不要中文字成為文化遺產 Don't let authentic Chinese characters become cultural heritage

某天跟一家在香港新開張的公關公司的代表會面。該公關公司來自外國某英語系國家,最近擴充業務,並於香港開設亞洲總部。有外資來港投資,製造就業機會,帶來新智識和技術,作為香港人,當然歡迎之至。但一輪介紹後接過對方名片,不禁面色一沉,因對方的名片一面是英文,另一邊是殘體字

雖然初次見面,但也按捺不住,對那位金髮的外國人公關公司代表說:「為何你們的名片用殘體中文字?」

實在看不懂 I really cannot decode that so-called Chinese
該公司的代表為外國人,來港只有數月,不懂中文,望着她身邊的香港人同事,不明所以。我慢慢解釋,說道最近香港社會有很多關於中文字的討論,並發現越來越多商店,餐廳,甚至一些公共標示用上殘體字,例如,香港的 agnes b. cafe 被瘋狂投訴,因為該店的餐牌只用英文和殘體字,並用上內地的語法,明明我們過去一個世紀都叫 cheese 做芝士,但該店就用上「起司」這個無香港人看得明白的 term。事件惹起軒然大波,網上人人聲討,最後該公司要向公眾道歉,並承諾盡快更換餐牌。

那外國人望着我禮貌的微笑,點了點頭,我續說,中港文化矛盾日深,中文字就是其中一個討論點。個人來講,我痛恨殘體字,因為無論是由文化,歷史,美學角度看,殘體字都是對中華文化的侮辱。在大陸,我無話可說,在香港看到不必要的殘體字,我會感到很 offensive。

說到這裡,那外國人的香港人同事說公司有考慮印另一批正體中文名片,並說會再跟進。

事後回想,我是否太誇張了一點。人家的公司的名片,用甚麼字,與我又何干?就算是自己打工的那家公司,老闆要怎樣的名片也不會諮詢員工,我們也沒有 say。

但想深一層,為何那些在香港紮根揾食的商業機構要用上在香港不受歡迎的殘體字?到底接待大陸人是否大哂?如果答案是係,那為何你不北上,而要選擇留在香港?如果是要紮根香港,為何不用我們看得懂的文字?

外國的地方,怎麼也不會放棄自身的文化來遷就外來人。最近看過英國的 Daily Mail 的一篇非常搞笑的文章,說道倫敦奧運期間會有很多來自美國的旅客,但由於英語跟美語也有莫大的差異,於是搞笑地將英語翻譯成美語,教導美國人於英國時如何閱讀英語。Daily Mail 的取向如何尚且不談,但無論如何我都不相信英國人會為了討好美國旅客而任意把他們的英語標示改成美語。

Spotted: Crippled Chinese @ Sydney Airport
但香港就不同,為了討好大陸人,恨不得快快把正體中文字抹掉,改上殘體字。其實我很想知道,有沒有人跟大陸旅客做過一些調查,看看他們是否真的喜歡在香港看到殘體字。我們到外地旅遊,最大的原因是體驗不同的文化,如果我去到的外國跟我的家鄉是一樣,為什麼我要花錢花時間搭飛機?

最可怕是,外國人不知就裡,以為殘體字就是中文字,紛紛於他們的名片,網站,文件等等用上殘體字,不出數年,無論在世界那一角落,我們所看到的只有殘體字。正體中文字,可能要成為UNESCO的非物質文化遺產。

香港和臺灣是正體中文字的最後堡壘,在這兩個地方生活的人,是有責任保護正體中文字。



Lately I've met the representatives of a foreign public relations firm that has just set up its Asia headquarters in Hong Kong. It's great to see foreign investment coming to Hong Kong, for that they not only bring in new capital to create employment, but also a new set of knowledge and skills that will benefit the city in the long run. I was delighted to meet those new in town, but when I was given their name cards, I couldn't help but making a face – the name cards were written in English language and crippled Chinese characters.

Although it was our first meeting, I couldn't stop myself from bringing up the subject that could otherwise be inappropriate. “Why do you use crippled Chinese characters in your name cards?” I said to the lady in blonde hair, and yes I used those exact words – “crippled Chinese characters”.

