Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Sun Dec 10 14:27:32 UTC 2000

--On Friday, December 8, 2000 6:35 pm +0000 EdZotti at AOL.COM wrote:

> Morris quotes
> Hugh Rawson as saying,
> <<"the use of the modifier "Chinese" in the derogatory sense of "confused,
> disorganized or inferior" dates back to the time of World War I and was
> largely a British invention. Other "Chinese" slurs of the day included
> "Chinese ace" (an inept aviator), "Chinese national anthem" (an explosion)
> and "Chinese puzzle" (one with no solution)."Chinese fire drill" seems to
> be one of the few (fortunately) of these phrases that have survived in
> popular usage. >>

Not to mention "Chinese whispers" which is what the British call the
"telephone game" (when a message gets distorted by being repeated again and

I don't know about the origins of "Chinese water torture".  I've noticed it
refered to recently as just "water torture" (e.g., in the song 'Basement
apartment' by Sarah Harmer)--no doubt to get away from the ethnic
slurriness of the "Chinese" part.

As someone else mentioned, I always understood that the point of CWT was to
drive the person crazy and this is why it transfers so well to dripping
taps, as in Harmer's song.



M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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