I very much appreciated Tim Hamlett's column on the gweilo debate (Sunday Morning Post, January 5), especially his successful attempt at adding a bit of levity to the discussion.
I, too, think it is important to see the lighter side. It might help to remember that some expats adopt the controversial term, because of a jocular appreciation of its negative image.
In Hong Kong's fast-paced financial world, certain members of our commercial elite (brokers, speculators, etc) find it an enjoyable vice to compare themselves to the colony's early swashbuckling pirate-taipans, seeing in their rough lifestyles and immoral earning activities, a faint mirror of today's no-nonsense yet joyous cash-grab. Of course other expats (understandably) do not wish to compare themselves to opium traders (or to brokers for that matter) - hence another reason why gweilo and fan kwai are not everybody's favourite word.
As I recall, it was P. Chung's letter (South China Morning Post, December 2) that re-sparked the recent debate, with Mr Chung mischievously suggesting it was all right to say gweilo nowadays as it had become a term 'without any derogatory element'. Judging from your letters column, many disagreed.
May I suggest, in the spirit of Tim Hamlett's column, that we all try to see the pointlessness of unnecessarily offending our neighbours. It seems clear that some people do dislike the term gweilo. Let's send it the way of other unloved old tags (like say 'Chinaman'), by not insisting that others call themselves by names they dislike, whatever the antics of a few.
D.O. RICHARD Stanley