Activists fed up with 'Tai' mockery of local culture

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Aug 20 14:11:28 UTC 2005

>>From the Taipei Times

Activists fed up with 'Tai' mockery of local culture
Date:  2005/08/19 13:33:18
SOURCE:  Taipei Times


With the expressions "hen Tai" ("you are very Tai [Taiwanese]") and
"Taike" ("Taiwanese") becoming more widespread, a group of "language
activists" protested against what they called the "defamatory
implications" of the expressions and asked media outlets to exercise
caution in using them. "It is unfair for the media to portray Taiwanese
people and language in such a defamatory and demeaning manner," said Chang
Shu-fen, chairwoman of the Association for Mother Tongue Education
in Taiwan.

Chang said it was unfathomable to her why it was wrong for Taiwanese
people to be "very Tai." "So I'm 'Tai' and 'very Tai.' I'd like to know
what they mean by being 'very Tai.' What's wrong with being 'very
Taiwanese?'" she asked. "I demand an explanation for the term 'very Tai,'"
she added angrily, pounding her hands on the table.

The increasingly popular expressions were recently used by some TV
stations to describe women participating in this year's Miss Taiwan Beauty
Pageant. Chang said that when she was at high school, she had been called
"Taike"  and that the term had taken deeper roots over time. Actors and
actresses speaking Taiwanese-accented Mandarin usually land parts such as
idiots, hillbillies or domestic maids, Chang claimed, while those speaking
traditional Beijing-accented Mandarin get roles as leading men or women in
love stories.

"Don't they also eat Taiwan's rice and drink Taiwan's water? How come they
aren't described as 'very Tai'?" she asked. Chang said the association's
appeal was simple: The media must stop using the terms in a degrading
fashion that humiliates Taiwanese men and women. Chet Yang,
secretary-general of the Northern Taiwan Society, called on the media to
exercise self-restraint in spreading such "uncivilized"  terms as "Taike",
which he said "did not deserve to exist in a civilized and pluralistic

Taiwan Association of University Professors president Tai Pao-tsun
said decades of language policy had damaged Taiwanese culture and
language. Such a suppressive language policy, Tai said, had created the
stereotypes that people in the south of the country speak Minnan (more
commonly known as Taiwanese although it is also spoken in parts of China)
while those in the north speak Mandarin; that those wanting to curse use
Minnan, but those wishing to offer compliments use Mandarin; and those
chewing betel nut speak Minnan, while those who wear a suit and tie speak

Although he said that the "Taiwan Province" has more or less ceased to
exist, Tai said that some people still preferred to use the term
"provincial." He said people should stop using such "Chinese" terms and
refrain from calling China the "mainland."

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