Cultural identity markers once disregarded – such as critically endangered languages – sometimes unexpectedly reassert themselves, and re-emerge in the most unlikely corners. A resurgent interest in various forms of Portuguese/Macanese cultural identity among a certain subsection of Hong Kong people, and how that plays out through renewed appreciation of patuá , their creolised “ancestral language”, is an illustrative example. Sometimes described as “Cantonese flesh on Portuguese bones”, this simplistic characterisation misses the extraordinary range of lexical borrowings, garnered over more than four centuries, that gifted patuá with words from languages as diverse as Japanese, Timorese, Malay, Konkani (spoken in Goa, India), Hindi, Dutch and English – as well as Cantonese and Portuguese. In Macau, where the language originated and evolved from the 1560s, and then from the 1840s in Hong Kong, Shanghai and other Far Eastern cities where migrants from Macau settled , patuá largely remained a minority language, used in everyday domestic settings by – for the most part – minimally educated women. Locally renowned Macanese poet and playwright José dos Santos Ferreira – popularly known as Adé – wrote skits, songs, poems, radio plays and stories in vibrant patuá that, for decades, had audiences rolling in the aisles from in-jokes and hilarious puns. Born in 1919, Adé’s voluminous body of work – frequently revived – recalls a time when patuá remained a living language, rather than a scholarly research subject. But not everyone from the local Portuguese community was enamoured of patuá ; more than a few thought even admitting to knowing it a bit lowering. Aspirational social attitudes maintained that people should either speak “proper” English or Portuguese in the public sphere, and not publicly converse in what was regarded – with some truth – as parrot-sounding kitchen chatter. When he was president of Club Lusitano in Hong Kong in the 1960s, prominent lawyer Colonel H.A. de Barros Botelho objected strenuously to proposals for visiting patuá theatre productions from Macau at the club; eventually they were staged over his objections, “Bots” flatly refusing to attend performances in “that degraded pidgin”, as he more than once described patuá to me. This embarrassed, dismissive attitude echoed how similar communities managed their lives in colonial contexts elsewhere; described by Trinidad and Tobago-born British writer V.S. Naipaul as “The Mimic Men”, these people closely aped whatever way their socio-economic and racial “betters” thought, spoke, dressed, ate and behaved, often to the distinct marginalisation or exclusion of who and what they actually were themselves. Naipaul’s tart observations about 1940s Trinidad were equally true of Hong Kong around the same era. By the late 1950s, two major external forces saw this fascinating cultural artefact – already fragile – go into terminal decline. Large-scale emigration, and the community’s general social assimilation into two larger groups – Chinese or Europeans, mainly through exogenous marriage – hastened the demise. Departures from Hong Kong in the post-war era dramatically reduced the numbers of people who could speak patuá locally. Younger people who remained in Hong Kong generally moved towards either English or Cantonese, often depending on a family’s socio-economic position. Where children attended school, who they mixed with socially, and what language consequently became the next generation’s first- or de facto first language, further hastened the decline of patuá . A larger pool of native speakers remained in Macau, which steadily diminished over the next few decades. Only in recent years have markers of difference been valued – even celebrated – both by broader host societies and specific minority cultures; from San Francisco to Melbourne, the Macanese diaspora offers an illustrative example. At least a generation typically passes before migrant groups reconsider total assimilation as their only option, and start to favourably reassess the inherent complexity of their own cultural heritage. But by the time this mindset transformation happened, patuá – the living legacy of a much older generation – had largely been lost.