Taiwanese pun on a curry shop sign

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Photograph of a sign on a curry shop in Banqiao District, New Taipei City:

Close-up:

As the store explains on its Facebook page, its name is "咖哩作夥", where the first two syllables are the transcription for "curry" and also a Taiwanese pun for "with you", while the second two syllables mean "together".  (See phonological and morphological notes from Chau Wu below.)  Thus "咖哩作夥" = "curry // with you together".  That leads to the store's English name of "Eat Curry Together."

According to Wiktionary, the MSM pronunciation of 咖哩 is kālǐ, gālǐ, gālí; the Min Nan (Hokkien) pronunciation (POJ) is ka-lí / ka-lé.  The MSM pronunciation of 作夥 is zuòhuǒ ("partner; together").

Phonological and morphological notes from Chau Wu

咖哩 and 咖喱 mean "curry".  They are variant transcriptional forms of "curry" and are both correct.  They have the identical pronunciation, and the same romanization:  ka-lí (ka1-li2).

咖喱 seems to be primarily used in Japan, Hong Kong, and China.  Consequently, this Cambridge dictionary uses it.

Katakana orthography, as on the shop's Facebook page:  karē カレー.

People in Taiwan normally go by 咖哩, as in this recipe from Liberty Times of Taipei.

Other variants are 加里, 加釐 (both are listed in dictionaries only — not in common usage)

This is a homophonous pun. The restaurant just borrows the lesser-used variant form for 'curry' in Taiwan to mean 'with you'.  There are no bona-fide Sinoglyphs to write the Taiwanese expression of 'with you'; it's totally vernacular.

Normally, for "with you" in Taiwanese, we would say kah-lí (in POJ). In Taipei, it is sometimes written as kap-lí (合你 / 和你). In quick speech, it becomes kah-lí.  For the first element, in southern Taiwan (Tainan), the final stop, either -p or -h, disappears; so, it ends up as ka. Therefore, the owner of the restaurant plays a homophonous gimmick, turning ka-lí into 咖喱 with borrowed Sinoglyphs.

If you want to go there and try out their 咖哩, here's the location in Google Maps.

Desultory etymological notes on "curry"

1747 (as currey, first published recipe for the dish in English), from Tamil கறி (kaṟi), influenced by existing Middle English cury (“cooking”), from Middle French cuyre (“to cook”) (from which also cuisine), from Vulgar Latin cocere, from Latin coquere, present active infinitive of coquō.

Earlier cury found in 1390 cookbook Forme of Cury (Forms of Cooking) by court chefs of Richard II of England.

(Wiktionary)

a kind of Indian dish or the sauce used upon it, 1590s (as carriel), probably adopted into English via Portuguese caril and its plural caris, and ultimately derived from mingling of various south Indian (Dravidian) words including Middle Kannada, Middle Tamil and Malayalam kari, often indicating something "black in color" or "burnt," and thus applied broadly to spices and meats. In modern Indian cookery, "curry" refers to spice blends with turmeric as their key ingredient; spice blends without turmeric are called masala.

Of European dishes spiced after the Indian style, 1747 in British English. As the spice blend used in making the sauce, 1780. Extended to exotic, spicy sauces from outside of India (Thai curry, Indonesian curry, etc.) by 1680s. The verb meaning "flavor with curry" is by 1839.

The Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii is called curry tree, in English by 1822, probably through one of the south Indian languages. The kari name of the plant comes from the perceived blackness of the leaves (compare the Sanskrit name of the tree, krshnaneembapatram "black neem leaf.")

The Middle English term curry, cury, curye, etc. meaning "cookery; culinary art; concoction" (late 14c.) is unrelated to the Dravidian word or its eventual adoption into English. This word is from Old French queverie, "cookery; culinary art," ultimately from Latin coquus "cook."

(Etymonline)

Selected readings

[Thanks to Mark Swofford, Hsin-chun, and Chau Wu]



11 Comments »

  1. AntC said,

    February 7, 2024 @ 10:13 pm

    Thanks to Mark Swofford, Hsin-chun, and Chau Wu.

