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

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 4 11:30:33 UTC 2010

While a "Chinese homer" may be "cheap" in one sense, the Chinese, in my
experience, were not stereotyped, as being nearly as "cheap" as the Scotch.

So even if you wanted to make the jump from "easy or unfair" to "cheap"
(unlikely in my view) you'd be more likely to call it a "Scotch home run."
Or if simple cheapness were involved, a "Japanese home run," "Made in Japan"
being a byword for "of poor quality" in those days.

The popular American stereotype of the Chinese in the early 20th C. was not
that they were "cheap," but that they were inscrutable, violent, probably
unassimilable, often sinister, users and purveyors of opium, eaters of dogs,
cats, and rats, atheistic, extremely prolific, and occasionally possessed of
odd but profound wisdom unattainable by anybody else.  (Thus Earl D.
Biggers' Charlie Chan, inspired by a real detective, was a giant step
forward in ethnic understanding.)

So in spite of other applicatrions of "Chinese," in this particul;ar case I
wasn't kidding when I suggested something like "Wun Hi Fly," esp. since
there already existed a "Chinese landing" with "Wun Wing Lo."
Even Lieut. Lowe of William Faulkner's _Soldier's Pay_ (1925) was nicknamed
"One Wing." Get it?


On Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 11:56 PM, 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: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series
> win...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> LH
> >
> >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 -

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list