View Poll Results: Is "chink in the armor" an offensive racist term?
Yes 7 2.71%
No 116 44.96%
Depends on context 133 51.55%
Other (explanation in my post) 2 0.78%
Voters: 258. You may not vote on this poll

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#1
Old 02-21-2012, 04:06 PM
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Is "chink in the armor" an offensive racist term?

In light of the whole CNN Jeremy Lin brouhaha.
#2
Old 02-21-2012, 04:08 PM
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Not when used to refer to a small opening in one's armor, either literally or figuratively.

When used to refer to someone of Chinese ancestry, yes.
#3
Old 02-21-2012, 04:10 PM
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Not normally, no. I don't know enough about this "Jeremy Lin brouhaha" to speak about it specifically. I pay pretty much zero attention to sports.
#4
Old 02-21-2012, 04:12 PM
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Your question is diversionary. I use the phrase myself and I am in a relationship with a Chinese guy! But using it specifically to refer to him would of course be racist. I don't understand why this isn't crystal clear.

It's back to the old watermelon and fried chicken scenario. Saying I like watermelon and fried chicken is not racist (and also true). It might be a bit bizarre to just say it for no reason, but to say a black athlete sure loves his fried chicken and watermelon...different kettle of fish.
#5
Old 02-21-2012, 04:13 PM
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The phrase itself has nothing to do with Asians and isn't racist. On the other hand, if you toss it out there while discussing a person of Asian descent and give people reason to think you might be making a joke about his ancestry, you can expect people to wonder about your intentions.
#6
Old 02-21-2012, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
Your question is diversionary. I use the phrase myself and I am in a relationship with a Chinese guy! But using it specifically to refer to him would of course be racist. I don't understand why this isn't crystal clear.

It's back to the old watermelon and fried chicken scenario. Saying I like watermelon and fried chicken is not racist (and also true). It might be a bit bizarre to just say it for no reason, but to say a black athlete sure loves his fried chicken and watermelon...different kettle of fish.
This with the addendum that the own-group members get something of a free pass. I had a Chinese friend who used to refer to FOBs, and to bad photos that "made [her] look all Chinky." No one, Chinese or otherwise, objected to what would otherwise have been fairly appalling.
#7
Old 02-21-2012, 04:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
The phrase itself has nothing to do with Asians and isn't racist. On the other hand, if you toss it out there while discussing a person of Asian descent and give people reason to think you might be making a joke about his ancestry, you can expect people to wonder about your intentions.
Particularly when he is most well known, to people who are not sports fans, for people punning (terribly) on his name.

So, no chink in the armor is in no way a racist term because a chink in your armor is an actual real thing. Saying that you have found a chink in someone's armor doesn't have anything to do with the Chinese people, but it's not ok in this instance in much the same way that saying you are planing on crusading (for justice?) isn't racist until you mention that you are actually sending troops to the middle east.

Last edited by NAF1138; 02-21-2012 at 04:20 PM.
#8
Old 02-21-2012, 04:21 PM
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As a figure of speech, no. As a pun, yes.
#9
Old 02-21-2012, 04:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NAF1138 View Post
Particularly when he is most well known, to people who are not sports fans, for people punning (terribly) on his name.

So, no chink in the armor is in no way a racist term in much the same way that saying you are planing on putting together a crusade isn't racist until you mention that you are actually sending troops to the middle east.
Not to mention I don't want to see another perfectly good word/phrase put off limits. "Chink in the armor" is as evocative visually as "Achilles heel" -- "Oh, so that's the one weak spot we can get at him with!"

It is now broadly believed that it is best not to use the word "niggardly" because illiterate offense-mongers have (completely without foundation) decided it's offensive to black people. That's a loss to the language.
#10
Old 02-21-2012, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
Not to mention I don't want to see another perfectly good word/phrase put off limits. "Chink in the armor" is as evocative visually as "Achilles heel" -- "Oh, so that's the one weak spot we can get at him with!"

