Ching Chong 100

When Kwok-Ming Cheng went to lớn a Whole Foods in New York City to pichồng up some pre-ordered sandwiches over the Fourth of July weekkết thúc, he wasn"t expecting to get tapped with a new nickname.

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"Are you Ching Chong?"

That"s the question Cheng said he heard from a customer service representative at the grocery store.

It"s a slur I and many other Asian-American folks have heard at some point in our lives. But every time I hear it, I can"t help but wonder, "How is this thing still around? And where did it even come from?"

Cheng, who works in finance, moved lớn the States from Hong Kong when he was 7. He said while racism was certainly nothing new lớn hlặng, he was caught completely off-guard.



An album cover for Lee S. Roberts and J. Will Callahan"s 1917 tuy vậy "Ching Chong."

The Library Of Congress

"I was mortified," Cheng told me. "Because the thing is, OK. I"m in New York, I"ve seen racism, and if I"m on the street, if someone goes "Ching Chong", I"m lượt thích, You"re just being stupid. And I"m going to lớn let it go and I"m going lớn walk away. ... But I"m at Whole Foods, and the Whole Foods is literally right next khổng lồ Chinatown."

(Since then, Whole Foods management has been in liên hệ with Cheng. Randall Yip at AsAmNews has more about the situation.)


You can mix your watch lớn it. Every few years — or if we"re considering more recent history, every few months — we hear in the news of someone referring lớn a person of Asian descent with the age-old phrase "Ching Chong."

In 2003, Shaquille O"Neal tossed the phrase out when referring lớn Yao Ming. ("Tell Yao Ming, "Ching chong yang, wah, ah soh," " he said in a TV interview.) Rosie O"Donnell said it in 2006 when imagining a Chinese newscast of a drunken Danny DeVito lớn. ("So apparently "ching-chong," unbeknownst lớn me, is a very offensive way to lớn make fun, quote-unquote, or moông chồng, Asian accents. Some people have told me it"s as bad as the N-word. I was lượt thích, really? I didn"t know that," O"Donnell said after.)

In 2011, University of California, Los Angeles student Alexandra Wallace posted a YouTube đoạn phim where she ranted about Asian students using cellphones in the library. ("OHH CHING CHONG TING TONG LING LONG... OHH," she said. Actor và musician Jimmy Wong responded with this parody song: " "Ching Chong," it means "I love sầu you." ")

And comedian Stephen Colbert received flak this past March when a staffer tweeted, "I am willing lớn show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity lớn Orientals or Whatever," from the show"s account. (The tweet was meant khổng lồ emang lại Colbert"s parody of a foundation Redskins owner Dan Snyder had created. It still drew the ire of many on the Internet.)


But "ching chong" hurled as an insult at Asian folks in the U.S. stretches bachồng all the way lớn the 19th Century, where it shows up in children"s playground taunts. (Because of some mysterious force, it just has to lớn be this way: Kids" rhymes tkết thúc lớn have sầu bleak roots that make us want to lớn hit that "restart-world -from-the-beginning-of-time" button.)

A book by Henry Carrington Bolton from 1886 — The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children — tersely describes this rhyme:


"Under the influence of Chinese cheap labour on the Pacific coast, this rhyme is improved by boys brought up khổng lồ believe sầu the "Chinese must go," & the result is as follows: —

Ching, Chong, Chineeman,

How vày you sell your fish?

Ching, Chong, Chineeman,

Six bits a dish.

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Ching, Chong, Chineeman,

Oh! that is too dear!

Ching, Chong, Chineeman,

Clear right out of here."


(And that"s no typo. In the book, there was no S in "Chineeman.")

The late 1800s were rife with "yellow peril" & anti-Chinese sentiment. The gold rush and the railroad industry had drawn many Chinese immigrants to the U.S. in the mid-1800s. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed inkhổng lồ law, preventing Chinese laborers from immigrating to lớn the States.

But even after the 20th century was off và running, the slur only got worse. Mary Paik Lee, a Korean-American writer, brings up a taunt from the early 1900s in her autobiography, one even more acidic than the rhyme Bolton recounted:


That one doesn"t even rhyme; it"s just racist. (And the context is a depressing story about how Lee was greeted by her classmates with a hit on the neck.) But a young boy in John Steinbeck"s 1945 book Cannery Row comes up with a rhyming variation: "Ching-Chong Chinaman sitting on a rail — "Long came a White man an" chopped off his tail."

The term showed up again in Lee S. Roberts and J. Will Callahan"s 1917 ragtime song, "Ching Chong":


"Ching, Chong, Oh Mister Ching Chong,

You are the king of Chinatown.

Ching Chong, I love sầu your sing-tuy nhiên,

When you have sầu turned the lights all down."


Mimicry, particularly for mocking Asian accents, is the mặc định pejorative sầu mode, according lớn Kent Ono và Vincent Pmê mệt in their book Asian Americans & the Media. The book points out that this size of mockery marks Asian folks as decidedly, unequivocally foreign, that Asians and Asian-Americans are the "other."

But how something so anachronistic has managed khổng lồ cling khổng lồ people"s linguistic dictionaries is baffling. ("Ching chong," after all, is just a crude imitation of what folks think Mandarin or Cantonese sounds lượt thích. Urban Dictionary"s first treatment of the phrase sums up how exhausted the phrase can feel. It"s Urban Dictionary, so be warned: The language isn"t safe for work.)

It"s been used for more than a hundred years & doesn"t seem to be slowing down. But as the number of Mandarin speakers in the U.S. rises, maybe one day we"ll get a slur that"s at least more phonetically astute.