Japanese fire drill

James C. Stalker stalker at MSU.EDU
Mon Sep 22 02:57:41 UTC 2003

"Douglas G. Wilson" wrote:

>  I wonder how being from
> >Pittsburgh would have transformed it from 'Chinese" to "Japanese."
> Surely it's almost always "Chinese". It's in MW3.
> The idea is to use a nationality which has an undisciplined/disorganized
> stereotype.
> Almost any choice would seem more likely than "Japanese", (1) since the
> Japanese have a very long tradition of very well organized fire
> preparations, I believe (Japanese cities having been constructed largely of
> wood and paper until recently), and of course (2) since the Japanese to
> some degree received a quasi-German overly-disciplined/regimented/robotic
> stereotype in the US during and following WW II.
> Some US-ans who are not scholarly types might not perceive any distinction
> between China and Japan, either in reality or in stereotype.

Stereotypes are rarely logical.  Language captures stereotypes in folk
discourse such as the classic Chinese fire drill (e. g., utter disorganization)
under discussion and the derivative adolescent car game.  We demean those who
are a threat to us by implying they are illogical and undisciplined (i. e., not
as good as us).  The dating then becomes important.  Is there a convergence of
the date for "Japanese" fire drill and the perceived economic threat of of
Japan?  Not knowing the history of the steel industry in Pittsburgh, I can't
speak with any certainty, but it could be this would be the time when the
Pittsburgh steel industry (which has, of course, vanished)  was threatened by
the Japanese steel industry.  Adolescents reflect (reluctantly and
unconsciously) the attitudes of their parents and the  general context in which
they operate.  Could this be an explanation for the shift from Chinese to

Jim Stalker

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