With the expressions hen Tai (很台, "you are very Tai [Taiwanese]") and Taike (台客, "Taiwaners") becoming more widespread, language activists yesterday 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 (
Born and raised 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.' Taiwan isn't part of China, so 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 a Taike and that the term had taken deeper roots over time.
Actors and actresses speaking "Taiwanese Mandarin" usually land parts such as idiots, hillbillies or domestic maids, Chang said, while those speaking "Beijing 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 (楊文嘉), 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 democracy.
Taiwan Association of University Professors president Tai Pao-tsun (
Such a suppressive language policy, Tai said, had created the stereotypes that people in the south of the country speak Hoklo (more commonly known as Taiwanese) while those in the north speak Mandarin; that those wanting to curse use Hoklo, but those wishing to offer compliments use Mandarin; and those chewing betel nut speak Hoklo, while those who wear a suit and tie speak Mandarin.
Although "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 adopting such Chinese terms and refrain from calling China the "mainland."
Tai said that his group was not trying to incite cultural or linguistic conflict, but instead trying to inculcate self-respect and dignity.
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