Thursday, September 12, 2013

Must not have a CHINK in your defenses

A few weeks ago a CNBC reporter caused a stir during a discussion of the pending divorce of Wendi Deng and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The reporter referred to Ms. Deng's lawyer as having a knack for identifying gaps in his adversaries' defenses.

But the reporter did not speak of "gaps" in "defenses." Rather, he used an idiom that includes a word that happens to be a homophone, or indeed a homograph, for a particular racial pejorative.

The Asian-American Journalists Association called the comment "offensive."

The Economist's language blog, "Johnson," is willing to give the CNBC man a pass, in part because the phrase made no semantic sense as a racial slur. By contrast, when ESPN used the same phrase in connection with basketball star Jeremy Lin, in a context in which it did make semantic sense, the editor responsible was fired – rightly so, says "Johnson."


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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