You’re so Motorbike – Taiwanese Slang

If you have any familiarity with Taiwanese culture or television programming then there’s a phrase that you have undoubtedly heard people say that translates directly as “you’re so motorbike” or “you’re such a motorbike”. Being that Chinese Hacks is based in Taiwan it’s a crime that we haven’t looked at this word yet, so I’m here to rectify the situation. Though, be warned that is some language that might be considered crude within, so only continue if you aren’t very easily offended.

You're so motorbik

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Given the sheer amount of scooters and motorbikes in Taiwan, the use of this phrase seems quite apt, though make no mistake it has nothing to do with bikes. The Chinese for the phrase in question is as follows:

你很機車(你很机车)

Pinyin: nǐ hěn jī chē
English: you’re not easy to get along with; you’re really annoying; you’re a pain in ass (this one is listed last, though it’s probably the better of the translations)

Right about now you’re probably thinking “what has a motorbike got to do with being annoying?”. Well, according to the Wikipedia page for the word 機車, the word came in common usage by school children in the 80s as a euphemism for the word 雞掰(鸡掰 jī bāi) which in turn is a slang word for vagina. A second similar explanation is that it originates from 雞巴(鸡巴 jī bā) which is the slang for penis and probably something along the lines of the usage of ‘cock’ in English. There’s a blog post by a Taiwanese blogger that discusses these two slang words and their meaning, if you want to know more.

Interestingly, 機車(机车 jī chē) is widely used in Taiwan and is not really considered a swear word at all. You’ll commonly hear it in television programmes, and there’s even a double play on words from a motorbike showroom that’s called 你很機車(你很机车 nǐ hěn jī chē).Though like most words of this type it’s all about when you use it and the way you use it. You could say it to a friend with no problem, but you probably wouldn’t want to say it to a stranger, unless of course you actually meant it!

11 responses to “You’re so Motorbike – Taiwanese Slang

  1. This always confused the heck out of me when I first came to Taiwan, especially when I taught English. The kids would say, “Teacher you’re so motorcycle!” and my only thought was “good lord do I have a lot of work ahead of me..”. Now that I know what it means, I hear it around here so much.

    I like the name of one chain of scooter sellers called "非常車" http://www.verymoto.com.tw/index.php

    Side note: 雞掰(鸡掰 jī bāi) is something to be reaaally careful of in Taiwan, since in Taiwanese it’s a pretty mean word so you’ll want to avoid accidentally saying that one.

    1. That’s the motorcycle company I was talking about, people who see the logo outside of Taiwan might miss that they have the Zhuyin for 機 in there: “非常ㄐ一車”.

      Also, good point about 雞掰, I think this is the equivalent of the “c” word in English, so not really something that should be in your day-to-day vocab.

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