Doctor! Quick, give me some Number Four!

An enterprising NTU medical student has decided that his medical Taiwanese was so lacking that he has put together a book to help himself and others like him talk to patients in the language.

A Formosa Television piece on Chu Chú-hông highlights the difference between medical vocabulary in Mandarin and Taiwanese:


The examples given include “oxygen”, which many Taiwanese know as sng-sò͘ (which is a loan word from Japanese) rather than ióng-khì, which is a direct transliteration of the Mandarin yǎng-qì (氧氣). The article also mentions “heroin”, which in Mandarin is a sound-loan from English (hǎiluòyīn), and states that the Taiwanese is sì-hō-á, literally Number Four Stuff. However, my dictionary has sì-hō-á as “amphetamine”, not “heroin” (which it gives as either hái-lo̍k-eng or hái-lo̍k-in, loaned from English, as the Mandarin is). I’ve no idea who is correct, but I’m inclined to trust the dictionary first.

The article also mentions Chu’s handbook as “the first in Taiwan”, whereas in fact medical manuals in Taiwanese romanization can be found dating back to the Japanese era.

One Response to “Doctor! Quick, give me some Number Four!”

  1. chuanru says:

    Interesting infomation!
    Not until I read this article, haven’t I had any idea of “sì-hō-á”. But I have found someting from the 榮總 web site, it says some people call morphine and heroin as “sì-hō-á”, but there’re also some people use it as the “nickname” of some pure heroin and amphetamine powder. you can see it here:

    Oh, but I agreed that the medical Taiwanese is quite useful and important for those doctors and nurses…in order not to make mistakes.

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