Thursday, September 09, 2010

Fucken Be Careful

Many foreigners still can't quite grasp that using the f-word, even as a modifier, may result in lawsuits for "public insult" (and yes, you can be sued for public insult in Taiwan). Another case was noted in the Taipei Times this week:
The community director, surnamed Wu (吳), turned up with a locksmith, surnamed Lu (盧), to replace a broken lock on the lobby door. When an Australian resident asked them what they were up to Wu, whose English is limited, said: “Nothing.”

The Australian reportedly shouted back: “Don’t fucken lie to me. I’ll get the police.”

Wu felt the Australian had slandered him by using an expletive.

When questioned, the Australian admitted to saying “fucken,” explaining that he had been suspicious of the pair and had used the word as a linguistic device to make his point more forcibly.

He said he was suspicious when Wu said they were doing “nothing,” because they were clearly doing something to the lock on the door. However, the Australian denied the word was meant as an insult.

When prosecutors checked an English-Chinese dictionary for “fucken,” they discovered that there was no Chinese translation.

While the word sounded like “fuck,” the Australian only admitted to saying “fucken.” Although it could be considered foul language, prosecutors felt there was insufficient reason to consider its use slander or defamation, so the charges were dropped.
It's nice to have a laugh at the mental image of the police diligently searching a dictionary, especially when you realize that Google will return the correct meaning right away:
Alternative form of fucking; Alternative spelling of fucking. Most common in Australian slang
...with bonus reference to the Aussie usage. Luckily for our hero from Oz, the Court didn't have an English adviser. Most likely the prosecutor was looking for a reason to drop the incredibly stupid case.

The moral of the story is, as always, don't use the F word. It's a public insult and in a class full of students, is considered a form of sexual harassment. So don't go there. People can and will sue.

The other lesson is: be less paranoid. 99% of the time, your local neighbors aren't up to something nefarious; usually they lack either the English or the patience to discuss it with you.
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Sage said...

Often while visiting an appliance stores here, the ones that sell hundreds of TV's of every imaginable size, I've chuckled at the mobs of people watching an "R" rated DVD movie where fuck and lot's of other choice words are being yelled by a character in the movie.

Often you can hear it from anywhere in the store.

No change in the facial expressions of the people in the crowd ... just deer in the headlights.

Can you imagine walking into a department store in the U.S. and hearing that language blaring out of the TV's while tons of parents w/ kids are viewing the sets? Ha!

Talk about lawsuits.

Marc said...

...or how about all the rap music blaring out of shops all over the island, in Ximending, Gongguan, and any place that's trying to attract a young crowd. Often these lyrics are so violent or pornographic, but of course no one apparently understands them.

Actually, 'fuck' is a perfectly good Saxonate word, which became demonized in the centuries of language-culture wars between English speakers.

Another thing I note is how little Anglo-Saxon language Taiwanese actually use. Years of schooling memorizing mostly Latinates has created little awareness of English as She is Really Spoke.

Anonymous said...

I think it is interesting that a foreign word, that formerly had no contextual meaning, has become interpreted as "vulgar" and "insulting" and may not have the same meaning or weight in English.

Does this mean that "fuck" has been adopted by Taiwanese and incorporated into the language?

What about other swear words in other languages? There are countless combinations of sounds that humans have put together to for meanings and often the same utterance can produce widely differing meanings across the linguistic spectrum. A benign word in A can be a terrible insult in B.

This is why I am so interested in why Taiwan's judiciary is so concerned about insults in foreign languages. These words obviously do not have the weight without the meaning society puts on the word.

green sleeeves said...

Before the 2008 presidential election, a then government official who worked in Ministry of Education used a Taiwanese slang indicating that Ma's father was not appropriate, referring to the fact the he died in the bed of his Goddaughter, a married woman.

The media attacked that government official, accusing him of sexual discrimination, using vulgar language etc.

Yet when KMT female legislators publicly requested Ma Ying Jeou to "harden up", they (including KMT legislator and the media) didn't have a qualm.

It's NOT a matter of foreign language, it's a matter of double standard.

I myself cursed "are you fucking kidding me" when things are obviously unreasonable. To soften the blow, I abbreviated it as AYFYM and use it quite often.

It's therapeutic, esp when I am dealing with the crazy Chinese coworker who is downright evil.

Taiwan Echo said...

Law professor sued 108 (YES, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT) netters for negative comments:

論廢死遭圍剿 法學博士告108網友

Anonymous said...

So you mean when Im drunk at a KTV and shout YOU SKANKY FUKEN HO GRAB ME ANOTHER TAI PI NOW! I'm at risk of getting sued?

This blog is invaluable. You probably just saved me 20,000 NT.

Anonymous said...

What's hilarious is people have such filthy mouths in Mandarin and Taiwanese and nothing ever happens with that.

Anonymous said...

I was in an "American" Restaurant at Banqiao Railway Station recently. The song being played over and over on a loop was Lily Allen's "Fuck You (Very Much)".

Hearing it for the umpteenth time I began to get annoyed. I agree with the sentiments, if not the manner of their expression. When I told the manager (in Chinese) that I didn't think it an appropriate song to play to customers eating in his premises I was met with blank stares. None of the other diners noticed that they were being subjected to constant foul language with their burger.

Check out the lyics here:

Maybe I should have sued?

Michael Turton said...

Actually, people do sue over the equivalent in Taiwanese. It doesnt often make the papers, though. But i know of cases.

Jonathan Benda said...

I mentioned a similar story about five years ago where a British businessman was sued for using the "F-ing" word, but managed to avoid conviction because the judge determined the word was not directed at a person. On the other hand, a guard at an apartment building was fined for using the Taiwanese equivalent.