Taiwan Up, Now There is an Embarassing Expression

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Monday January 04, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Even though Dubai now claims the world's tallest operative building, Taipei 101 (having held that boast for 5 years) still stands proud and tall over the city of Taipei. Proud and tall, that is, except for one item, the unfortunate glowing lights spelling out "Taiwan Up" on its façade. Taiwan Up, who came up with that embarrassing inept slogan?

All sorts of connotations come to mind. Reverse it and you have the insulting "Up Taiwan" or the sexual connotation in, "Can't you get it up." Then there is someone talking to their dog, "Up boy, up!" or Superman saying "Up, up and away." All are part of the language, but "Taiwan Up" is not.

It's not that people don't understand what the Chinglish expression means. Certainly people understand it just as they do when someone here says, "I very like that show." Or "he is a happiness man" etc. etc. But it is taking Chinese grammar rules and applying them to English, and for a city that is trying to claim respectability for being an international city, it just doesn't fly, or shall we say "get it up."

Not only is the phrase inept, but worse yet, Taipei Mayor Hau, and President Ma Ying-jeou were caught on camera proudly marching along chanting, "Taiwan Up. Taiwan Up." Now there is one for Ma's PR and image making team to handle, an inept president and an inept mayor delighting in using an inept phrase. Does that tell you something about the fashioned image of the Harvard educated Ma who is always touted as being a lawyer except for the fact that he never passed the bar exam anywhere? Keep that image up boys. It may be the only thing you have going for you.

In typical fashion, some of the city fathers tried to pass the buck and say that they ran the slogan by their consultants Ogilvy & Mather and they approved it. If true, I would do two things, first cancel the contract with Ogilvy et al; you don't need to pay big bucks to a company if that is all they can come up with. And second I would sack the person who hired them. If not true, and if I were Ogilvy, I would set about denying it as quickly as possible. This is not something a company wanting to claim international savvy wants floating around. And it is not something you can try to stonewall with a brave front.

Well, time's up! King Pu-tsung put this high up on your list of things to do, that is, after you get through explaining and/or putting a glowing image on how Ma botched his promise of an up economy, Typhoon Morokat, the US beef imports, and the opaque yet allegedly transparent ECFA. After hitting bottom with such ineptness, the only way you can go is up.