August 29, 2006

Names of Chinese Dog Breeds

Among popular dog breeds, the Shar-pei, Shih-tzu, Pug, Pekingese, and Chow Chow all come from China. I collected some information about the names of theses breeds in English and Chinese, mostly from Wikipedia, and added a few of my own guesses.

The name of the Shar-pei comes from shapi (沙皮), meaning “sand skin” in Chinese, which describes the roughness of the skin. Of all the Chinese breeds, this seems to be the only case where the English name of the breed comes from the Chinese and the Chinese name remains unchanged.

The spelling of the Shih-tzu (or Shi-tzu) is strange enough to scare off anyone from trying to pronounce it. I prefer to pronounce it “sheet-su, ” but many people prefer the inelegant-sounding “shit-su” The proper pronunciation for it would be shizi, which is Chinese for lion (獅子). However, perhaps because the English pronunciation bares so little resemblance to the Chinese word, even the Chinese don’t call the Shih-tzu a shizi, but instead call it the Xi Shi dog (西施犬), whose pronunciation is closer to the English “sheet-su.” (Xi Shi is a famously beautiful woman from Chinese history.)

Or perhaps Chinese do not call the Shih-tzu a “shizi” because “shizi” is also used to refer to the Pekingese (獅子狗). However, in Taiwan, the Pekingese is most commonly called a Beijing dog (北京狗). It seems most likely that the Chinese name came after the English name.

The origins of the names of the Pug is more clear. According to Wikipedia, “the word ‘Pug’ may have derived from the Latin Pugnus (fist); the Pug's face can look like a clenched fist.” The original Chinese name for them is supposedly "Lo Chiang Sze," but I don’t know what that would be in Chinese. In any case, the name currently used in Chinese for Pugs is just a transliteration of “Pug,” ba-ge (巴哥).

Chow Chow surely sounds like Chinese, but as far as I could tell searching online, the name does not come from Chinese. It supposedly comes from “chow,” slang for a ship’s cargo. Its Chinese name (鬆獅犬 puffy lion dog) has no relation to its English name.

(Bonus: The Lhasa Apso is from Tibet. Lhasa is the capital of Tibet, and “apso” comes from the Tibetan name for the dog, Abso Seng Kye. Apso apparently means “bark.”)

August 18, 2006

Sausage on a bone

I recently noticed that Domino's Pizza in Taiwan is selling sausages with chicken bones stuck up them. My first thought was that someone at Domino's must have had a bright idea. Maybe they already tried sticking chicken bones in dinner rolls and pizzas and potatoes and then finally decided that they worked best stuck in sausages. But after checking around, I found that there are a number of restaurants in Taiwan that offer "sausage with bone." Domino's calls their product German sausages skewered on a bone, but I don't think the Germans are the ones to blame. This apparently was invented by the Japanese.
Domino's web page calls this delicacy "sausage with bone." However,
that description fails to communicate the fact that the chicken bone has
been inserted into the sausage. This is the opposite of the de-boning
process, so it should logically be called the boning process, but in the
culinary sense, boning is the same things as deboning so we can't call
it "boned sausage." I think "sausage on a chicken bone" gets the point

Above is Japanese Pizza Hut's version of sausage on a bone. The bones
are manicured so neatly that you might even forget that they are bones!
The sausages on the bone above appear to be dancing on the plate.
Poetry and sausage in motion.
You may suspect that the sausages aren't really as beautiful as the pictures
present them. Well, see above for a thorough vindication of Domino's truth in
advertising. This picture was taken from this page, where you will not find more
pictures, and not a single negative comment about them. I think the Taiwanese
are more culturally prepared for this food than westerners due to eating pizzas
with unshelled shrimp on them.

By the way, have you noticed how utterly lacking in bones your average
hamburger patty is?

Local Foreign Celebrities II – The Survey

In the previous post, I tried to guess who the most famous foreigner in Taiwan is. For my definition of "famous," I was using a combination of notoriety and importance. If it was merely a question of who is most well known, I have no doubt that the answer would be Margarita, a Russian model and entertainer. In the comments of the last post, Michael Turton suggested that Richard Hartzell should be the winner. Michael is the Taiwan expert on things that are important, so he is clearly emphasizing importance over superficial notoriety. However, superficial notoriety is easier to measure, and it’s also what I happen to know best, so I took a pole of my coworkers to measure just that.

