Wa sai!: Penang Police Practice Profanities

Ah, the joys of living in a multilingual country. Malaysian police in Penang (who are mostly ethnically Malay) are being trained in Hokkien swear words so they can recognise when the local Hokkien-lang are being less than courteous.

Story from MySinchew.com.

Reminds me of something I read about the arrival of Republic of China officials in the period immediately post-World War II. Various events had made the new arrivals unwelcome (carpet-bagging to feed the civil war in China and for personal gain, the February 28th massacre) and the longer-term residents were not shy about expressing their displeasure.

The standard term of abuse for the new arrivals (who generally could not understand Taiwanese) was ti-á (pig). However, the slandered Chinese soon caught on, forcing the locals to come up with new insults – eventually settling on kam-á (tangerine). Why? Because feast-day roast pigs in Taiwan had tangerines placed in their mouths.

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