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Taiwan: Is “adogah” a racist term?

Adogah (阿兜仔) is a Hoklo Taiwanese word used to refer to foreigners in Taiwan. Dan Bloom had an article in the Taipei Times discussing the use of the word. He had the article translated into Chinese on his blog. Following the Chinese text there are details in English of a recent survey of Taiwanese people about their attitude to the use of adogah.

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  • Dan Bloom

    RE: THE MISSIONARY EXCUSE: above, and here:

    WHICH GOES AND WHICH SOME TAIWANESE PEOPLE BELIEVE TO BE TRUE: ”According to what I have heard and had verified by several Taiwanese,
    A-dok-a originally meant something like Christian or missionary (阿督仔,
    督 as in 基督教, Christianity) because most white faces around used to be
    missionaries. It is a homophone to “pointed nose” or however you
    prefer to translate it and has now taken on that meaning as there are
    fewer and fewer missionaries around.”

    I asked a friend to ask his wife, who is Taiwanese, what she thought of this rather strange explanation, and it is the second time i heard it, the first time from a top editor at a top newspaper in Taipei, and my friend, from the USA but living in Taiwan for over 30 years, said:

    “My wife says that explanation is nonsense.
    It sounds like someone trying to give a pleasant interpretation to adoah; and say it does not refer to our noses but to missionaries .”


    Sunday, January 3, 2010


    letter to Liberty Times by Biko Lang, Translated by Terry Huang

    ◎ Biko Lang
    自由廣場的讀者或許還記得筆者去年七月中旬發表有關西方人對「阿凸仔」這個稱呼的負面觀感。其實這篇文章的英文版早在去年五月份台北時報(Taipei Times)發表之後,TNS模範巿場研究公司(TNS Taiwan)就阿凸仔的問題舉辦了一次民調。從2009/5/22到2009/5/24三天期間,超過兩萬五千多位台灣人參與了是項民調。
    您是否使用「阿凸仔」來通稱西方人士? 45% 說(是),55% 說(不)。 當您發現有些在台西方人士認為「阿凸仔」帶有無禮的負面感覺時,您是否會停止使用? 93% 說(會停用),7% 說(繼續使用)。

    (作者本名 Biko Lang,為美籍資深新聞從業人員;翻譯者黃大河)

  • TEXT
    Results of ADOAH poll are inconclusive but interesting

    by Biko Lang and Terry Huang

    Readers of the Liberty Times public forum may remember I wrote for this page last year about the use of the term [ADOAH] for
    foreigners. After the article appeared, a poll was taken by a local
    >>>>> marketing firm in Taipei based on the article, and the results are, if
    >>>>> not conclusive, nevertheless very interesting.
    >>>>> The online poll was conducted by “TNS Taiwan”, a Taipei marketing
    >>>>> firm, from May 22 to May 24, 2009 with about 25,000 Taiwanese people
    >>>>> participating, and with several
    >>>>> questions being asked.
    >>>>> When those polled were asked “Do you use the term ‘adoah’ to refer to
    >>>>> Caucasians?” the results were as follows: 45% said
    >>>>> they do use the
    >>>>> term while 55% said they do not use the term.
    >>>>> When people were asked “If you learned that this term of adoah was
    >>>>> considered
    >>>>> offensive by some Westerners living in Taiwan, would you
    >>>>> stop using it?” the results were as follows:
    >>>>> 93% said they would no
    >>>>> longer use the word “adoah” while 7% said they would continue to use
    >>>>> it.
    >>>>> In the poll, the total sample
    >>>>> size was 25,276 respondents, distributed in terms of age and gender
    >>>>> proportionately to the general population, with ages ranging from 13
    >>>>> to 64, according to the polling firm.
    What is your opinion now?

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