It is now broadly believed that it is best not to use the word "niggardly" because illiterate offense-mongers have (completely without foundation) decided it's offensive to black people. That's a loss to the language.
Exactly. You quoted me mid edit while I was trying to shoehorn some of that idea into the post after the fact but yes this is exactly right.
#11
Old 02-21-2012, 04:29 PM
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The thing is that sports headlines frequently use puns and other plays on words, often using double meanings. So in this context, it certainly seemed to be a racially motivated headline. Whether that was the intention I don't know.
#12
Old 02-21-2012, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
Not to mention I don't want to see another perfectly good word/phrase put off limits. "Chink in the armor" is as evocative visually as "Achilles heel" -- "Oh, so that's the one weak spot we can get at him with!"
Is it? Up until now, I don't think I can remember the last time I heard someone using it. I don't think people should stop using it, but I'm not really seeing what's so absolutely fantastic about the phrase in general.
#13
Old 02-21-2012, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
Your question is diversionary. I use the phrase myself and I am in a relationship with a Chinese guy! But using it specifically to refer to him would of course be racist. I don't understand why this isn't crystal clear.

It's back to the old watermelon and fried chicken scenario. Saying I like watermelon and fried chicken is not racist (and also true). It might be a bit bizarre to just say it for no reason, but to say a black athlete sure loves his fried chicken and watermelon...different kettle of fish.
Exactly. I don't get why this isn't crystal clear either but consider the source of the OP.
#14
Old 02-21-2012, 04:34 PM
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Usually a perfectly acceptable phrase. When used to imply that an Asian person is a 'chink', it is offensive.
#15
Old 02-21-2012, 04:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NAF1138 View Post
Particularly when he is most well known, to people who are not sports fans, for people punning (terribly) on his name.
Particularly when he's the first and only Taiwanese-American NBA player. I think there's a slight difference between a race being under-represented in a field/sport/etc and being the only one. It makes his ethnic background so much more rare and the likelihood it wasn`t a racial pun much lower.
#16
Old 02-21-2012, 04:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
Your question is diversionary. I use the phrase myself and I am in a relationship with a Chinese guy! But using it specifically to refer to him would of course be racist. I don't understand why this isn't crystal clear.

It's back to the old watermelon and fried chicken scenario. Saying I like watermelon and fried chicken is not racist (and also true). It might be a bit bizarre to just say it for no reason, but to say a black athlete sure loves his fried chicken and watermelon...different kettle of fish.
I'll raise you one in that it has to be a *very specific* scenario to be racist. Saying that a person who is Chinese has a chink in their armor isn't really that offensive, more because the slur makes no sense when you look at it. But if you have a body of people, of which a Chinese person is the member in question, and say the group has a "chink in their armor" it'd be more offensive because the "armor" could be interpreted as the group, and the chink as the, well, Chinese person.
#17
Old 02-21-2012, 04:38 PM
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I'll join the "not by default, sometimes by context" group. In general, I really dislike when words and phrases are interpreted as being racist when their meanings are entirely unrelated to race in any way (as with the "niggardly" controversy in DC several years ago) but it seems like in this case the phrase was used in such a way that one could certainly question whether it was being used as a racist pun.
#18
Old 02-21-2012, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuzzy Dunlop View Post
Particularly when he's the first and only Taiwanese-American NBA player. I think there's a slight difference between a race being under-represented in a field/sport/etc and being the only one. It makes his ethnic background so much more rare and the likelihood it wasn`t a racial pun much lower.
I didn't know that. I don't follow NBA but have kind of casually been following the Lin-sanity stuff on Twitter. It's actually kind of cool that it took until just now for me to learn that.

Last edited by NAF1138; 02-21-2012 at 04:40 PM.
#19
Old 02-21-2012, 04:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Not when used to refer to a small opening in one's armor, either literally or figuratively.

