Weekly Links – July 2, 2009


EVENTS: The Taipei Film Festival runs from now through July 12. Dems Abroad with a Fourth of July fundraiser in Kaohsiung. Photowalks in Taipei and Taichung on July 18.  The 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung July 16-26.  Cosplay at NTU July 25-26.  More events at Taiwanderful.  Looking for a concert?  David has a round-up of upcoming summer music festivals.  Also check out GigGuide Taiwan!

I’ve been busy planning my honeymoon so I’ve been terrible about posting daily photos, but Darren never misses a beat!

13 thoughts on “Weekly Links – July 2, 2009

  1. Todd,

    re: “Is ‘adoah’ a humorous word used to refer to Westerners or insulting and offensive?”… And your answer: — “I simply find it annoying.”

    LOL. Good answer! There’s more here at this microblog, first two posts go at it, with over 50 comments from readers, most of them Taiwanese people, pro and con. There’s a small chance the Taipei Times article will be translated into Chinese for the Liberty Times some time this summer, translated by a friend in Taipei, Shirley Tu, and if it gets published there, maybe there will be some good letters to the editor from Taiwanese readers who can shed more light on this nose thing. A minor issue, to be sure. Just a language thing. Nothing gonna change, either way.

    Question: why do you find “adoah” *annoying* when you hear it? I mean, what’s annoying about the word? The word itself, or what it means, or being called it? Or all three? Smile.

  2. I should have said re above microblog, NSFW, in some homes. But the photo was sent to me from a Taiwanese woman, 35, and I was just passing it along. She found it on a Time magazine site, an old photo from 1967 era when US soldiers were pictured “frollicking” (sp?) in a Beitou hot springs bath with two ”friends”.

    Repeat: NSFW

  3. Todd,
    I am getting so many different answers and comments from Taiwanese people re the adoah word, it’s confusing, because some people it’s a harmless word, get over it, you Westerners, and others tell me, “you are quite right, it is not a nice word and we Taiwanese should not be using it anymore, but how to change an entire culture? Mission impossible,” said one Taiwanese professor in Taipei.

    Re your ANNOYING comment in your post above, one Taiwanese reader told me: “There is no bad intentions to that word ”A-do-ah”, and I am surprised that some Westerners think it is ”annoying”, like the Daily Bubble Tea, ….why annoyed?”

    Maybe you can answer that question here in the comments or in a blog post one day? Most local people do not understand why the word ADOAH annoys SOME of us who live and work here. Can you explain it better?

  4. Dan – Perhaps I should have wrote “mildly” annoying in my post, because on the reverse, most foreigners and minorities are treated much worse in the United States than Caucasians are treated in Taiwan. I find it mildly annoying as I certainly don’t lose any sleep or get mad that it would ruin my day.

    I guess the annoyance comes the way the word is delivered: in this case it seems to be mostly for the amusement of the person saying it. I don’t consider it a term of endearment like others say it is when I’m cycling and someone yells it as they are driving by on a scooter or in a car or by someone who calls me it after we’ve passed each other while walking. If it is a term of endearment the speaker probably wouldn’t be laughing hysterically with friends.

    I’m used to calling people I don’t know Sir, Ms, Miss, young man, or young lady depending on the person’s age and gender the disappointment and annoyance comes because this isn’t reciprocal.

    Like you said, nothing gonna change, either way.

  5. Todd,
    Very good perspective on this, and yes, nothing’s gonna change on this, and there’s no need to change. It’s their country, it’s their language, so I am cool with it. But from a cultural point of view, yes, it’s not a bad word like wop, guinea, wetback, kike, kraut, frog and all the other words the English language has created for minorities…..ADOAH is positively LOVELY, compared to any of those, you are right, and that’s a good POV to keep in mind all the time. I agree.

    YOu really hit the nail on the head here: “I guess the annoyance comes the way the word is delivered: in this case it seems to be mostly for the amusement of the person saying it.”

    EXACTLY! Good way to put it. The word exists for the amusement of the Taiwanese who say it and hear it, and it works well that way, and for a purpose, too. It was not really created to compliment TALL NOSES, it was created to give the speakers and hearers of the word a good quiet simple laff. And it works. For them. So I don’t want to take that away from them.

    But……the sound of that word when WE hear it is not one of amusement. That’s the problem. They love it, because it’s part of their culture, and we don’t really like it so much, because we did not grow up using that word and it’s a bit off-putting to our ears, once we know the original meaning of it the term. As one reporter told me today, when i told him of your “annoying” remark: “It’s annoying to me because it reeks of bigotry.” He said that, not me. Bigotry? That’s a strong word. I think it reeks mostly of amusement from the POV of the speaker. It’s a code word that we were never meant to understand or hear. In 1950s and 60s when it was first coined, during US soldier time here, the word WAS funny and clever and cool and amusing, from the local POV. I agree. I can get into it that way. I love humor.

