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Re: Derogatory Epithets

Posted by R. Berg on August 09, 2005

In Reply to: Re: Derogatory Epithets posted by Smokey Stover on August 09, 2005

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : dinner is judged by desserts

: : : : : : : : : : : : : I've never heard that one. But I am guessing that it means that the end, results or conclusion of something is how it is judged.

: : : : : : : : : : : : Or the last impression is the one that lasts. I have never heard it either. It sounds a little dodgy. SS

: : : : : : : : : : : Could this possibly be "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" translated into another language and back again by a computer - one of those "Chinese whispers" phrases? VSD

: : : : : : : : : : What's a Chinese whisper? SS

: : : : : : : : : "Chinese whispers" is the name used in England for the game called Telephone or Gossip in the U.S. Apparently there are no persons of Chinese descent in England, or British Caucasians don't mind offending them. ~rb

: : : : : : : : See link

: : : : : : : Note US spelling!

: : : : : : Using negative ethnic or gender characteristics as metaphors such as "Chinese fire drill", "Mexican showdown," "Indian giver" or "Chinaman's chance" can lead to prejudice and hate.

: : : : : : These are derogatory epithets which show a cultural and or geographical chauvinism.

: : : : : : All those types of phrases, whether about Mexicans, Chinese, Poles etc, put the speaker above everyone else and try to show that these other people are inferior.

: : : : : In my childhood in 1960s England "Chinese Whispers" was the universal name for that game; till today I never knew any other name for it. I honestly don't think it was derogatory in intention. At that at that time there were scarcely any Chinese in Britain outside the sea ports, so most people had never seen a real live Chinese person. But we as kids knew that Chinese was written vertically rather than horizontally and in whole words rather than an alphabet; the point of the game after all is that phrases mutate during the game into a mysterious, encrypted, different language, and Chinese writing was the most encrypted kind of language we could imagine. That's certainly what the name conveyed to me as a child. (VSD)

: : : : VSD, the interpretation you made of the name was consistent with being a word person in embryo, highly involved with language, including written language. I suspect that whoever named the game had in mind something less benign. A stereotype of the Chinese as "inscrutable" prevailed; it can be found in 19th-century literature. In the game, an utterance starts as sensible and ends as mixed up and incomprehensible. The phrase "Chinese fire drill" has the same connotation of chaos and meaninglessness.

: : : So the followup question really becomes: now that we know the term can cause offence, do we cease to use it? Call the game something else, never refer to the woodpile, rename the fire drill, refrain from using the word "niggardly" even though its origins involve no racial reference? My answer would be Yes, since I aspire (but have not yet succeeded) to become a gentleman, one definition of which is someone who never unintentionally hurts another's feelings. (!)

: : RB, I admit that you may be right and that my understanding of the phrase is probably statistically irrelevant.
: : That said, we have all got thoroughly away from the original question, and if Manjula hasn't stopped watching the thread in disgust, perhaps s/he can tell us if we have got anywhere near answering him/her? If not, can we have some more context to go on? (Ah, context, I love context.) (VSD)

: I know Victoria would like to bring us to attention, but I have to tell my anecdote. I never heard of Gossip or Telephone, but I had a similar experience. I once belonged to a college fraternity (don't laugh), and there were a few bits of ritual involved. One had the members all sitting in a circle. The Prytanis (president) would whisper the secret password to the student on his left, who would do likewise, and so on until the word reached the president again. I remember the two-word password of the only year I saw this ritual actually performed. By the time the two words got back through the whole circle, neither had much resemblance to the original except in the number of syllables. SS

I think the first two replies answered the original question. Maybe Manjula has left, not in disgust, but having been filled with the knowledge he or she sought.