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Ang Moh = Red Hair = Whitey, but does it = Rude?

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ozchick
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Postby ozchick » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 2:56 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:
However, tone of voice goes a long way to differentiating the way it's being used.


Yeah and that's the same for any of these 'labels' Most English and Americans I know wouldn't mind being called a Pome or Yank respectively (although I try to avoid the word 'septic tanks' for yanks cos that's normally NOT accepted !) and My Swedish / German rooster is fine when I call him a 'Kraut' but these terms obviously can be used in an abusive way when one is looking to ridicule. Even in Oz we have 'terms' for the those from other states (my lot in Victoria are Mexicans from Sth of the border of NSW). Then there are Sandgropers and the 'in-breds' from Tasmania.....mostly it's just fun but sometimes e.g in a traffic accident it can get a bit heated. Interesting topic this one.....
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Postby Turtle » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 3:35 pm

Who gets to decide what is considered rude or offensive? The speaker? The listener? The majority? Or, in the context of this conversation (graciousness/politeness), would the only polite thing to be to cede the right to the other? Meaning, if we truly wished to be gracious, surely the response would be "well, I didn't mean to be rude when I called you 'ang moh', but since a normal non-Singaporean might consider it rude, I won't say it". Basically what I find more rude isn't using that language, it's the undercurrent that "this is Singapore, you're a foreigner, so we'll say what we want to say and you can like it or leave it".

Or to turn it the other way, in most Western societies, you'd never call a stranger a "chink" or a "dago" or any other racial slang, whether or not you actually believe it to be racist. Because it isn't about what you think, it's about how the listener perceives it - so as we don't mean to be offensive, we go the extra mile to use a word that we know isn't going to be perceived as offensive.

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Postby Petales Soufflez! » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 5:09 pm

Point taken.

But then the only times I've heard the word Chink (+Chang Chong) were when I get called that by Europeans, literally word thrown in the face and with a sneer to boot. Whereas when I say ang moh, it's used to refer to one and I use it with someone who knows what it means e.g. another Singaporean. I don't ever call any foreigner ang moh to his face - that would have been rude and unnecessary. OK, except in jest, "Eh you that ang moh over there!" and that ang moh being a friend and knowing what it's all about.
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Postby Wind In My Hair » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 6:26 pm

Turtle, you make very good points and I agree.

I do find it ironic that while we are expected to accede, it is often not reciprocated. For example, for years on this forum, locals have tried to explain to expats that we find it extremely rude for a person to come to our country and then complain incessantly about it in the presence of local hosts. We consider it the same as being invited to your friend's house for dinner and proceeding to criticise the food, furniture, and children's behaviour while you're a guest on the premises.

Just look at that other thread which was specifically titled what expats LIKE about Singapore, and still we have people insist on complaining (with a few nice things thrown in just so they can fit the grouses into the thread, of course). And just look at how other expat posters come down on a newbie who dares to say something positive about Singapore. Also look at the Employment Pass thread where one expat dared say to a local in front of other locals that we locals have no logic.

When we keep saying "stop it" and you (not you personally, but you as in expats in general) don't, then from where does the moral highground to accede come? How come your definition of rudeness counts and ours doesn't?

Most of us who stayed on this forum have learnt to accept that you don't mean to be rude - most are just venting, adjusting, or simply can't break a bad habit. We adjust because this is an EXPAT forum. Would it be fair to ask you to adjust because this is Singapore? Anyway, I hear you and understand where you are coming from. I only wonder how long this understanding will remain one-sided.

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Postby banana » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 7:38 pm

Wind In My Hair wrote: I only wonder how long this understanding will remain one-sided.