When used to refer to someone of Chinese ancestry, yes.
Exactly. In this particular context it was offensive and incredibly stupid.
#20
Old 02-21-2012, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
It is now broadly believed that it is best not to use the word "niggardly" because illiterate offense-mongers have (completely without foundation) decided it's offensive to black people. That's a loss to the language.
While I am all for refusing to let ignorance carry the day, let's be sensible and acknowledge that "niggard" is just not a word you hear very often in modern times. It's sort of funny to hear people complain about being deprived of the ability to use the word when I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say it unless they were quoting Shakespeare.
#21
Old 02-21-2012, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Freudian Slit View Post
Is it? Up until now, I don't think I can remember the last time I heard someone using it.
I just ran across it a few days ago myself; I've been re-reading David Weber's military sci-fi books .

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Shadow of Saganami
If Abigail was right and those ships were still in the process of working up, there were likely to be weaknesses in their performance, chinks in their armor.
I expect the likelihood of running across the phrase depends a lot on what or who you are reading or listening to. Anything involving fighting is logically going to be more likely to have such a combat-derived phrase turn up.
#22
Old 02-21-2012, 05:17 PM
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Naturally it depends on context, and it doesn't even have to be an idiom. "I found a chink in my spade the other day."
#23
Old 02-21-2012, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
Exactly. In this particular context it was offensive and incredibly stupid.

Bullshit, it was used after Lin finally lost a game after winning something like 8 straight because of high turn overs. There was nothing offensive about it.

Last edited by DigitalC; 02-21-2012 at 05:19 PM.
#24
Old 02-21-2012, 05:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
It's sort of funny to hear people complain about being deprived of the ability to use the word when I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say it unless they were quoting Shakespeare.
Aside from maybe one or two times in my life, I haven't ever anyone say "niggardly" unless they were whining about not being able to say it.

Last edited by you with the face; 02-21-2012 at 05:31 PM.
#25
Old 02-21-2012, 05:31 PM
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I think the phrase is only offensive in a given context. If they make another Iron Man movie in the villain discovers a weakness in Tony Stark's armor and exploits it and he calls it the chink in his armor, that is not racist. But the pun about Jeremy Lin was very questionable.
#26
Old 02-21-2012, 05:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Not when used to refer to a small opening in one's armor, either literally or figuratively.

When used to refer to someone of Chinese ancestry, yes.
It's as simple as that.
#27
Old 02-21-2012, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by DigitalC View Post
Bullshit, it was used after Lin finally lost a game after winning something like 8 straight because of high turn overs. There was nothing offensive about it.
To say there was NOTHING racist about it is completely wrong. Was there racist intent, who knows for sure, but the word 'chink' is undeniably a racist term in certain contexts. The potential play on words that is very common in sports headlines certainly can lead to an impression of insensitivity at best. It requires an incredible amount of social unawareness to use the phrase in the context it was used in, even if it wasn't intended to be have any racial connotations.
#28
Old 02-21-2012, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by DigitalC View Post
Bullshit, it was used after Lin finally lost a game after winning something like 8 straight because of high turn overs. There was nothing offensive about it.
It was used with a clearly racial connotation. That's generally considered offensive by a large number of people....including those in charge at ESPN, which took appropriate action after the incident.
#29
Old 02-21-2012, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Robin Davies View Post
I think the phrase is only offensive in a given context. If they make another Iron Man movie in the villain discovers a weakness in Tony Stark's armor and exploits it and he calls it the chink in his armor, that is not racist. But the pun about Jeremy Lin was very questionable.
The headline was:

Quote:
Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets
In order words, Jeremy Lin's poor performance allowed the Knicks to be defeated.

I don't understand how people read that as the pun referring to a particular weakness of Lin's. It seems pretty clear that in this context Lin is the weakness that led to the team's defeat - that Lin is the chink. It's beyond questionable in that context.

If the headline was "Turnarounds are the chink in Lin's armor" it wouldn't read like they were literally calling Lin a chink, although it would still be an unsafe and lousy headline.
#30
Old 02-21-2012, 06:04 PM
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I thought it was a clever play on words. My Chinese wife agrees.

