The politics of dried mango in Taiwan

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No sooner have we addressed "The politics of frozen garlic in Taiwan" (1/11/24) than we now must look at the implications of dried mango for the current election in that island nation.  Here we will not be studying the obscene usage (gàn) that "dry" (gān) often gets mixed up with.  For those who are interested in that topic, which Language Log has been following since 2006), check out the last two items in "Selected readings") below.

Today's mango excitement derives from a pun based on the expression "dried mango" (mángguǒ gān 芒果乾); it has nothing to do with "$%#@!" mango.  The near pun is for "wángguó gǎn 亡國感" ("sense of national subjugation"), where wáng 亡 means "perish; death; die", though in this phrase, "subjugation" has become the usual translation.  Of course, guó 國, means "nation; state", and note that the "K" of KMT (Kuomintang [Wade-Giles romanization of 國民黨] "Nationalist Party") or the "G" of GMD (Guómíndǎng [Pinyin romanization of the same name]) is that same word, guó 國 ("nation; state").

In the last few weeks of the runup to the presidential election, mángguǒ gān 芒果乾 ("dried mango") || "wángguó gǎn 亡國感" ("sense of national subjugation") has gone massively viral in Taiwan and beyond.  In most people's minds, the "guó" of the pun has come to be associated with the "Nation" of the "Nationalist", the implication being that, if the Nationalist Party wins, the country (Taiwan) will perish (at the hands of Xi Jinping's CCP/PRC).  That's what people gǎn ("sense") < gān 乾 ("dried").  This is especially true among the juéqīng 覺青 ("Awakened Youth").

Selected readings

[Thanks to karts deffle]


  1. John Swindle said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 5:06 am

    I suppose the visual similarity of 芒 to 亡 heads off any possible confusion with 王國感 (also wángguó gǎn), 'kingdom sense', which seems to be something to which Protestant Christians are called.

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 10:47 am

    Would it be possible, for the slower/dimmer of us, to explain "it has nothing to do with "$%#@!" mango" please ?

  3. Victor Mair said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 12:47 pm

    @Philip Taylor

    Read the last two sentences of the first paragraph of the OP and follow the directions there.

  4. Joshua K. said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 12:48 pm

    I've removed the tone markings from this response to simplify things.

    As I understand it, there is a Chinese word "gan" which, with different tones, has numerous meanings including "dry", "sense", and "fuck".

    There is apparently a pun going around in Taiwan that involves a phrase that means "dried mango" (mangguo gan) but, unusually as Victor Mair sees it, the pun has nothing to do with the "gan" that means "fuck". That is, the pun "has nothing to do with $%#@! mango" (i.e. "mangguo gan" is not being used to suggest "fucking mango").

    Rather, the pun is that "mangguo gan" more-or-less rhymes with "wangguo gan" which means "sense of national subjugation", a phrase referring to a potential outcome of the presidential election in Taiwan.

    I still get the feeling that you had to be there to understand this, but hopefully this clears things up a little.

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 1:02 pm

    So the "$%#@!" is not a Bowdlerised representation of a possible reading/pronunciation/whatever of "mango" but is instead a Bowdlerised representation of an adjective that might precede "mango" — would that be correct ?

  6. David Marjanović said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 2:46 pm


  7. Philip Taylor said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 3:24 pm

    Thank you David.

  8. AntC said,

    January 13, 2024 @ 10:05 pm

    perish (at the hands of Xi Jinping's CCP/PRC)

    Not necessarily avoided, because allegedly a 72% turnout

    Taiwan presidential election … does not reflect the mainstream public sentiment.

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