    Seconded. The vital question is can anyone recommend the food? What style of curry?

    I'll be in New Taipei next week. My hosts to-be are very tolerant of my wanting to eat anything and everything. (And no reason to expect Indian- nor English-style curries in Taiwan. I've had some disappointments but also delicious Indonesian/Malaysian style — in of all places Chiayi, near the terminus of the Alishan Forest Railway.)

  2. Jerry Packard said,

    February 8, 2024 @ 6:58 am

    Gua ga li gong, daiwan e gali jin ho jat!

  3. Jonathan Smith said,

    February 8, 2024 @ 7:36 am

    Packard Taiwanese, while remaining mutually comprehensible with mainstream varieties, reflects innovations including the merger of original voiced and voiceless unaspirated stops :D but jokes aside come to think of it plenty of younger people's Taiwanese seems to reflect this "change"

  4. AntC said,

    February 8, 2024 @ 8:04 am

    Thank you @Jerry, and I admire your food patriotism ;-). (My companion is impressed with your Hokkien rendition.)

    I'm not so keen on Japan style curry (too sweet for my taste) — especially when it comes with melted processed cheese. That is not a reasonable interpretation of paneer.

    A run through their menu is leaving me with doubts.

  5. Chris Button said,

    February 8, 2024 @ 2:16 pm

    @ Chau

    Is there not also something clever going on with 作伙 versus 作夥?

  6. Chris Button said,

    February 8, 2024 @ 2:19 pm

    @ AntC

    Might I recommend one of the hotter/spicier versions? And since when does anyone put any kind of cheese (processed or otherwise) on it? Granted, I haven't lived in, or even been to, Japan for a long time now. I don't recall ever eating Japanese curry in Taiwan.

  7. AntC said,

    February 8, 2024 @ 6:37 pm

    @Chris, wikip has an article on 'Japanese curry'. Also Google J c Roux cubes or J c melted cheese. (Some of those recipes seem to involve Cream cheese or even Cottage cheese — which sounds even more hideous than what I can't forget.)

    I've never been to Japan, so perhaps Google has been usurped to blame them for a travesty for which they're innocent. (Like Swiss roll.) OTOH those Roux cubes are widely available in Asian supermarkets worldwide and allege themselves to be proudly Japanese. The fist page of melted cheese gives a hit in Ogikubo: Camembert ??!!

  8. Chau said,

    February 9, 2024 @ 1:00 am

    @ Chris Button
    Yes, there is. I admire your sharp eye!

    夥 (Lit. reading: hó / Vern. reading: hé) ‘companion’ (Amoy/Tw. tâng-phōann 同伴).
    伙 (Lit./Vern. reading: hé ‘companion’ (Amoy/Tw. tâng-phōann 同伴).
    伙 has an additional usage in 伙食, thereby connecting to the original meaning of companion, ‘one who eats bread with another’. In this restaurant, we eat curry together.

  9. Jerry Packard said,

    February 9, 2024 @ 7:47 am

    @Jonathan
    Does that make me any younger?

  10. Jonathan Smith said,

    February 9, 2024 @ 9:14 am

    @Jerry Packard
    Surely in an honorary sense at least — but TBH maybe not that young… < 50, or at best < 40? I was thinking about why people/we don't speak of a newer Taiwanese in Taiwan in which such changes (partial [and at least partially conditioned] loss of features including contrastive voicing on onsets, final -m -p, contrastive nasalization on vowels, tone sandhi…) have taken effect. I suppose because AFAIK there is not much of a younger community using the language *among themselves* such that these patterns can become regularized. So for now they're just seen as individual / idiosyncratic / wrong.

  11. AG said,

    February 12, 2024 @ 5:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing this info. I've read many books on curry but never before seen a sensible explanation for why curry leaves and curry have the same name but don't seem to be connected particularly closely. Curry leaves do turn blackish when cooked.

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