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

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Nov 4 16:45:34 UTC 2010

On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 5:37 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:

> Paul, only a minority of American adults a century ago could boast even a
> high-school diploma. (My grandfather, born in 1884, was the first member of
> his family to have one, and he was very proud of it.) Â I imagine that a
> higher proportion of the population in, say, 1905, was consciously aware
> that there had been *something* called an Opium War than today, because the
> new prominence of  China in American consciousness resulting from the Boxer
> Rebellion meant that newspapers and magazines would be more likely to allud=
> e
> to it. I doubt they cared very much. As DAD said, that was an "English"
> problem, and before 1914 not many Americans cared much for the English
> anyway. (Except for Kipling amnd Shakespeare, they were snooty, snobbish,
> and superior, with no sense of humor.) Â I doubt that baseball fans, as a
> group, had any notion of what the Opium Wars were all about.
> I might add to the list of stereotypes that a very high proportion of
> Chinese were thought to be near-sighted because of their "slanty" eyes.
> Except for Tong assassins ("hatchetmen") and 19th C. railway labor, the
> Chinese were also thought to be short and fairly puny (now there's a
> possible source of "Chinese home run"). Chinese crimelords were also
> believed to kidnap white women for the white-slave traffic. Â Chinese women,
> on the other hand, were meek and completely passive. Â Their vaginas were
> said to be horizontal. Â Perhaps because Chinese men traditionally wore a
> queue (pigtail), the Chinese were also sometimes said to have had real
> tails.
> As I said before, Charlie Chan was a giant step forward.
> JL

All points taken. I sit corrected. On Charlie Chan I heartily
recommend Yunte Huang's (Huang Yunte's) Charlie Chan: The Untold Story
of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History,
published earlier this year. It's a wonderful book.


Paul Frank
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
paulfrank at
paulfrank at

The American Dialect Society -

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