slurs (was: Re: camel-toe)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 5 18:02:35 UTC 2009

At 1:42 PM -0500 11/5/09, Wilson Gray wrote:
>To the best of my knowledge, "Chinaman" has *always* been right up (or
>down) there with "niggerboy," and "Jewboy." I wonder why "Frenchman"
>or <har! har!> "German" doesn't fit into this class.

Some say the country designation ethnonyms are always derogatory
(e.g. Chinaman) while the adjectivally derived ones (e.g. Frenchman,
Englishman) aren't (necessarily) derogatory.  So by that reasoning,
"Englandman" and "Franceman" would be as insulting as "Chinaman".
Not that big a sample size.

>I read somewhere or other that "chink" was originally "Ching," a clip
>of "Ching-chong Chinaman." The funnies once featured a parody of
>Confucius named "Ching-Chong." According to a long-ago sports-section
>article about a Winter Olympics held somewhere in Sweden, the Swedes
>cheered on a winning (Red-)Chinese team by chanting (I no longer
>recall the exact spelling) "Kjipp-kjopp Kjinamann." The writer of the
>article noted that this phrase, which sounds like "Chip-chop
>Cheenamon" (according to the writer) is (was? I'm dredging up another
>memory probably  more than a quarter-century old, as is so often my
>wont) otherwise used in Sweden as a racial slur.

All the sources say is "prob. alternation of 'Chinese'".


>On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 10:53 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: slurs (was: Re: camel-toe)
>>  At 11:15 PM -0500 11/4/09, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>BTW, according to tonight's South Park, lexicographers have agreed to
>>>redefine "fag(got)" as meaning, roughly, an annoying, noise-making,
>>>Harley-riding, loser asshole dying for attention, among other things.
>>>There's no longer any necessary correction between faggotry and gayness.
>>  Speaking of redefinitions:  as part of our look at the semantics of
>>  ethnic slurs, our seminar was reading a paper on "Pejoratives" by the
>>  philosopher Christopher Hom, whose stock example is "chink" (vs.
>>  "Chinese"), presumably because for the same reason that I switched to
>>  "kike" for our class discussion.  One of the students who was
>>  unfamiliar with the term opened her computer and looked up "chink" in
>>  the OED [2d ed., 1989] and discovered that the relevant entry, for
>>  "Chink", n. 5, reads in its entirety:
>>  Chink.  slang. A Chinaman (also attrib.).  (Derogatory.)
>>  "Chinaman" gets two definitions:
>>  1. a dealer in porcelain
>>  2. a native of China
>>  Nothing about "derogatory" here. (AHD3/4 actually gives virtually the
>>  same entry for Chink and Chinaman, with one subtle (and I think
>>  correct) distinction:
>>  "Chink"
>>  Offensive slang. Used as a disparaging term for a Chinese person.
>>  "Chinaman"
>>  Offensive. Used as a disparaging term for a Chinese person.
>>  But how long has it really been since "Chinaman" could be used neutrally?
>>  LH
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
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