Sunday, August 24, 2008

Racist Taiwanese?

I had heard about this phenomenon. I have to say, though, it was one of those things that I had to hear for myself to believe.

On Saturday, Chris and I were strolling through the streets of Taipei when we decided to stop in a restaurant and try out some of our newly learned Chinese vocabulary. We were getting our order across with more help from gestures and pointing to the menu than our language when it happened. The lady at the counter seemed very nice but she looked right at us and said, “Niggah…所有網頁 … niggah…所有網頁 ” (for those of you trying to figure out the Chinese characters, they are totally random, not actually what she said.) At first, we were taken aback and a little offended. Being caucasian ourselves, we thought that maybe she was confused about a new English insult she learned from HBO. As the ordering continued, so did the racial slurs. “Niggah… what would you like to drink?” “Is that for here… niggah… or to go?” We ate our meal in a fog of bewilderment determined to get to the bottom of this blatant (though misused) racism.

We asked our friends who have spent some time here as well as some native Chinese speakers what the root issue was causing such bigotry. However, as it turns out, this word is actually a voice stall in Chinese. They use it the same way that we would use “um” or “like” or “well” in English. That’s their story, anyway. Next time if they tell me that “cracker” is the word for “hello”… I am going to be a little suspicious.


michelle said...

That is hilarious! I just hope you guys don't pick up that bad habit before you come home ;)

Abbey said...

Wierd! That WOULD be so shocking to hear! But I too feel suspicious... Doesn't it seem like unnecessary work to have a double syllable word for a "pause"? Seems like one syllable too many if you ask me... You were asking me, right? ;)
Love you guys. Matt and I were having the Simpson Sunday withdrawals last night!
Oh~ and thx again for leaving your movies here! I had forgotten about them under the bed for awhile, but we just cancelled our blockbuster thing, so I was excited to remember having a movie rental store at my fingertips! We may even have to bust out the Carmen Electra work out DVD! :)

KSA said...

Hi, I happened upon you blog the just now and got a huge laughe out of this story. I know just what you mean... I have studied chinese in the past and still find myself using this stalling form back home in canada. turst me, in time you will forget it has any bad conitations in your home culture and use it often.
I can't even get in a taxi and give the driver directions with out stalling three or four times and saying I am going to the nigga, nigga, shu dian zi nigga nigga lu.

I wish you the best in language learning... from one student to another, Just keep at it and doen't be afriad to lose face now and than. Learning takes making mistakes.

Tori said...

Hahahhaha :) I love hearing all this. I remember my first "niggah" experience.... I didn't get cracker though so watch out! haha you're hilarous

ginger said...

That is awesome. I love all the Engrish pictures on the blog. So fun seeing what you're up to!