People are way too uptight nowadays.
#31
Old 02-21-2012, 06:07 PM
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In specific reference to this, yes. Otherwise, probably not.
#32
Old 02-21-2012, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
Aside from maybe one or two times in my life, I haven't ever anyone say "niggardly" unless they were whining about not being able to say it.
Exactly. What's wrong with tight, pennypinching, stingy, miserly, cheap, chintzy, tightfisted, scrimpy?
#33
Old 02-21-2012, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasper Kent View Post
Exactly. What's wrong with tight, pennypinching, stingy, miserly, cheap, chintzy, tightfisted, scrimpy?
My mother uses this word all the time to describe not just budgetary tightness but meager portions of food, someone paying scant attention to her concerns or requests. It was a not particularly uncommon part of my vocabulary by the age of seven or eight, long before any stupid controversy. Why would I subtract an ancient and evocative part of my pre-existing vocabulary when there is no legitimate cause for grievance, but is a deeply stupid illegitimate pretext?

That sounds like enabling ignorance, as opposed to my policy of if not fighting it, ignoring it.

Or -- I get to choose my adjectives unless they are legitimately offensive.
#34
Old 02-21-2012, 06:31 PM
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I don't know what incident you're referring to, but no. "Chink in the armour" is not a racist term, and has no allusion or reference to race in it. Whether the incident you're talking about adds an extra dimension to this, I don't know, but it could be if referring specifically to a Chinese person, depending on the context.
#35
Old 02-21-2012, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
While I am all for refusing to let ignorance carry the day, let's be sensible and acknowledge that "niggard" is just not a word you hear very often in modern times. It's sort of funny to hear people complain about being deprived of the ability to use the word when I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say it unless they were quoting Shakespeare.
"Niggard", yes. But I have heard "niggardly" from time to time; maybe from older people. I've never heard anyone under the age of 40 or so use it.
#36
Old 02-21-2012, 06:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasper Kent View Post
Exactly. What's wrong with tight, pennypinching, stingy, miserly, cheap, chintzy, tightfisted, scrimpy?
My mother uses this word all the time to describe not just budgetary tightness but meager portions of food, someone paying scant attention to her concerns or requests. It was a not particularly uncommon part of my vocabulary by the age of seven or eight, long before any stupid controversy. Why would I subtract an ancient and evocative part of my pre-existing vocabulary when there is no legitimate cause for grievance, but is a deeply stupid illegitimate pretext?

That sounds like enabling ignorance, as opposed to my policy of if not fighting it, ignoring it.

Or -- I get to choose my adjectives unless they are legitimately offensive.
#37
Old 02-21-2012, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man View Post
I thought it was a clever play on words. My Chinese wife agrees.

People are way too uptight nowadays.
I think that if you, or friends were to say something like that while watching the game or talking about it at the bar or whatever, it would be somewhat groanworthy/clever in the manner of many puns and jokes that deliberately play on insults/curse words/sexual terms/other offensive terminology. When my brother told me about the headline the other day, I admit, I laughed, because it was offensive and that's the source of the humour.

Which is why it's misplaced as a newspaper headline - it's entirely inappropriate, unnecessary, and very likely to offend a lot of people and any journalist ought to know that.


So...I chose "depends on context." In the context that originated this discussion, yes, it's racist. In the context of a suit of armour, no, it isn't. Then there's lots of grey in between.
#38
Old 02-21-2012, 07:13 PM
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In general, it's a neutral term, but when you use it to refer to someone of Chinese descent, it's racist.

A similar example is "We hit the slopes" when going skiing, but when Robert Duvall says "Scares hell out of the slopes" in Apocalypse Now, it's racist.
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#39
Old 02-21-2012, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man View Post
I thought it was a clever play on words. My Chinese wife agrees.

People are way too uptight nowadays.
Ahahaha.

