Most people in Taiwan seem resigned to the fact that the old Taiwanese phrase loo-lat (勞力), which means “thank you,” is fading from everyday use, but US writer and long-time Taiwan resident Dan Bloom is doing everything he can to revive it.
Bloom, born in Boston and a graduate of Tufts University, has lived in Taiwan for more than 15 years, but only heard the term for the first time at Chiayi Railway Station two months ago when it was spoken by an elderly man.
Determined to find out what it meant, Bloom asked students of all ages, but he could not get an answer.
It wasn’t until he ran into Tien An-feng (田安豐), a practicing physician of traditional medicine in the city, that the mystery was solved.
Tien told Bloom that loo-lat means “to be appreciative” and is one of many old Taiwanese terms no longer in common usage in Taiwan except by a few senior citizens.
Members of the younger generations mostly use the Mandarin xiexie (謝謝) or the Taiwanese to-sia (多謝) to express their thanks instead of loo-lat, Tien told Bloom.
However, believing it to be a beautiful and meaningful term, Bloom decided to do whatever he could to revive it.
In addition to printing loo-lat on his name cards, Bloom rewrote Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star into The Song of ‘Loo-lat’ and then recorded it and posted it on the Internet to encourage students to use it every day when extending their gratitude to others.
He even launched a “10,000-people loo-lat” drive by recording people speaking the phrase in his bid to keep it alive.
Bloom said it would be great if local entertainers such as Peng Chia-chia (澎恰恰), Wu Bai (伍佰), Jacky Wu (吳宗憲), Chu Ko-liang (豬哥亮), Chang Fei (張菲) and Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰) could join his efforts to help pass the meaningful term down from generation to generation.
Bloom has published several Chinese-language books based on his experiences here, including In This Way I Fell in Love with Taiwan and Dan Bloom Loves Taiwan’s Night Markets.
He has also published the children’s books My Guardian Angels and In the Eyes of a Child, It’s Never too Late to Begin Again.
In 2003, Bloom published an English-language children’s book, Hello, Book Man. Reading is Fun, in both Taiwan and Hong Kong, with accompanying CDs to help children study English.