And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 4 03:56:53 UTC 2010

At 8:57 PM -0600 11/3/10, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>Am I the only one to recognize racist stereotypes? One image of the
>Chinese has been being industrious to a fault--I suppose, this is a
>positive stereotype. Another has been that of frugality--again, to a
>fault, to the point of being cheap. This is the one that's being played
>up here--a frugal choice in home runs, cutting corners to get one. Yet
>another stereotype, perhaps more popular with East Europeans than with
>Americans, is particular deviousness (and subtlety) in revenge--giving
>rise to an idiomatic Russian expression for Chinese revenge (one that
>you could not possibly expect). But I would bet the house on the
>frugality/cheapness meme in this case.
>     VS-)

The consensus in the stories I remember about the meaning of the
phrase and what I can find on the web is that cheapness may be
involved, but not in the positive sense of frugality.  (There's also
the negative association with other things Chinese that were
prevalent in the early 20th c., as HDAS makes clear, some of which
(e.g. Chinese fire drill) we've discussed in earlier threads.)

The two stories that appear the most in motivating the Chinese home
run are (i) a reference to cheap Chinese labor building the railroads
etc., i.e. you don't have to "pay" much (effort) to obtain a 260-foot
home run and (ii) a reference to general inferiority.  Jon's entry
under "Chinese", adj. 2 has the following:

'Baseball (of a safe hit): gained with little skill; lucky. esp. in
phr. Chinese home run--usu. considered offensive.'

One of the early hits is from that classic "The Kid from
Tomkinsville" (1939-40): 'A man could get a "Chinese home run" by
merely hitting 257 feet over the right field fence.'
Maybe Dusty Rhodes read that passage as a kid.


>On 11/3/2010 2:47 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>... So what I was wondering if the etymology is
>>just from the stereotype assumption of Chinese cheap labor>  (Chinese
>>= cheap)>  (cheap home run = Chinese home run) or if there's some
>>other motivation. ...
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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