Dear MeiGui: Don't call me a "Big-nose"!
Originally published in The China Post, 3/22/09
My Taiwan boyfriend make a big mistake last night. He absentmindedly called me an "ato-ah" in the Taiwanese language while at my place. I mean, here he is in my own home calling me a “big nose”! I do not call him unkind names like "slant eyes"; not even when we argue. I always call him Tony, his English name, and yet here he is calling me an "ato-ah". Of course, we both laughed at his remark later, but really, why do Taiwanese people still refer to us big-noses as “big noses”?
Is this a holdover from Japanese colonial
I told Tony if he ever calls me that word
again, I will tell all my girlfriends how small his “nose” really is! Kidding of course, but you but you catch my
--Nose-Job Not Required, Planet Earth
You have raised some very interesting issues here, as well as sending me on quite the research expedition.
first discovery came from my Taiwanese-Mandarin dictionary. It defines “atoh-ah” as “Western Ghost” (洋鬼子) – similar to the offensive and deprecating
Next, I visited a Taiwanese linguistics expert who told me that the correct translation of this word was “protruding-nose one” or “a-tu-zi” (阿凸仔) in Mandarin. She further informed me that there are other experts who link this term to the Mandarin character for “sharp” – “jian” (尖). I also stumbled across a Taiwanese-to-English interpretation of the term as “hook-nosed one”. At any rate, as with all things related to the Taiwanese language – and culture for that matter -- there is no simple answer to this question.
I think “big-nose” is too simple a translation of the term. Here’s hoping your boyfriend really does have a big one!
-- “Children are all foreigners.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet
I do business with a local man that the girls in my office call the Color Wolf. This guy always insists on holding our meetings in a “jiu dian” (酒店).
I tell you these places are bloody expensive. Last weekend, when we got together to discuss a deal, he order four bar girls to our table as soon as we walked into the place. These girls then ordered a never ending flow of beer and XO.
Next thing I know, this guy tells me he has to split, saying he had a “pressing” engagement with one of the girls. So I get stuck with the 50,000-plus NT dollar tab.
What the heck should I do?
-- Busted in SanChong
Does the word “sucker” mean anything to you?
-- “I don’t get high, but sometimes I wish I did. That way, when I messed up in life I would have an excuse. But right now there’s no rehab for stupidity.” Chris Rock, American comedian