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I heard my Taiwanese friends use the Mandarin phrase 不错用 more than once, but didn't have a chance to ask them:

  • Is it widely used in Taiwan, or is it used by a certain circle/type of person?
  • What's the origin of the phrase, is it from a famous person or TV commercial?
  • Are there any other phrases in the same pattern? E.g. do people say '不行去'?
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What is the context when this phrase was spoken? Are you sure it is 不错用 or something that sounds like it, but in Taiwanese? –  Question Overflow Sep 28 '13 at 2:23
    
Are you sure it's not 不错哟. –  Stan Sep 28 '13 at 3:22
    
@QuestionOverflow I am sure it's 不错用 and it means 用起来不错. I am not sure how popular it is and who uses it. Searching google.com.tw and you'll see many hits. google.com.tw/#q=%E4%B8%8D%E9%94%99%E7%94%A8 –  NS.X. Sep 28 '13 at 3:49
    
@Stan Check out my comment above. –  NS.X. Sep 28 '13 at 3:50
    
Suspect that it's from the Southern Min dialect... 不行去 in my hometown dialect (Eastern Min dialect, which is not mutually intelligible with Southern Min dialect but shares a lot of common features) means `cannot go at the moment (because I'm occupied with other matters)'. In any case, this should not be considered as standard Mandarin however widely it is used in a region –  user58955 Sep 28 '13 at 7:09
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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Here are some more examples of this style of adjective:

好吃 = 不错吃

好玩 = 不错玩

好用 = 不错用

好喝 = 不错喝

These terms are extremely common in Taiwanese Mandarin, however their origins are unclear. I suspect it's due to a mix of Taiwanese terms and errors in translation.

Let's take one example, the 不錯吃 phrase. At first glance it seems to be an incorrect use of Mandarin grammar; if you want to use those characters correctly you'd get 吃起來不錯. Otherwise what you'd normally use would be 好吃.

However, there are a few sources that say that the origin of the phrase may have come from the Taiwanese (Min, not Mandarin) phrase 未歹食 or 袂歹食. 歹 means "bad" so if you negate it using 未 or 袂 it becomes "not bad". A naive calque may yield the phrase "不難吃", but that doesn't mean the same thing - it means "this doesn't taste bad", which is not the same as "this tastes good". When you negate adjectives, sometimes they become the opposite, but sometimes they become neutral, and it varies from phrase to phrase.

In order to overcome this inconsistency, people may have used 不錯 instead, which does mean "good". In other words, the transition is:

未歹食 -> 不難吃 -> 不錯吃

So you end up with this phrase which seems like bad grammar from a Mandarin perspective, and bad calquing from a Taiwanese perspective. But it's also very commonly used and is here to stay, so just deal with it! :)

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+1 for the interesting source pointing out it may come from Min. –  Stan Sep 30 '13 at 8:04
5  
Great answer. It's not "transliteration" though; it's calquing--i.e., morpheme-by-morpheme translation--from Min to Mandarin. Transliteration would be trying to use characters to imitate the sound of the original Min. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Sep 30 '13 at 16:49
    
Interesting! My Taiwanese friend suggests that he only use 不错用, but 不错吃, 不错喝 and 不错玩 are weird. –  congliu Oct 2 '13 at 16:27
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