiwanease.com and Tailingua has sent me a photo of a campaign banner that features zhuyin fuhao (also known as bopo mofo) alongside the characters for the candidate’s given name. That’s the sort of thing I can’t resist.

The banner is interesting not only in that it gives zhuyin but also that it gives zhuyin for just some of the characters. For the name Wú Z?-y?ng (???) we are given:


? ??

? ??

(See detail at top right.)

That zhuyin is not used for all of the characters in the name indicates that those who created the banner regarded the zhuyin as advisable for two of the characters. Yet the only character here that is particularly uncommon is the last one: ?. It is used for y?ngzi (??), a word for “tassel.”

?, used for the family name Wu, is a fairly common character and is not displayed with zhuyin.

On the other hand, ?, which is used for z?sè (??/purple), is roughly the 1,700th most common character. Thus, people of voting age in Taiwan should know this character; yet evidently that cannot be taken for granted. This rank would also mean that people living in China’s countryside, though not in the cities, could be declared “literate” even without being able to read or write this character. (This helps illustrate how standards in China are too low. And, even so, literacy figures there are greatly exaggerated.)

Please permit me to stress the obvious: There is nothing in the least bit obscure in Taiwan or China about the Mandarin word for “purple.” Z?sè is a word that essentially all native speakers of Mandarin would know, regardless of education, just as essentially all native speakers of English would know the word “purple.” But because the powers that be continue to emphasize the exclusive use of Chinese characters, a sizable number of people are incapable of reading (much less writing) the word for “purple.” This extends even to thousands of other words within people’s vocabularies, a situation that would not exist if romanization were permitted as an orthography.

(I’m still wondering why no bloggers who focus more on Taiwan politics have picked up on what I wrote about before: Ballots in Taiwan do not identify a candidate’s political party in any way (not even a logo), except for presidential elections, which are the one election in which everyone already knows for sure the party affiliation of the major candidates. Am I the only person who thinks this is significant? But it’s off-topic for this site, so I’ll not pursue this further here.)

Oh, if anyone’s curious, the title of the Alice Walker book The Color Purple is translated in Taiwan as Z?sè z?-mèihu? (?????).

titallative zhuyin — screenshots

click for larger image of scantily clad dancers displaying signs with zhuyin fuhaoI finally got to see the “spicy girls pronunciation class” (là mèi zhèngy?n b?n), which was lucky because the replay time was different than announced. The segment began about 1:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Here’s how it works. About half a dozen la mei strut out to the tune of “Dragostea Din Tei” (a.k.a. “The Numa Numa Dance”). The zhuyin fuhao and separate tone marks are affixed to cards attached to enormous, gloved hands. As they dance, the women occasionally flash the zhuyin at the contestant, who is supposed to figure out what the scrambled zhuyin spell out.

Now you see ‘em.
revealing the zhuyin

Now you don’t.
hiding the zhuyin

And, of course, what’s a Taiwan variety show without an overweight man in drag thrown in for comic effect?
Taiwan TV -- man in drag

Failure to read the word or phrase in question in time results in a throrough soaking — for the contestant, not that dancers, that is.
unsuccessful TV show contestant is doused with water

titillative zhuyin

One of Taiwan’s trashy TV variety shows has found a new use for zhuyin fuhao: making a game out of men trying to read zhuyin pasted on the bodies of bouncing, gyrating, bikini-clad models.

This particular segment of the show is called “là mèi zhèngy?n b?n” (spicy girls pronunciation class / ?????).


As much as I’m curious about this, I tend to run screaming from the room if made to endure more than a few seconds of such programs. But for those of you with greater ability to stand such things, the program runs on Eastern Television (D?ng S?n Z?nghé Tái / ?????) on Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. Oh, how I would love a screen shot!

source: ?????????????????????????, March 31, 2006