The “cockroach” epithet, unsurprisingly derogatory, has been used widely in politics, primarily to dehumanise. Photo: Shutterstock The “cockroach” epithet, unsurprisingly derogatory, has been used widely in politics, primarily to dehumanise. Photo: Shutterstock
The “cockroach” epithet, unsurprisingly derogatory, has been used widely in politics, primarily to dehumanise. Photo: Shutterstock
Lisa Lim
Opinion

Opinion

Language Matters by Lisa Lim

Hong Kong’s protesters are often called ‘cockroaches’, but where does the term come from?

  • During the protests, the much-reviled insect’s name has been co-opted by pro-Beijing elements, intended as an insult
  • The Cantonese slang for cockroach is also a term of admiration for resilience in the face of adversity

The “cockroach” epithet, unsurprisingly derogatory, has been used widely in politics, primarily to dehumanise. Photo: Shutterstock The “cockroach” epithet, unsurprisingly derogatory, has been used widely in politics, primarily to dehumanise. Photo: Shutterstock
The “cockroach” epithet, unsurprisingly derogatory, has been used widely in politics, primarily to dehumanise. Photo: Shutterstock
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Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim has worked in Singapore, Britain, Amsterdam and Sri Lanka, and until June 2018 was Associate Professor and Head of the School of English at the University of Hong Kong, where she still holds an Honorary position. She now is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney. She is co-editor of the journal Language Ecology, founder of the website linguisticminorities.hk, and co-author of Languages in Contact (Cambridge University Press, 2016).