The typical usage of the phrase has no racist connotations at all. However, some racists like the phrase for the veil it provides when they can't stop themselves from using the ethnic slur which is homonymous with the word meaning "a small cleft, rent, or fissure," so it certainly can be a racist term in some instances.
#40
Old 02-21-2012, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
It was used with a clearly racial connotation. That's generally considered offensive by a large number of people....including those in charge at ESPN, which took appropriate action after the incident.
There was no racist connotation whatsoever.
#41
Old 02-21-2012, 07:54 PM
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When I was a kid, some forty or so years ago, we knew that Chink was a bad word for a Chinese person, just like a lot of other racial slurs. Using the phrase 'chink in the armour' in reference to an Asian man, is indeed a good pun, but I don't see it being innocent or inoffensive.
#42
Old 02-21-2012, 08:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Robin Davies View Post
I think the phrase is only offensive in a given context. If they make another Iron Man movie in the villain discovers a weakness in Tony Stark's armor and exploits it and he calls it the chink in his armor, that is not racist.
Doubly so since the villain for Iron Man 3 is rumored to be The Mandarin.
#43
Old 02-21-2012, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
Aside from maybe one or two times in my life, I haven't ever anyone say "niggardly" unless they were whining about not being able to say it.
Seriously. The reason there ever was a brouhaha in the first place was because the word was used so rarely in the first place. And all of you whining about not being able to use it, who's stopping you?
#44
Old 02-21-2012, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by DigitalC View Post
There was no racist connotation whatsoever.
Bullshit. As applied to Lin, who is of Chinese ancestry, there is clearly a racist connotation, whether intentional or merely negligent.

Last edited by Oakminster; 02-21-2012 at 09:25 PM.
#45
Old 02-21-2012, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
Bullshit. As applied to Lin, who is of Chinese ancestry, there is clearly a racist connotation, whether intentional or merely negligent.
There is absolutely nothing racist with that phrase when applied properly, which in this case it was.
#46
Old 02-21-2012, 10:27 PM
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I think the headline was done with racist intent.
#47
Old 02-21-2012, 10:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Candyman74 View Post
"Niggard", yes. But I have heard "niggardly" from time to time; maybe from older people. I've never heard anyone under the age of 40 or so use it.
Niggardly armor is more likely to have chinks in it.
#48
Old 02-21-2012, 10:37 PM
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Times I have heard or read a sports headline referring to a loss after a series of victories by any athlete other than Lin as "a chink in the armor": Zero.

First loss after a series of outstanding games by an American born athlete of Chinese descent and, just out of shear coincidence, the word "chink" is used.

Yeah, just coincidence, no racist pun being made ... you keep believing that, DigitalC.

Last edited by DSeid; 02-21-2012 at 10:37 PM.
#49
Old 02-21-2012, 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post

First loss after a series of outstanding games by an American born athlete of Chinese descent and, just out of shear coincidence, the word "chink" is used.
In what was was it not a valid use of the phrase in the context in which it was? The guy commits a lot of turn overs and the knicks finally lose a game, a situation which exactly fits the meaning of the word.
#50
Old 02-21-2012, 11:46 PM
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The phrase is not racist per se.

However, used to describe the actions of a Chinese basketball player, duh, of course it fucking is.

I honestly can't believe anyone is hand-waving this away. I spent a brief time writing for a newspaper. In my experience subeditors are not stupid, they're wordsmiths - they consider headlines carefully and look at them from several angles before committing them to print. They knew what they were doing. ETA: and if they didn't, they don't deserve to keep their job.

TLR: depends on context.

Anyone remember this article?
Quote:
Misys gives Pecker head job
By Nick Lord 05 March 2004 financeasia.com

Rudi Pecker assumes position in top slot in Asia.

After 14 years inside Misys in Europe, Rudi Pecker has been elevated to the financial technology company's Singapore office, to become head of Asia Pacific sales. In this role, Pecker will head all Misys' strategic and commercial activities in the region, aiming to grow the business and enter into long term relationships. Pecker's breadth of experience, with over 20 years in the financial services industry, will enable him to rise to the challenges of growing the business in Asia, a region fertile for expansion.

Last edited by jjimm; 02-21-2012 at 11:49 PM.
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