What vulnerable a little country we are. Water, have to buy from other country (that, or we drink our own pee). Electricity, powered by gas from another country. Eggs, laid by chickens from another country. Not enough local chicken talent.
No wonder some people call us the pi-sai (also known as booger, dry snot, dried nasal mucus) of South-East Asia.
Ah yes, that pi-sai remark. Foreign Affairs is a very delicate and subtle thing, with its own diplomatic language and jargon. You don’t say that two countries are pissed off at each other; you say that relations are strained.
Until today, the word pi-sai has never entered the lexicon of international diplomacy, and for that, we have to thank Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Mark Chen.
And thanks to him, the international community now knows what the Hokkien word for “testicles” is. I expect it to be used more often in diplomatic circles, from the east to the west. Maybe George Lucas will use it as a planet’s name in his next Star Wars movie. He already named one Star Wars planet, Naboo.
Many Singaporeans, who appreciate a good Hokkien expletive when they hear one, were naturally curious about what this Foreign Minister said, since the local papers only reported that he used a local expletive, being the polite and discreet society that we are.
I would like to share that word with you (and trust me, it was great fun reading international newspapers and reading their interpretations of it), but this is a family site and it will also affect the Speak Good English campaign (since we all know that the use of dialects and Singlish in TV shows and movies is the single biggest factor in the propagation of civil unrest, which is why it is banned from our media). So I will not be sharing that word with you, lest society falls apart.
However, since we are on the topic of English, did you know that “an ornately patterned cloth resembling damask, usually made of silk, and is used for upholstery”, is known “lampas”?
“Lampas” also refers to an inflammation and swelling of the soft parts of the roof of the mouth immediately behind the fore teeth in the horse. Also known as “lampers”
Well, now you know.
Example: “Taiwan’s Foreign Minister accused Singapore of licking China’s lampas, which made the ornately patterned cloth wet and unfit for upholstery.
I have to say I am proud of the dignified response that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave to this minister’s harsh words. I am sure it took a lot of restraint not to respond in kind. Especially for our well-trained-in-Hokkien-expletives NSMen in their ranks. If I were in their shoes, I would be saying a lot more than “resorting to intemperate language cannot assuage these concerns”.
If I were in their shoes, the response would probably not be in English.
Even Taiwan’s own politicians were appalled at his use of “improper wording”. "It is improper to term another country as a ‘booger’,” said Chen Chien-ming, a parliamentarian from the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Yeah, you tell him, Chien-ming. I think it is also important to remember that we may be a booger in size, but when you roll a few boogers together, you get a big ball that can be formidable too.
By now, you can tell my glee at the opportunity to dwell on topics that are not discussed in polite society. Hey, it is not every day that boogers and testicles are in the news, and I may not get another chance.
I am sure the next question on everybody’s mind is now, if China has testicles, how big would those be? And another question that military historians will be exploring is: is Taiwan building up an arsenal of bad language to be used as potential defenses?
Before anyone accuses me of making light of a serious international issue, I would like to emphasize that I am not even pretending to have a view on the complex situation between all the nations involved. All I know is, my mother would have whooped me if I used swear words in daily speech (and mom called it “dirty words”, not “improper wording”).
And I would like to add that I call Taiwan “friend” too. I love your Taiwanese sausages at our night markets, I love Ah Mei’s music, and I have always been a fan of Chin Han and Lin Ching-Hsia romance movies. But dammit, that Chin Han has to retire lah (what is he, now? 90 years old?)
I mean, who am I to comment on international politics. I am only a regular guy, living in a four-room HDB flat, looking forward to my cheaper eggs, on a pi-sai of an island.