Sense of humour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2003, 12:00am

I was saddened to read that much of Regina Ip Lau Yuk-see's life has been coloured (pardon the expression) by a bit of name-calling some 30 years ago in Glasgow ('No love, no sleep and lots of tears', August 23).

Being called 'Suzie Wong' by Glaswegian builders, although perhaps embarrassing, and no doubt 'sexist', was almost certainly meant as a compliment.

The effects of words and names can depend on context, perception and to some extent history, and on whether there is an intention to denigrate or be obnoxious. The word 'gweilo', in most cases, is used with humour and is nothing to get hot and bothered about.

If Mrs Ip's encounter was with an ignorant, malevolent racist, then I offer sympathy and apologies. However, humour which pokes fun at our ethnic and regional origins and differences should be encouraged. If everyone else is laughing, life is more difficult for the bigots. Second, the imbuing of words with pejorative nuances where none may have been intended is part of a nonsensical 'politically correct' agenda.

In Britain, the word 'Chinky' is still common usage (usually in relation to take-away Chinese food) and has no racist overtones. However, few people would use it in front of an ethnic Chinese they did not know in case it was perceived to be insulting. Maybe this is progress. Also, legislation is being considered to stop builders shouting personal remarks from construction sites for the benefit of any passing ladies, even Scottish ones.

Competent politicians are an important commodity in Hong Kong. I hope that after a well-earned break Mrs Ip may consider jumping into this 'pit' again.

Dr A. A. HOLMES, Yau Ma Tei