The Slants

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 9 19:13:12 UTC 2012

> They are only fair-sized, and they are the ordinary round eyes of
> Americans -- not the almond of the Spanish, or the fascinating /slant
> eyes/ of the Orientals

There are a couple of clusters in mid 1870s and late 1890s, but not one
I found so far is meant as a slur. Merely descriptive, for the period.


On 3/9/2012 12:24 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> I've lost track of this.  Are you-all saying that "slant-eyed" as a
> slur is recent, at- or post-Vietnam?  Are you-all saying it is rare,
> or that it was rare at the time of the Vietnam war, or that it was
> rare before then?  Do you-all make a distinction between a "(racial)
> slur" and "just" a derogatory usage?
> I have faint traces of "slant-eyed" as a slur from either World War
> II or the Korean War (which were not too far apart).  Is that "old as
> dirt"?  But I assume those who are researching this must have checked
> those periods.  Perhaps one has to look in comic books rather than
> newspapers.  (Or the New Yorker, where two Chinese boys are reading
> about sinister, round-eyed Johnny.)
> So I've looked a little bit.
> I would like to see more context for the OED's earliest quotation --
>        1865    Daily Telegr. 17 Nov. 5/2   A slant-eyed, saffron-coloured race.
> Might it be derogatory?  On the other hand, I suppose
>        1870    J. G. Whittier Miriam 126   The slant-eyed sages of Cathay.
> is complimentary.
> But 19th Century U.S. Newspapers has:
>       1880 March 20 St. Louis Globe-Democrat -- THE San Francisco
> Merchant tells a remarkable story about a Chinese inroad into Montana
> and Idaho, in which the slant-eyed Mongols sent out pickets to find
> out what goods were in demand, and what prices were paid.  [The SF
> Merchant story is that Chinese merchants are sending wagons with
> merchandise into Idaho and Montana, to support Chinese peddlers
> selling tea at a lower price than "white merchants".  The
> Globe-Democrat comments "If the worst offense of the Chinese is
> furnishing the miners with tea at cheaper rates than they have
> hitherto paid for it, we hardly expect the miners to join in the cry,
> 'The Chinese must go.'"]
>        1893 April 24 St. Paul Daily News -- [An article about a troupe
> of "thirty-four celestial sons of the flowery kingdom", Mongolians
> members of a "Chinese theatrical troupe which is to give the
> slant-eyed drama in sections of ten hours each" at the Chicago
> world's fair.  Somewhere between a condescending attitude from a
> superior race, and a racial slur.]
>        1894 May 7 Rocky Mountian News -- A Chinese Trick Slant-Eyed
> Individuals Have a Way of Beating the New Law, and Allowing Their
> Friends to Come in with Papers.  [Article datelined Washington about
> registration of Chinese under the exclusion act.  Some legal
> immigrants are registering more than once, "and as a photograph of
> one Chinaman might readily pass for another", the duplicate
> certificates can be sold to those not entitled to register.  Surely
> derogatory at least.]
> And Google Books between 1940 and 1956 has (allegedly), just in the
> first 20 of about 2,060 --
>        1941 Sept. Boy's Life -- "A slant-eyed youth in a dirty smock
> appeared from below."  [Within a story titled "Golden Peril"  Without
> attempting to read tiny print, from the illustrations I assume the
> peril comes from evil Chinese, perhaps pirates.  "Golden" seems to
> refer to the metal, but perhaps also in a double sense to the
> Chinese.  Before Pearl harbor, but during the period of Japanese expansionism.]
>        1943 Jan. Boy's Life [date at top of page]  "DIMLY outlined in
> the murky darkness of the passageway was a leering slant-eyed
> Oriental. He was creeping stealthily forward with a service .45 in
> his hand, obviously with the intention of catching the pilot
> unaware."  [After Pearl harbor.]
>        1943  Library of Congress, Musical compositions, part 3 [date
> at top of previous page] -- "You slant -eyed yellow bums.
> 3383"  [Index of song titles?]
>        1951 Robert William O'Brien, Readings in general sociology --
> "For example, if all drug addicts were slant-eyed, and if non-
> addicts were not slant-eyed, then all we would have to do to
> determine that a person is or is not a drug addict would be to look
> at his eyes."  [An interesting, to say the least, choice for a
> logical argument.  GBooks also reveals a similar syllogism using
> "slant-eyed" in a book on psychology.]
>        1952 Aug. 11 Life [magazine] "Vigorous, brunet faces, strong
> black eyebrows and dark eyes, and candid expressions mark the tribe.
> They do not look Oriental in any slant-eyed or "sinister" sense but
> most of them are very distinctive people."  [So others, although not
> Life, must have associated "slant-eyed" with "sinister"in 1952.]
>       1956  Selected works of Ly Hsun [pseud]  "We need not mention
> illustrations in novels; even textbook illustrations often have
> children with caps askew, slant eyes, fleshy jowls and the look of
> hooligans. Among our new hooligan artists is Yeh Ling-feng^_Mr- Yeh
> has plagiarized ..."  [Snippet]
> There is much more in this period.  Some is "slant-eyed" as sinister
> without *direct* reference to Asians, but I think that is the unstated origin.
> Joel

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