    The problem comes today when there are more and more Westerners here, some even married to local women, God forbid, so should the word ADOAH still be bandied about on the Jacky Wu show and other TV shows, and news shows too, whenever a Caucasian arrested for drunk walking in Taipei or Kenting, the reporter always calls them adoah, and the news print also calls them adoah, and to the locals, it’s FUNNY. It’s a great word for the Taiwanese.

    But maybe it is time for people to start to reconsider that word. Today I heard from a Taiwnese grad student at Berkley in USA and he was very honest with me. He told me this, in a series of very honest emails, the first time a Taiwanese every admitted this to me:

    He started out by saying:

    “It is like ”yankee” for american. not bad, just a slang (meaning that caucasians have a remarkbale nose – tall and good shape…”

    But then he noted:

    “I don’t say ADOAH myself, but that term could be dated back to 1950s when a lot of US troops stayed in Taiwan – people just had no knowledge of Caucasians. They didn’t mean it. They just don’t know. ”

    Then he added:

    “It does not mean big nose – it is TALL nose. Orientals are jealous of people with tall nose because it looks exotically beautiful.”

    Finally, after more prodding he tells the truth:

    “I admit that ADOAH is not completely a compliment. You are right, part of it was joke, against tall nosed Americans, but without ill intentions, i promise you.”

    He added more:

    “You are right, ADOAH is not such a good word, it is a bit unkind to you guys. But to use it is a joke. but not really a compliment. But i think we need some time to amend this historical mistake.”

    And then he says:

    “Don’t worry. we Taiwanese have everything but guts – your article about ”ADOAH — PRO OR CON — GOOD OR BAD WROD?” will be fine if it is published in the newspapers in Chinese there, and I hope this could invoke some consciences in my fellow countrymen. ”

    Dan says now to Todd: Who knew? Go figure. (I have no idea where this is heading but it’s interesting, if nothing else.)

    RE: your remark above:

    “….I don’t consider it a term of endearment — like others say it is — when I’m cycling and someone yells it as they are driving by on a scooter or in a car or by someone who calls me it after we’ve passed each other while walking. If it is a term of endearment, the speaker probably wouldn’t be laughing hysterically with friends.”

    This is what Taiwanese people themselves have to think about and reconsider about this word. I do believe that is NOT a term of endearment, and also NOT an insult or a slur, just a COMIC way to refer to white people that is very FUNNY to Taiwanese speakers of the word (and those friends who also are in on the joke, the code word, haha), but it is NOT so funny to use. Still, not an insult and not a slur.

    So how to resolve this issue? NEVER. People will still be saying ADOAH a hundred years from now……..SMILE!

    And why not? It’s their country, it’s their language.

    Still, some brave academic or newspaper editor might come along one day and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, FOLKS. WE NEED TO RETIRE THIS WORD ADOAH and start calling our white friends WAH GOH LANG, or WAH GOAH.

    But I am not going to hold my breath!

  6. Todd,

    What is also very interesting here is that most young people today DO NOT know that ADOAH means “tall nose” person. They know it’s a mildly funny and humorous word, but they firmly believe it is a Taiwanese Minnan word for “foreigner”, same as wei guo ren. Ask anyone under 3o years of age, and see if they know the true meaning. 99 percent will tell you they have no idea is means something about “tall, prominent nose” people. They really think it is Minnan Yu for “wei guu ren.”

    NOT. So there is a minor disconntect here. Everyone over 50 knows what it means. I asked two reporters at the APPLE DAILY newspaper last week if they knew the real meaning of ADOAH and they both said “No idea.” And they are both good friends of mine, both well-educated and well-travelled reporters, one an editor, the other a beat reporter who lived in the USA for 5 years. And neither of them, in the mid-30s, both, had any idea what ADOAH really means. That really surprised me!

    I said to them: “How come I know the meaning of the word, you don’t, and you are Taiwanese?” They could not answer me. It was a good laff.

  7. Todd,
    Here is an interesting POV from a British woman who just spent a year in Taipeu and is back in UK now: she says:

    “Got back to the UK on Friday. Had a hectic last week in Taipei between finishing my cycle trip around Taiwan and packing up to come home. Got to say all my goodbyes though and tidy things up enough to come home. Am sad to be back, but it also feels right to be here.

    Just got round to reading your article about ADOAH and some of the comments.

    To be honest, I’ve never noticed being called adoah, though I’m sure I have been. Such terms don’t usually bother me.

    One of the comments explained it in terms of the Taiwanese language, it being the easiest word to describe foreigners and if it was not used anymore a similar term like the Mandarin waiguoren will supplant it so why not just keep using the Taiwanese word? (I’m a supporter of preserving the Taiwanese language.)

    The main point is, like many people have pointed out, the culture is different in Taiwan; such terms aren’t meant in a derogatory way so I do not think they should be taken in such a way.

    If it was derogatory I would be against its use. Since its not, I can’t help but ask why we (foreigners) should put our cultural/social/etiquette standards on the Taiwanese?

