Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Judge Judges English

"Don't think that Taiwanese judges don't understand English" crows this Libery Times article about an American woman in Hualien who was fined NT$6,000 for telling her former coworker to fuck off in front of Tzu Chi Hospital.

She was fined for publicly insulting the woman in small claims court. This follows a similar conviction a year or so ago in Taoyuan where a Taiwanese woman was fine for saying 'shit' to another Taiwanese woman.

But the great part of this story is that in their decision, the panel of judges rejected the American woman's defense that she had in fact said 'Forget you' on the grounds that the correct English usage is 'Forget it!'

The accompanying story explains that the defendant had had the misfortune of running into Judge Zheng Guang-ting who "studies English assiduously with a private foreign tutor and plans to do graduate work in the US." Zheng, whose English was "excellent" in school, had her doubts about the usage and asked her undoubtedly illegal private tutor whether the usage 'Forget you' was correct. Her tutor confirmed that 'forget you' is not a valid English construction.

The broad-minded judge, however, concedes that someone somewhere in the English-speaking world might use the phrase 'forget it', but ultimately rejected the defense on the grounds that the pronunciation of 'fuck' and 'forget' are too far apart.

So don't think you can fool a Taiwanese judge about English.

A related piece on the same page in the print edition tells the story of how the owner of a gold shop in Chiayi County managed to use the same defense successfully when she was charged with cussing out another woman with 'gan li niang' [Yo Mamma in Taiwanese]. Her defense, corroborated by a witness, was that she had actually said 'ga li niang'--a less offensive phrase. But she was also able to argue that she didn't use the phrase 'gan li niang' because it is 'inappropriate' for a woman to say to another woman and because it was ungrammatical in context.

So the moral of these two stories is that if you must tell someone to fuck off in Taiwan, you'd probably better doing it in Taiwanese.

No comments: