Submitted by Dyske  •  September 17, 2003

Chink

Webster defines “chink” as “narrow opening”.

However in California people seem to only think about its derogatory (bigotry) meaning, and only after you press them they recall that “Oh yeah, we actually say ‘chink in the fence’ so that probably makes sense”.

Just curious, how widespread is its original meaning - is it only in the Golden State people react like that?

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I went to grade school in Louisianna always thought chink to be offensive, and was surprised when I moved to Pekin, IL to find their mascot to be a Dragon and they called themselves the Chinks. I later moved to CA where the word chink is definitely used offensively.

On the other hand, I have never heard anyone complain about the saying "chink in your armour" either.

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As the colliding coasters fall from our world the relief of our arch pussy barron dawns upon us, we all die some day, nicholas has to decide which day

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I heard that "chink" derived from the Ching Dynasty name for China: "Ta Ching Kuo" (Great Kingdom of the Ching). But Westerners, when they heard it, focused in the "Ching K-" segment, and used it as a slur.

This would be similar to the theory of "gook" coming from the Korean word "Miguk" meaning "America". During the Korean War, American soldiers would hear the locals saying "me gook" repeatedly, and adopted "gook" as a slur.

Don't know how much truth there is in either theory...

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Hi! How at you with weather? At us absolutely of gloom = (

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Hi! And what became with others?

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I'm generally off-color.

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Nony Mouse:

And what are you then, invisible? Let me tell you, I despise people of no colour, and I wouldn't let them into my home because you don't know what they're doing. You don't even know if they're wearing clothes.

I'm half Scottish and half Ukrainian, and I'm a yellowish-pink colour. My girlfriend is Korean and she's a pale white colour. But nobody calls me pink and her white.

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Re "master/slave":

The real story behind this was silly enough, but speedwell's version of the story is just false.

The state of California never said anything, to my knowledge, about "master/slave" terminology in technology. Nor has anyone, to my knowledge, tried to make the terminology illegal.

What happened is that L.A. County (*not* the state of California) sent a letter to its vendors requesting (but did *not* pass a law requiring) that alternative terminology be used.

Yeah, it's still pretty dumb. But no reason to go overboard with it.

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And the funny thing is that we people of no color are running around like idiots trying to be polically correct, while people of color call us "crackers".

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Oriental became taboo merely because it was used as a term for Asians when there existed a great deal of discrimination against them. (This is true of most racial slurs.) An argument was put forth that it was insensitive since it references people according to their position relative to Europe. This doesn’t really seem to hold water since Near Easterner and Middle Easterner are both OK. BTW Orient/al comes from the Latin word “oriri” meaning “to rise” and the seldom used word for Westerners, Occident/al, comes from the word “occidere” meaning “to set” (about the sun).

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I had a boss from the UK who referred to Chinese food as "chinkie nosh". I don't know if the word carries no offense in the UK (I believe the word originated in the US around 1900) or if he was just ignorant.

re: Pigpen's post on next page: calling firecrackers chinks might be because fireworks often came from China (or because they were invented there). If so, then wouldn't it be just as offensive?

re: why has "oriental" become offensive: I don't think anyone has given the slightest reason in these posts as to why. If it's because Oriental isn't specific enough, what does that have to do with anything? If that were the reason, then the words American, European, African, Asian, even human, would all be offensive. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the word isn't offensive in some contexts. I'm just curious as to why. Surely it's more than someone saying "I'm not Oriental, I'm Chinese!" That's like saying "I'm not European. I'm English!" or "I'm not American, I'm from New York!". If one claims that "Oriental" is not technically well enough defined, um, so what? Why would that make it offensive? clearly someone from China or Japan would be Oriental, where someone from France wouldn't be. If someone from Turkey might or might not be, why would that make the word offensive?

re: master/slave: This has to be the most ridiculous thing I ever heard about political correctness gone haywire. First of all, in the bigger picture, slavery really isn't a racial issue. It has been around for many thousands of years (probably hundreds of thousands) predating recorded history. It has applied to all races. Frankly, it still exists today.

re: steve's post and anonymous' reply: While at first glance, steve's post might sound offensive, but is it entirely? He is saying is that it is NOT ok to use offensive terms describing one's own ethnic heritage. Gee, wouldn't you agree?

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I'm from not only California, but the San Francisco Bay Area. And both I, and most of my friends, are pretty sensitive about linguistic matters. But I can't think of *anyone* I know who would regard phrases like "a chink in his armor" or "the chink of ready money" as racist.

Of course, those phrases (like almost any bit of language) could be *used* spitefully--if the utterer used the word (even in innocent contexts) as often as possible and with an ugly emphasis. But overall, if dyske has really had the repeated experience of people reacting badly to the use of the word in its non-racist meaning, I've got to wonder where in California he or she has been hanging out.

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Hi! How to me to adjust a background of page?

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i also live in pekin. where now we are about to try and resurect the name chinks. until 1981 pekin's sports mascot was the chinks . now 24 years later a semi pro 8 man football team has decided to call themselves the chinks once more. the team will be apart of an 10 team league in central illinois. they will play in pekin and will do the best they can do bring honor to the chinks once more. p.s. chinks are a part of western riding apparrel included with chaps.

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I am a "Chink"!

My ancestry is French/Dutch.

I graduated from Pekin High School, in Pekin, Illinois.......

We were known as "The Chinks".....and it was, to us an honor to be a "Chink".....still is.....

We thought of the term, as explained in the only actual explanation we ever got, as "Worker".....

There was nothing at all negative in our thoughts or comments on the subject.....In fact we were proud to be named such!

We, each year, elected a "Chink & Chinklette" who appeared at our football and basketball games as representatives of the school.....
complete in coolie hats and robes. Their job was to welcome the visiting teams cheerleaders...

It was an impressive ceremony, especially in the basketball games, as they walked to center court, greeting the cheerleaders from the opposing team under a spotlight while the main lights were lowered.....in the background we in the band were playing "Chinatown".....

Pekin was reported to be halfway around the world from Peking, China, and our movie theatre had a glorious dragon over the marquee...and dark reds inside with dragon heads all about.

There was never a negative connotation placed on the entire thing.....although I understand today's attitudes given our near-rabid lurch toward political correctness.

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The British slang for cigarette is 'fag' not 'faggot'. No-one has ever asked anyone if they had a 'faggot' meaning a cigarette.

If they were asking for an unpalatable meatball favoured in the North of England, on the other hand...

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I think it's become much like the word "faggot." In Northern California it means a homosexual, however, a while back when some people from the U.K. were visiting my family, they would often use the term in it's original context to mean a cigerette, (Leading a rather comical situation at a local bar, when one of them asked someone if "they had a faggot?")

Basicly it's a word that when used in the correct context is perfectly acceptable, but has also become a derogitory term and depending on which part of the world or even country you hail from can mean completely differant things...

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what ever happened to just plain 'coolie?'

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My guess is that your perception of how acceptable the term "oriental" is has as much to do with your social environment as anything else. But you are right in that the idea of "oriental" as an offensive (when referring to people) or off-color (when referring to food or culture) word has become somewhat more widespread since you and I were children.

The biggest problem with the word "oriental" is that it doesn't really describe anything. It has come to mean people and culture from East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc.), but it has at times included people from India, Afghanistan, Persia, Arabia, etc. There are a couple holdovers from that, such as "oriental rugs." It's really a term that describes something in a non-useful way--there is no clear specificity to the word, and those things described by it generally have little in common.

The objection comes in with the reasoning that the term essentially describes a people, culture, or food as "other," or "non-European." "Asian," on the other hand, at least describes something in geographical terms. "Asian American" is a very broad term (made even broader in "APIA"), but "oriental" is no better, because the distinction of what "oriental" includes (and this will vary from person to person) is even less relevant than "Asian American." If you think of the broad ethnic categories in the US, you can see that the categorizations of White (or European American), Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latino (also known as Hispanic or Hispanic American, a term that is even more troublesome than "oriental") describe people that have common histories in the US. Most African Americans are decendants of slaves, and as a result they have a culture that is more American than the dominant, European-American culture. The European Americans are split, between those that have been in America since the revolution, and those communities/ethnic groups that have come since then (e.g., Irish Americans, Italian Americans). Asian Americans have only had any substantial presence in the US starting in the mid-19th century, and each group within the category of Asian American has come at a different time and has a different history, though there is some commonality there.

The other aspect of the word "oriental" is that its use tends to reveal ignorance, or an appeal to ignorance (e.g., Thai restaurants with signs that say "oriental food" trying to attract people in search of "oriental food," who are mostly ignorant of Asian American cultures), because it is such a meaningless word that doesn't require any understanding of what it is describing (such as the ability to distinguish Chinese food from Japanese food, etc.).

I will be glad to see both "oriental" and "hispanic" dropped from the general American vocabulary, though it will take some time. "Asian American" and "Latino" may be of questionable value, but they are at least descriptive in a somewhat useful way, and they are both constructed by the people whom they describe.

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peace niggas

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Nah, I'm in my mid-20's actually! I remember when I was little that saying someone was 'oriental' was not considered offensive, per se. Of course, it was not as accurate as 'Chinese' or 'Japanese' or 'Korean', but then again how accurate are the terms 'Western' or 'European' or 'White'? Possibly there's a regional difference, I dunno where you are from, but I'm from New York, so maybe it just took longer for the change in meaning to occur here (the Asian population of NYC has exploded in the last 15 years, so I'm sure there's a greater awareness here now).

I'm not one of those "it's political correctness gone crazy!" characters, I just thought it was interesting how it changed. :)

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R Helms, I'm going to wild guess that you are in your late fifties to early sixties?

My first-tier sources (a bunch of engineers for an international company, my dad, and the Internet) tell me that the word "Oriental," as applied to people and not to Oriental food, was not strictly speaking correct as far back as the 50's. But it's more likely that TV coverage of the Vietnam War, Korean War, and Communist Red China, along with heightened multicultural sensibilities at that time, led people to differentiate between "Japanese," "Chinese," "Vietnamese," and "Korean."

More later if I think of it (meeting this morning).

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One thing I'm curious about, having only recently returned to the US after 12 years in Britain, is when did 'oriental' as a term to describe people from East Asia, become offensive, or at least a no-no? Seeing as 'oriental' means 'eastern' surely it's a better descriptor than 'Asian-American' which covers such a wide ground (I don't see much similarity in looks between, say, Indians, Koreans, and Samoans). Anyone have any idea? I mean, since it seems to be 'wrong' to say it, I won't, I'm just curious as to what changed between my childhood and now.

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Ha ha! Yes, speedwell. Mayhap the legality hasn't changed, but I'm preparing now by getting used to saying "dedicated" in place of "slave". (Now what word was supposed to supplant "master"?)

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Older people = more literate people with wider vocabularies.

Younger people = idealistic puppies who think they can make the world better by impoverishing the language so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the "victimocracy."

California = place where they recently tried to make the use of "master" and "slave" in computer technology writing illegal. 'Nuff said.

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Coincidentally, Dyske, I used "chink" in the sense of "opening" a few months ago here in SoCal, and my friend did playfully admonish me on that, thinking that I meant the racial slur. I believe there is a greater probability that older white Americans can use it with each other without misunderstanding, but otherwise there is a risk of unintentionally causing offense. People of other cultures and younger Americans are not generally aware of the non-negative connotations of the word, which I think are becoming archaic. As a racial term, I can't believe that it could EVER be acceptable (though like other derogatory terms it's usage is complex). All of this applies to the country as a whole, but it also does seem to me that Californians are a little more sensitive than others in the Union, which might make the word fall totally into disuse.

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Steve, I'm having a hard time figuring out whether your post is just a joke. Either way, it seems pretty offensive.

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Chinks are no different than Niggers, Wops, Spics ... etc. These words will always be around because of the LOSER individuals that use the words on their own race to absorb the impact of the negative slur (or so they think) if called by a person of a different race. What a bunch of fucken dumb-asses. If you are black and another black calls you "nigger" or "nigga (so much cooler, lol)", just beat the shit out of that dumb-fuck. Same goes for any other race, sex or color. We live in a world where there are more idiots than not. Maybe others won't throw trash in your yard if it wasn't so crappy in the first place.

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BooBoo's 3rd definition is also correct. It's usually used in connection with money. 'The chink of coins'.

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Yes, a chink is a narrowing opening. A chink in the curtains refers to them being not quite closed. A chink in your armour refers to a gap in your defences rather than to Jackie Chan wearing your metal clothing.
In its racial slur meaning, 'Chink'/'chink' is offensive. Unless the user is Chinese and then it's very similar to 'nigger'.

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Erin; Re; Name Calling: Please note that only a certain *class* of Black people permit, use and accept using the N-Word in the manner you refer to. Personally, I refer to these folks usually as "ignorant ghetto trash" /;0) That word, IMVHO, is offensive no matter the context (kind of like the old Richard Pryor joke about pronouncing the N-Word, i.e. "if you get your ass kicked you know you got it right" :0J...

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Bunch of us went to Toronto for a class trip once. We are all in a VERY busy hotel restaurant waiting for service (I think there were 2 or 3 waiters on duty for the whole place). As seemed to be the case the whole time we were in Canada, the waiters were all of Asian descent (it has been about 10 years, so my memory may be fuzzy on the exact numbers). We were all starting to get a little aggravated when one of the guys waves to get attention and shouts "Chink!". He claimed he was saying cheap, but no one believed him. This was the same guy who shouted "Quick! Hide the drugs!" seconds before Canadian customs got on the bus.

We tried to leave him in Canada, but the chaparones wouldn't let us.

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Comedienne Margaret Cho does a routine on Asian slurs which might clear this up.

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'Welcome to Pekin Illinois home of the Pekin Chinks' So read a billboard at the edge of town in the 70's. Yes, the name of our football team was the Pekin Chinks , and we even had a rollerskating rink called the Chink Rink. Of course now they're called the Dragons. Some folks around here STILL wear Chink shirts to games in protest of the name change.

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Guild of Critics, I find your etymology of the slur "chink" interesting, although I think it's probably incorrect. I think the word is more likely a variation of "chinese", which is what the American Heritage Dictionary thinks (dictionary.com didn't provide any other etymologies). But I wonder whether the eye-slit idea was only yours, or was generally considered to be the meaning of the word in your region?

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I'm from Connecticut. A chink was also a fire cracker...I think they're also called black cats or soemthing like that. A person of far Eastern ethnicity was also called chink, and yes, we did know that there were many chinks in a fence.

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chink

1: offensive terms for a person of Chinese descent [syn: Chinaman] 2: a narrow opening as e.g. between planks in a wall 3: a short light metallic sound [syn: click, clink] v 1: make or emit a high tinkling sound [syn: tinkle, tink, clink] 2: fill the chinks of, as with caulking 3: make cracks or chinks in; "The heat checked the paint" [syn: check]

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Yes, chink was used at one time as a slur for Chinese. It was meant to refer to facial features that many East Asians observe of having thin eye openings. I remember it being a rather severe insult to East Asian Americans when I was a kid.

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Found this in the Oxford English Dictionary:

chink as in fissure was first seen in English literature in 1398.

chink as in the sound came out in 1581

chink as in "a Chinaman". Also attrib. (Derogatory.)

1901 Munsey's Mag. XXIV. 536 The leader suggested the ‘chink’, and to the one Chinese laundry..the little band departed. 1910 W. M. RAINE B. O'Connor iv. 41 Chinks, greasers, and several other kinds of citizens driftin' that way. 1919 War Slang in Athenæum 8 Aug. 727/2 ‘Chinks’ for Chinese labourers. 1922 J. S. FLETCHER Ravensdene Court xiv. 173 ‘AChink?’ ‘He means a Chinaman,’ I said. 1926 Chambers's Jrnl. 552/1 The towns, small or large, possessed from one to hundreds of ‘Chink’ laundries. 1932 J. DOS PASSOS 1919 17 The Barman was a broadfaced Chink. 1936 ‘R. HYDE’ Passport to Hell 229 The little Chinks hated the Boche like hell. 1945 [see CHOW-CHOW n. 3]. 1969 J. DURACK in Coast to Coast 1967-8 99 We used to have a couple staying with us. Chinks, they were, medical students.

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i know here in suburban chicago asians comment on each other's "chinkie" eyes...is that the same? its not really offensive to me, but is that just like black folks calling each other nigger?

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My neighbor called me a chink one day. I don't think it meant "small opening" then.

But younger people, at least here in Florida, don't even know that it has a derogatory meaning. One day in class we saw it in a comic about the Vietnam War, and no one even knew it was bad, or that I was surprised it was used as a teaching aid.

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I think most people are aware of the original meaning of the word, but they hear the derogatory meaning more frequently. Similar problems arise with many, if not most, offensive terms: dyke, cock, ass, etc.

I don't think it's just Californians that think this way but it's a question of which term is more common.

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