I wrote down the Chinese names of eight foreigners, mostly in the entertainment and news industry. To make things interesting, I first predicted the results:

Here are the predictions, from most well known to least well known:

Name (Nationality. Field)
1. Margarita (Russian. Entertainment)
2. Aisha (Japanese. Entertainment)
3. Jeff Locker (American. English, News)
4. Mai (Japanese. Entertainment)
5. Father Josef Eugster (Swiss, Health)
6. Jeffrey Mindich (American. News)
7. Richard Hartzell (American. News, Opinion)
8. Dan Bloom (American. News, Opinion)

And the results, from a poll of seven people:

1. Margarita (Russian. Entertainment) (7/7)
1. Aisha (Japanese. Entertainment (7/7)
1. Mai (Japanese. Entertainment) (7/7)
4. Jeff Locker (American. English, News) (6/7)
5. Father Josef Eugster (Swiss, Health) (2/7)
6. Jeffrey Mindich (American. News) (1/7)
8. Richard Hartzell (American. News, Opinion) (0/7)
8. Dan Bloom (American. News, Opinion) (0/7)

They all knew Margarita, Aisha, and Mai, while none had heard of Richard Hartzell or Dan Bloom. The results aren't surprising when you consider that the people surveyed are all under 30 years old, and most young people only read the entertainment and sports sections of the newspaper, if anything. In hindsight, the accuracy of the predictions would have been more convincing if the predictions were written in a separate, earlier post.

The survey results show that if you want to be a famous foreigner in Taiwan, it helps to be an American male fluent in Chinese, but it's even more helpful to be an attractive female of any nationality who is not overly concerned about her dignity.

Edit: Another person I could have included in the survey is Christopher Downs (夏克立). I think at least a couple of people would have known who he is.

August 11, 2006

Local foreign celebrities

I recently saw someone with a book about living in Taiwan written in Chinese by a foreigner. The book's English title was "Foreigners and Smelly Tofu," and was written by Richard Hartzell. It was the third book in a series of at least eight books. It looked as if the books were composed of articles written for newspapers or magazines. I read a few of the articles in the book, including one where Hartzell met the Taiwanese writer Sanmao. The articles were polished and generally interesting and Hartzell seems like a very likable person, but they were obviously intended for a Chinese audience, so I don't think they are quite as interesting for a non-Chinese audience. The books appear to be out of print now. If he has the rights to his articles, it would be an interesting experiment to slowly release the articles on a blog. There might even be some money in it.

I had heard of Hartzell from forumosa.com, where I might have even got advice from him, and I had read a couple things he had written, but my friend who was reading the book had never heard of him, nor have I ever heard any other Taiwanese mention his name. It's strange that after having a newspaper column for years, he's not at least a minor celebrity. There's not a lot of competition for the foreigner celebrity.

So who is the most famous foreigner in Taiwan? I used to think that, if we don't count ethnically Chinese foreigners (because no one considers them foreigners), then entertainer Makiyo is the most famous foreigner. But it turns out she is only half Japanese, so she does not really qualify as a foreigner. So, my vote goes to Father Josef Eugster, a Catholic priest from Switzerland. People of all ages have seen him on TV talking about foot massage. The Taipei Times writes of him, "He may not have touched the hearts of millions of Taiwanese, but he's easily Taiwan's most famous and influencial [sic] foreign priest for having touched people's feet." He even has a page in the Chinese version of Wikipedia under his Chinese name, 吳若石.

August 08, 2006

Sea of Scooters

I got this in a forwarded email recently. I actually translated this about two months ago, but haven't had a computer until now. Searching for the text on the internet, it apparently came from the China Times on 2005-11-04. See original Chinese text here or here.

"Wow! That's astonishing. So many scooters." Driving past Providence University, people are astounded to see the parking lot near the school's entrance. A dark mass of almost 4,000 scooters. School officials say that it is the largest parking lot of any college or technical institute. Even overseas universities are awed by the sight.

With such a large parking lot, not just finding a space, but even finding where you parked is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Guo Yuanhao, a student of the businessment managment department, says that he often sees students walking around the parking lot because they have forgotten where they parked. Wu Kexuan, student of the information management department, says that the parking lot makes you realize the importance of friends, because when you can't find your scooter, you can get a group of friends to help you search.

When Providence University President Yu Minde was invited to speak overseas, he suddenly thought of introducing the school's parking lot. As expected, it astounded the foreign students and left a deep impression. In foreign countries, you rarely see so many scooters parked in one place.

With almost 4,000 scooters parked together, security is a concern. If a thief comes to steal a scooter, people can't be sure whether he is a thief or a scooter owner. For safety, the school has installed a system of security cameras surrounding the parking lot. Police also especially strengthen their patrolling in the area to avoid giving thieves an opportunity.