Here, placing the larger clan, the society, before yourself, the individual, is key.
Date: 1 November 2018
By: Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
Yun-Tzai Lee and Joanne Chen are one of those sickening couples that finish each other’s sentences, lace their fingers together and just won’t stop oozing adorable. But the three little words ‘I love you’ don’t come as easily to Lee as they do to his fiancée Chen. His face turns beetroot-red at the thought of uttering the phase, and causes him to feel ‘buhaoyisi’(pronounced ‘boo-how-eee-suh’) – one of the many ways to feel mortified or to be sorry in Taiwan.
“Most people here will feel this way,” Lee said.
Welcome to the linguistic minefield of apologising in Taiwan, where simply saying ‘buhaoyisi’ can open a Pandora’s Box of profuse politeness. The word is made up of four characters that literally translate to ‘bad meaning’ or ‘bad feeling’, and serves as a tidy catch-all that can be deployed in all kinds of situations, from meekly catching a waiter’s attention to expressing a guilt-ridden apology to your boss to the paralysing feeling that washes over you as you struggle to confess your love.
Buhaoyisi is forever on the lips of Taiwanese, according to Prof Chia-ju Chang, Chinese professor at Brooklyn College City University of New York. “We use it all the time as Taiwan is a verbally polite culture. So, we use it when we interrupt people or asking of a favour. We can even use it to start a conversation.” [FULL STORY]