Sum Ting Wong

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In case you haven't already seen it, here's a news story that KTVU-TV in San Francisco ran on Friday, purporting to give the names of the four pilots of the Asiana plane that crashed at SFO on July 6:

Apparently the linguistically and ethnically offensive joke started as a newsroom prank, but someone took it seriously, and a summer intern at the FAA "confirmed" the names over the phone. (Presumably the "confirmation" was something like "Good one, man! Oh yeah, right, those were totally the names, no question about it. Heh.")

According to Daniel Arkin, "Asiana Airlines considering legal action over racially offensive fake pilot names", NBC News 7/14/2013:

Asiana Airlines is weighing legal action after the National Transportation Safety Board mistakenly confirmed to a California television station fake, racially offensive names for the pilots of the flight that crashed last week in San Francisco.

The Friday report on Oakland TV station KTVU, which used four erroneous and racially charged names for the pilots of Flight 214, seriously damaged the reputation of the four pilots and the company, according to Ki Won Suh, a public relations representative for Asiana Airlines.

Suh said that Asiana Airlines is, for that reason, “considering legal action” against KTVU and the NTSB. It was not immediately clear Sunday what legal recourse the airline was mulling.

It's amazing that this made it onto the air. "Sum Ting Wong" indeed.



  1. Questioner said,

    July 14, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    Are you sure that Ki is his real name, sounds a lot like Ki wants to Sue

  2. John said,

    July 14, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

    So are Sum Ting Wong and Ho Lee Fuk both Cantonese names? What would the tones be? (I've learned enough Mandarin to know that they didn't come from that dialect, though the other two could have. ;-)

  3. richard said,

    July 14, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

    The spokesperson's name is more correctly romanized as Suh Kiwon (momentarily ignoring the battles of "correct" romanization of Korean, this is at least closer than Ki Won Suh). Suh (서) is the family name, Kiwon (기원) is the given name.

    The other names are sadly common joke versions of Cantonese–there are others that don't bear repeating–rooted in the ethnic humor of the 19th century, particularly in blackface minstrelsy, which began including yellowface (Chinese and Japanese varieties) in the repertoire of racial and ethnic stereotypes with the arrival of significant numbers of Asian immigrants. See also "Ching-chong Chinaman."

  4. fs said,

    July 14, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

    I like racial humor as much as the Avenue Q puppets (see: "everyone's a little bit racist"), but I'm dismayed by the number of people sharing this without even a nodding recognition of the ways this is problematic.

    That is, when something is appalling and hilarious at the same time, I try at least to recall why it is horrible, then laugh, but I haven't seen this happening globally.

  5. Rubrick said,

    July 14, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

    I think it might be rather difficult for many English speakers to understand why these are racially (much less linguistically) so offensive — any more so than, say, oldies like Paddy O'Furniture, which seem harmless enough. Certainly large numbers of Americans have grown up in places and times where "Ching chong"-style Asian caricaturing is fairly rare, and awareness of the virulent (and government-sanctioned) anti-Asian racism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries even rarer.

    The offensiveness of inserting a childish prank into a report on a deadly plane crash is, of course, another matter. (The ignorance and shoddy fact-checking of the news organization doesn't surprise me much, I'm afraid.)

  6. David Morris said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 5:40 am

    My wife's surname is Ki, so I automatically read the name as Ki Won-suh.

  7. Jongseong Park said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    I think many Koreans will be wondering to what extent the American public will realize how incorrect this is on a linguistic level, i.e. using faux-Cantonese names for Koreans. My hunch is that few would be so linguistically aware.

    To Koreans, the examples are patently impossible as Korean names because no 'f' is used in Korean, nor the sound 'ow' (nor indeed any falling diphthongs; 최 Choi is actually Choe /tɕʰø/ or /tɕʰwe/ and Hyundai is actually Hyeondae /hjʌn.dɛ/ or /hjʌ, and you would never find syllables like 'Sum', 'Ting', 'Wong', 'Ding', 'Fuk' etc. in Korean names.

    Koreans can immediately tell whether a name sounds plausible in Korean. The vast majority of Korean names are based on Sino-Korean syllables, which means a vastly reduced pool of permissible syllables, and non-Sino-Korean names will still be euphonic to Korean ears (e.g. based on a common native Korean word, like 하늘 haneul "sky").

    The choices are even more restricted when it comes to surnames. There are only about 270 Korean surnames in use, of which the few dozen most common probably cover 99% of the population.