As long as the agenda of this board is to provide a service to expats in Singapore, probably.
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Postby EADG » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 8:04 pm

well said! especially the part about going the extra mile, you captured this better than my attempt

Turtle wrote:\n most Western societies, you'd never call a stranger a "chink" or a "dago" or any other racial slang, whether or not you actually believe it to be racist. Because it isn't about what you think, it's about how the listener perceives it - so as we don't mean to be offensive, we go the extra mile to use a word that we know isn't going to be perceived as offensive.
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Postby durain » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 8:37 pm

OMG! cant even use the word pikey anymore!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7445636.stm

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Postby Turtle » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 11:45 pm

Wind: I agree, there should be courtesy both ways, such as following forum etiquette by respecting each others' threads and not twisting them against the original poster.

Part of it though is the situation - if I walk down the street and someone yells "OEI, ANG MOH!", I can't do much about that, other than not go out of my apartment. If I truly found that offensive or threatening, life would be quite difficult. Same if people at work called me that, it would make my workplace an unfriendly environment, which could have a major impact on my life. I think that's different from a forum where all of us can choose to read and post or simply not. I'm not saying it's not rude, just that each of us has greater control over it and we have the option of avoiding such things if they become too negative for us.

Part of it also is that this is an expat forum, and in the eyes of someone looking at it for the first time, exists to serve and be a meeting place for expats. Something like a private club, if you want to put it that way. Now I'm not saying of course that locals aren't welcome or aren't wanted here, but I think people who come here will do so expecting to talk to similar-minded people.

For example, if this was a fan-forum for Manchester United supporters. Is a Liverpool fan allowed to post and complain that the other posters are rude to his team? Well yes, but their response will probably be "well you should go to the Liverpool forum if you don't like it". That's very different from if it was a forum for ALL English Football fans, if you get what I'm trying to say. It's just how people have expectations coming in, based on what they believe the forum is for, and who it is for. If it said that the forum was also for locals, I think there would be a much stronger case for banning people who insult locals (or whatever).

Singapore, as a whole, advertises it's multiculturalism, "melting pot" history and wishes to gain more foreign talent. Therefore expats have this expectation when coming in to the country, so it seems a bit shocking when we get called these names that we don't quite understand. I think that's the difference, that if Singapore advertises that it is for all, locals should go out of the way not to offend foreigners, and foreigners should likewise go out of their way not to offend locals (i.e. like that disgraceful behaviour on the trishaw some time back).

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 11:54 pm

Turtle, in my eyes now you are "Master Wu Gui".

(If you haven't watched Kungfu Panda, say so and I'll explain.)

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Postby Turtle » Tue, 10 Jun 2008 11:57 pm

I wanted to, but my significant other made me watch Sex and the City instead. I always lose the 1-1 votes! :(

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:00 am

Master Wu Gui was the wise tortoise. It's a compliment.

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Postby Turtle » Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:35 am

Oh, well thanks then. :)

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Postby pollyminaz » Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:44 am

Let me explain... Some chinese locals here probably only know the word caucasion when they are in secondary school. The word 'ang moh' is what they learn from young. And 'ang moh' is actually easier to pronounce then 'caucasion'. So, naturally, it becomes a habit:)

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 11 Jun 2008 9:15 am

Doesn't make it any less wrong does it. I grew up using the N-word until pointed out it could get you killed (40+ years ago). Don't use it now. It's called learning........

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Postby Turtle » Wed, 11 Jun 2008 9:21 am

pollyminaz wrote:Let me explain... Some chinese locals here probably only know the word caucasion when they are in secondary school. The word 'ang moh' is what they learn from young. And 'ang moh' is actually easier to pronounce then 'caucasion'. So, naturally, it becomes a habit:)


Well that's the thing - we can understand why people say it. I'm not saying people are stupid or trying to be racist if they use language like that. Maybe schools need to focus more on manners or international customs rather than just math and science, or maybe people should just think more about how others view or are affected by their actions. Either way, if Singapore intends to be a multicultural, cosmopolitan society, both locals and foreigners have to put the effort in, the government can't just say we're multicultural with the usual propaganda, and suddenly it's true.


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