"ese" suffix insulting/racist?

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Apr 6 14:19:17 UTC 2003

    The suffix -ese is neither racist nor insulting. But it *has*
become productive in English to indicate with mild humor something
that is incomprehensible, based on its presence in "Chinese,"
"Japanese."  There are many examples, but the only one that comes to
mind now is "Stengelese." Casey Stengel was manager of the New York
Yankees during much (all?) of the 1950's.
During his press conferences he often talked in a way that had
reporters scratching their heads in confusion, and they referred to
his manner of speaking as "Stengelese." At one point the Yankees
fired Stengel for allegedly being too old to continue at the helm,
despite his remarkably successful record, and at his next press
conference Stengel spoke with complete clarity about the unfairness
of the action. Many of the reporters were surprised that he could
talk clearly after all.

Gerald Cohen

>At 6:42 PM -0500 4/5/03, Billionbridges.com wrote:
>In a rather hysterical article written in Chinese I came across
>recently a Taiwanese person rants that the epithets in English
>denoting nationality which use the "ese" suffix are insulting
>and racist (where those which do not, such as "American" or
>"German" etc., are not). The author claims that "ese" was
>traditionally used by the English in adjectives describing unimportant,
>weak, strange or sickly things or people(s). He further relates
>personal anecdotes in which the term "Chinese" has been used
>by Americans in scorn. In his estimation "Chinese" is as insulting
>to, erm, Chinese as "nigger" is to African-Americans.
>Hypersensitive and misguided? Clearly. An ignorant crackpot? Well,
>the author has decided that in future when English-speakers ask
>where he's from he will answer the "Central Kingdom of Sinai." He
>is a Sinaian, he says.
>Nevertheless, leaving Egypt and the politics of the Taiwan Strait aside,
>I wonder where this author's conception that the "ese" suffix is insulting
>came from? Or is this completely baseless and/or irredeemably idiolectic?
>The link, for the Chinese-enabled:

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