    I can't imagine that a non-Korean speaker would reach that level of familiarity with Korean names, but I wonder if at least some non-Koreans have figured out that for example 'Wong' or 'Chan' cannot be Korean surnames (though confusingly 'chan' is a permitted syllable in given names; 'wong' isn't).

  8. Sarah Thomason said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:24 am

    Did you notice her pronunciation of the third name? She pronounced Sum in the first fake name as "some", but when she got to Fuk she pronounced it with the vowel of "fool" rather than as "fuck", with the same vowel as in "some". Deliberate avoidance of the English taboo word, surely?

  9. Bill Benzon said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:27 am

    Richard's comment makes me wonder. As a I kid learned some faux Cantonese names that were scatologically and sexually offensive beyond being merely caricatures. I assume such humor was widespread. I'd also think that anyone who grew up hearing such humor would have caught on to those names instantly. Could the fact that those names made it on the air mean that such humor is less widespread than it once was?

  10. Jongseong Park said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:39 am

    Regarding Ki Won Suh: Both Ki and Suh are possible surnames (so is Won, in fact), so the decision comes to choosing between Won Suh and Ki Won. Ki Won is pretty common; I know a Kiwon myself. Won Suh, while possible, would be much less common. So I would have guessed that the spokesperson in question is Suh Kiwon. There are two notable persons named Suh Kiwon on Korean Wikipedia.

    But a quick search reveals that Ki Wonsuh is correct for the Asiana spokesperson, though I don't know which Romanized spelling he prefers. Such are the perils of encountering Korean names in European languages…

    This is one of the reasons I strongly advocate writing Korean given names as a single word in Romanizations, as I do for my own name, Jongseong, or at least using hyphens for disambiguating syllables (e.g. Bon-gil vs Bong-il). In Korean, the surname and the given name are normally written without spaces in between (e.g. 기원서 Ki Wonsuh), and in rare cases with a space between the surname and the given name in order to emphasize the distinction (e.g. 기 원서 Ki Wonsuh). Never will you see spaces in between syllables of given names. So it's a bit of a mystery why so many Koreans write the syllables of their given names as separate names in Romanization, though it is true that there are lots of cases where the space is used in English that will not have a counterpart in Korean, such as certain compound words.

  11. J.Xiao said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:40 am


    I instinctively think 'Sum Ting Wong' as Sum-Ting Wong, 黃心婷 (wong4 sam1 ting4), a feminine given name in which Wong's the surname. (This fooled me for a fraction of a sec initially because of my knowledge of Hong Kong Cantonese romanization, but then I immediately realized the pilots were Koreans.)

    'Ho Lee Fuk' is weird because the supposed 'surname' is not placed at the back like the first one (Fuk as surname is much rarer whichever character used). Still, I would have written it in Chinese as 何理福 (ho4 lei5 fuk1).

    Interesting tidbit on the pronunciation of the character represented by 'Lee': nowadays it is pronounced like 'lay', rhyming with 'day'. But go back to early 19th century many characters pronounced with the rime -ei today were pronounced -i instead. Thus 'coolie' (historical Asian manual labourers) was rendered into Cantonese as 咕喱 (gu1 lei1, historically gu1 li1, closer to 'coolie' phonetically). Therefore the character used above, and the very common surname 李 were also rendered as Lee in Hong Kong Cantonese, quite different to their modern pronunciation (lei5).

    Some older people chastised their young'uns as 死仔包 (sei2 zai2 baau1, lit. 'wrapped-up dead children', despite its apparent severity it is usually used lightly) but pronounced it like "si2" zai2 baau1. Most would assume it's 'just accent', but it is also possible that it's an archaism!

  12. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:43 am

    I can't imagine that a non-Korean speaker would reach that level of familiarity with Korean names, but I wonder if at least some non-Koreans have figured out that for example 'Wong' or 'Chan' cannot be Korean surnames (though confusingly 'chan' is a permitted syllable in given names; 'wong' isn't).

    Realising that they "cannot" be Korean surnames might be a bit strong, but even though I have only a passing familiarity with Korean culture it was evident as soon as I saw the story that there was no way those names were real, regardless of the "joke" behind them.

  13. Jongseong Park said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:45 am

    Sarah Thompson: Deliberate avoidance of the English taboo word, surely?

    Definitely. An interesting variation that I read somewhere takes place in Northern England, where a visitor hears a local pronouncing the German name Fuck as /fʌk/. The visitor tells the local that the correct German pronunciation is closer to /fʊk/. The local immediately lowers his voice and says, "Yes, but I can't say that out loud here, can I?"