    We are living in their domain, not the other way around. We should accept that it is just a descriptive term and label and not take it to heart.

    Personally, I am much more annoyed as always being labelled an American as if the only western country is the USA. I find this a lot more narrow minded and irritating than a broad term like adoah!

    Anyway, thats my generally opinion, its an interesting discussion. Must admit that my reaction also depends on my mood! Occasionally such terms shouted out at me really bug me, haha.”

  8. 請別叫我「阿兜仔」!

    Liberty Times, July 8, forum page

    by ”Biko Lang”, pen name

    大多數的台灣人認為 :「阿兜仔」這個稱呼外國人的暱稱是熱情且友善的。但許多住在台灣工作的西方人卻認為,那是一個侮辱和不尊敬的詞句,不應該出現在公眾場合,電視節目和廣告應該要禁止使用這三個字。你同意嗎?
    郭冠英在他匿名所寫的文章中提到「台巴子」及「倭寇」,許多台灣人很生氣,但是多數台灣人卻認為「阿兜仔」沒有侮辱的意思,並無不妥。例如輔仁大學歷史系教授陳君愷在一封電子郵件中寫到:大多數的台灣人相信「阿兜仔」是幽默的詞語。但是如果大部分在台灣的西方人討厭這樣的形容,那麼台灣人就不應該在繼續使用這個詞語來形容西方人,特別是在公眾場合及電視媒體上。JACKY WU 吳宗憲先生,請問您看到這篇文章了嗎?


    無論是否同意我的看法,我非常有興趣了解你的看法與回應。(作者本名 ,為美籍資深新聞從業人員。翻譯者Shirley Tu)


  9. Hi Todd,

    thanks for your note.

    My long article in the Taipei Times appeared in the Liberty Times on July 8, in Chinese translation by Shirley Tu, a friend in Taipei (thanks, Shirley!)….. but the 1500 character letter to the editor for the Liberty Times had to be cut to 700 characters for space,…. they only allow a maximum of 800 characters, so much of the original article’s quotes from the two professors in Taiwan and the editor in New Jersey had to be cut, and I felt their comments were the main part of the story.

    There seems to be some confusion on Michael Turton’s part that I said that the word adoah is racist, as far I can tell, I never said that myself, I never use the word racism lightly, and I would never say that the word adoah is racist, I need to ask Michael where he read that I said or wrote that. All I was doing in that TT article and in today’s LT letter to the editor (which by the way has gotten over 100 spirited — and sometimes ANGRY comments on my blog from Taiwanese readers in Chinese, Taiwanese and English, go take a look, it’s very interesting, and I am glad to get all the feedback from Taiwanese readers, that was my goal in all this, to learn from them what adoah really means, and boy, I am being learned. They be learning me! It’s good.

    Jason Cox said he felt the word adoah was racist in one of his comments on my blog. He might be right, but i never saw it that way. I never ”hear” the word as racist, I don’t think the Taiwanese are racists. I just feel that the word adoah, while cute and charming and affectionate and intimate and warm and cuddly and embedded as it is in Taiwanese culture, is a bit, what is the word, bad-sounding, ill-sounding, to some foreigners’ ears, especially when said behind our backs or on TV or in the newspapers even. The word itself is NOT bad, and when used it usually has no ill intentions, I am quite sure, and now I am very sure — read the comments on my blog, see link, but the word ADOAH does have a history here, and it is not always used in a warm and cuddly way. But to the speakers of the word, the Taiwanese themselves, it is a funny and comic word to describe….us! My point in the TT article and now the LT letter was merely to say maybe the word when HEARD by SOME foreigners, NOT ALL, does not sound so good when HEARD since we know the meaning of the word. More and more Taiwnese are beginning to understand that the word ADOAH is not so PC anymore in 2009. In 1970, sure, the word made sense and was fittin. but now?

    of course, all this is a minor minor issue. Just interesting from a language POV. — TODAY OVER 100 comments landed in my blog’s comment box from Taiwanese readers of the Liberty Times, all in Chinese and ENglish, and one in Taiwnese, and most of them very good comments, both pro and con, from the people who understand the word ADOAH best of all. Go to my blog one day and read the comments sections for the first top blog posts….there are 100 in all.

    The letter really touched a nerve among Taiwanese readers of the Liberty Times, and good, I wanted to make contact with the people who know all this best of all, and now they are giving me a piece of their mind, and that’s cool. I am all ears….

    Dan, aka “Biko Lang”

  10. Todd,

    Michael corrected his blog now, he does not say i said the word is racist, he made a mistake, he told me. He says i am just looking into the word’s history and background. It’s like looking into Alice’s Looking Glass World!!!! I get as many informative answers and confusing answers and i have only one word for all this: delivered with a Borsch belt shrug of the shoulders: BUSASA! or L’CHAYIM!

    Whatever that means!

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