'Teddy' kept them guessing | South China Morning Post
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  • Apr 18, 2015
  • Updated: 11:12am

'Teddy' kept them guessing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 12:00am

Tommy Lewis was known for decades as sai fei (western teddy boy). It was a nickname given to him by the Chinese press.

Tommy always said the Chinese reporters called him sai fei because he worked for an English-language newspaper, sported a James Dean haircut, and wore colourful shirts and stovepipe trousers.

But the truth was Chinese reporters did not consider him Chinese because his surname was Lewis; he referred to himself as Tommy and did not seem to have a Chinese name.

Some started referring to him as gweilo, but soon realised that offended him. They switched to fei jai (teddy boy) because his clothing and hair made him stand out among their drab shirts and trousers. It quickly evolved into sai fei.

Tommy never told them about his Scots-Chinese ancestry and enjoyed the guessing games that went on for years. Some thought he was Malaysian, others that he was part Portuguese.


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