Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Taiwan Cheese

I laughed out loud at the the photo of a "cheese platter" the Taipei Kid found in his hotel room. Maybe you'd have to know Taiwan to fully get the humor of it, but in a way, it is sort of charming.

Tangentially related--I am working on a translation of an article about the "Taike 台客" phenomenon in Taiwan. The characters are the first character of "Taiwan" and one meaning "guest" or "customer" (or, sometimes--like here--just something like "guy"). The word was originally derogatory and was used by the so-called "mainlanders" who came over with the KMT to refer to the locals. You could say meant something like "Taiwanese hick" or something like that. The "Tai" is also used as an adjective--"That's so Tai," meaning tacky or trashy.

Recently, the term has been used a lot on TV, with varety shows featuring segments like "My Taike Boyfriend." People are coming around and embracing the term, using it to imply a kind of homegrown culture. It's loud shirts, flip-flops, fast scooters, Long Life brand cigarettes, and betel nut.

There are plenty of words in English that have been reclaimed, probably most notably "queer." There's also that "N-word," the rehabilitation of which is a little more problematic. I never really thought about it, but this goes on in other languages as well. Maybe the Japanese word "otaku"?

Update: For a nice article written by a southern Taiwanese in Taipei, see Feiren's fine translation at Rank. It's not exactly on the subject of Taike, but it's close, and the article I have been working on talks about this "Taipei et les Provinces" attitude as well. Thanks, Feiren, for making it available in English!

1 comment:

eric said...

I don't agree with the popularising of the term taike. Frankly I don't see the re-branding of taike (into a cultural term) as a self-strengthening movement. In fact, I see it as helping racism in Taiwan. With its double meaning, prosecution of such racism would be much more difficult.
The pan-blue media have contributed heavily in pushing the term into popular culture, and it's not difficult to tell where their sympathy lies.
CBC have a short documentary on the 'n-word' (http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/immigrationdiversity/banning_the_nword.html).