The lady in-charge of the Hong Kong operation has moved here just a few months ago. She gave a look to her colleague, a Hong Kong local, as if she couldn't quite understand what I was saying. I explained to her, saying that there have been a lot of tensions between Hong Kong and mainland cultures, and one of most heated discussions was the increasing use of crippled Chinese characters in Hong Kong, whether in public signages or at restaurants menus.

實在看不懂 I really cannot decode that so-called Chinese
Then I brought up the recent agnes b. cafe controversy, which she obviously had no clue of. I said to her, that agnes b. cafe has been spotted using only English and crippled Chinese in their menus, and that caused a huge fuss. People complained through different channels, mostly online, about the company's insensitivity towards Hong Kong culture and discriminating against local customers by using a language that they do not use. For a century we call “cheese” as “ji-si”, not “hei-see”, the Cantonese pronunciation of the Mandarin phrase used in mainland China [or perhaps Taiwan too]. It was a menu that no Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong people would understand. In the end, agnes b. cafe had to publicly apologise for their insensitivity and promised to change the menu back to authentic Chinese characters.

The lady nodded, smiling politely. I guess I should've just shut up at that point but I continued, saying that this was one of the examples illustrating the increasing tension between Hong Kong and mainland cultures. I told her that, personally, I absolutely loathed simplified Chinese characters, for which I called them crippled Chinese characters. No matter from which perspective you look at them – historical, cultural and aesthetical, crippled Chinese characters, which simplified the authentic Chinese arbitrarily without any logic, were a great insult to Chinese culture. If I were in China, there was nothing I could do about it. But seeing crippled Chinese characters in Hong Kong, I said, was very offensive.

At this point, the lady's Hong Kong colleague cut in the conversation, saying that the company has been considering printing a separate set of name cards printed with authentic Chinese characters. She said that she would follow up on that.

Afterwards I kept asking myself, was I overreacting? Seriously, what is it got to do with me how other companies print their name cards? You don't have a say about how your name cards are printed at the company you work for, let alone other people's companies? Your boss won't come around to consult you whether you like the design or you would like it printed with crippled or authentic Chinese.

But then I couldn't help asking why those companies have to use these crippled characters if they have chosen to be based in Hong Kong? If treating their mainland customers is on top of their agenda, then why not moving the business north of the border? If they have chosen Hong Kong to be their home, then why don't they use a language that we can read?

I just don't see any foreign countries or cities would easily let go of their own culture in order to please foreigners. Recently a hilarious albeit snobbish article in Daily Mail suggested that London will be expecting a lot of tourists from across the Atlantic, and the article “translated” some of the most commonly used British phrases into American in order to “assist” the American tourists to overcome the cultural barrier.

Daily Mail's editorial/ political stand aside, but the story raised an interesting point – I seriously wouldn't believe the Brits would've let go of their language roots in order to please the American tourists, no matter how poor they are.

Spotted: Crippled Chinese @ Sydney Airport
But Hong Kong is different. In order to please the mainland tourists, retailers couldn't wait to get rid of their language roots and replace them by those crippled characters. In fact, I wonder if anyone has ever conducted any survey asking those mainland tourists to see if they really prefer seeing their crippled characters at Hong Kong shops, for those crippled characters at mainland stores stand for counterfeits and low quality. We travel because we want to experience a different, an exotic culture. And if everything overseas is going to be the same as where I come from, what's the point of wasting those time and air fares?

But the most horrid thing is that, many foreigners do not have a clue at all. They either couldn't understand this debate, or simply think that crippled Chinese characters are the only form of Chinese characters that exist, adopting these ugly symbols in all their name cards, company websites and documents. In less than a decade, I guarantee, that the only kind of Chinese characters we can see in every corner of the world will be the crippled ones. And the authentic ones? They might already be listed as the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.

Hong Kong and Taiwan are the last forts holding against this cultural battle, and those living in these two places have the undeniable responsibility to protect the authentic Chinese characters. 


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