OED: Chinky

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary entry for 'Chinky' is a little odd. It reads:

Chinky n. (pl. -ies) informal 1 offensive, a Chinese person. 2 a Chinese restaurant.

So usage 2 isn't offensive then? I'm fairly confident that anyone who was offended at being called a Chinky would be similarly offended if their restaurant was described in the same way.


Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm going to side with the dictionary on that one. "Chinky" seems to be the standard Northern term for a Chinese takeaway, in the same way as a "Chippy" is a fish and chip shop.

That's not to say that it wasn't originally an offensive term, but nowadays it seems to have slipped into common usage (in certain parts of the country) to the extent that its origins have been largely forgotten.

It's very much a north-south divide thing, though. I've never heard it used in London.

Anonymous said...

Would always use the term "Chinky" in Kent where I grew up for the chinese take-away. Might be more of a class divide thing than north/south?

This has brought back memories of the only chinese lad in our year at school - everyone would simply call him "Chang", the only reason being that Michael Chang was a (semi) top tennis player at the time. Kids can be so harsh!!

Chris Frumplington said...

They should have moved the word 'offensive' to the other side of the number 1 to indicate that both terms could be considered offensive.

How about trying to come up with a new slang term for a Chinese restaurant anyway? I'll go first. I suggest 'Chinoiserie'. Reckon it'll catch on?

By the way, while looking at the photo and working out that you were opposite a branch of Radio Shack at the time (good at this mirrored writing, ain't I?) I also noticed that although the 'N' of 'golden' was the right way round, the 'N' of 'dragon' was back to front. Is this chink ... er ... chinoiserie using a set of Russian letters for their signs. And if so, why?

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Derby (East Midlands) and would never use the word 'chinky' to describe a chinese takeaway. We would just call it 'the chinese' I also spent a few years in Preston (Lancs) when I was at uni, and don't recall anyone refering to the chinese takeaway as a 'chinky' but then I didn't hang around with many of the locals!
I always thought of the words as being offensive.

JD (The Engine Room) said...

It's interesting the Concise OED doesn't attribute 'Chinky' to a specific variety of English - in fact it doesn't even declare it to be 'British English'. Any non-Brits out there have anything to say?

I didn't actually take the photo of the restaurant - I got it from Morguefile. But the backwards N is interesting. Well spotted! Maybe the restaurant is just trying to look generically 'foreign'?

Editrix said...

I, in the States, don't think I've ever heard the word "chinky" before. I've heard it in noun form ("chink," a very racist word for an Asian person) but never as an adjective. I have, however, heard "chinky" used in a slangy way to mean "cheap" or "of low quality." I don't think that usage has anything to do with Asians, though. My guess: it's just a skewed form of "chinchy," another slangy word for "cheap."

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Never come across 'chinchy' before. I guess it's related to 'chintzy' (for which the OED gives a tertiary and North American-specific meaning of "miserly").

I don't think chinky/chinchy/chintzy in this sense have anything to do with Chinky restaurants either.

Although I suppose you could have a chinchy Chinky, or (using the primary meaning of 'chintzy'), a chintzy chinchy Chinky. I don't know whether that would offend people or just confuse them...

Gez said...

This reminds me of the Alan Partridge episode when Alan sings "Melting Pot".