    The point is that the Northern English pronunciation of the taboo word uses the vowel /ʊ/.

  14. J.Xiao said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:47 am

    @Sarah Thomason

    The closest approximation would be the -ook in 'look'.

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 9:59 am

    Oddly enough, the slightly-differently-ordered "Lee Ho Fook" is a real Cantonese name, or at least a name used for Chinese restaurants in multiple locations in Anglophone countries. The one in London (which the internet suggests may have recently closed) was around for decades and may be known to people of a certain age because it is referenced in the lyrics of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London."

    "Overseas Chinese living in South Korea are often stereotyped as being criminals or potential criminals," says wikipedia. In the highly unlikely event the lawsuit were to proceed, I would think defense counsel could have some fun publicizing the possible failure of South Korean public discourse to follow current (and often quite recently adopted) U.S. norms of interethnic sensitivity.

  16. crash dump summary (yes, something is wrong with Sum Ting Wong) | even function said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 10:12 am

    […] […]

  17. Aaron Gullison said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 11:34 am

    What's so offensive about Wi Tu Lo, then?

  18. J. Xiao said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    @Aaron Gullison

    'We Too Low' I guess?

  19. julie lee said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    I read news several days in several places that Aseana wanted to sue KTVU-TV for racism in giving out bogus names for the pilots. The names were not revealed. I thought the offense was "bogus names". Even when I saw Mark Liberman's posting, I only glanced at the bogus names and didn't realize what they said. Only after I took a second look did I realize the names were deliberately poking fun at the crash and the Asian pilots– "Sum Ting Wong" (Something Wrong), "Ho Lee Fuk" (Holy Fuck) , "Wi Tu Lo" (Way Too Low), etc.

    This kind of play on Chinese names is totally new to me. I've never seen them before, though I'm familiar with the name Paddy O'Furniture. I hope you or someone else here can supply me with more of the latter kind, playing on English, Irish, Scottish, that is, on "Anglo" names, and deliberately poking fun at a plane crash where the pilots, almost all the injured passengers, and all the children who died in the crash, are white, so I can feed the clever bogus names as a joke to a TV station. A joke is a joke after all. No big deal. You can't prevent people from playing jokes, or adults from childish pranks.
    (For all I know the prankster could be Asian, i.e., a yellowface. Asians like jokes too. I'd like to know if the perpetrator of the joke on the Asiana crash is white, black, brown, or yellow.)

  20. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

    I'm not sure how old julie lee is, but if I've correctly gathered from her comments on prior threads that she spent some significant part of her K-12 schooling in the U.S., then I find it striking that she had never before encountered this kind of inelegant ethnic humor, because that would suggest that taboos have really strengthened quite dramatically within my own lifetime. There is a slightly more subtle issue, which is that these jokes generally rely on an approximation of what Chinese names one encountered in the U.S. used to more typically be like, i.e. a particular style of transliteration of largely Cantonese-origin morphemes. Changes over the last several decades in the composition of the Chinese-American community, plus the rise of pinyin transliteration for proper names among PRC-origin immigrants may have changed Americans' baseline sense of what a Chinese-looking name (stereo)typically looks like, which might make this sort of wordplay somewhat more obscure separate and apart from changing standards of social acceptability.

    No less a figure in academic linguistics than the late Jim McCawley once used the pseudonym Quang Phúc Ðông, which is sort of a Vietnamese variant of the "Ho Lee Fuk" type of name. I wonder if that would be considered in acceptable taste today?

  21. Jason said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

    @Aaron Gullison

    Just think "stereotypical Asian mangled English humour".

    Some thing wrong
    We too low
    Holy Fuck
    Bang Ding Ow!

    It's obvious when you read it.

  22. Jason said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    … out loud.

  23. Beth said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

    I wonder if at least some non-Koreans have figured out that for example 'Wong' or 'Chan' cannot be Korean surnames (though confusingly 'chan' is a permitted syllable in given names; 'wong' isn't).

    I'm pretty sure some have. When my husband heard the story, he immediately exclaimed, "Not only are those names obviously a prank, they don't sound the least bit Korean." Maybe he has more knowledge than average, since he was once a telephone operator who often placed calls to SK, but surely everyone has encountered their share of Korean names.

  24. julie lee said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

    @ J. W. Brewer

    julie lee happens to be very old (but spirited) and didn't spend any of her K-12 or undergrad college years in the U.S., whence her ignorance of the Sum Ting Wong type of play on Chinese names. She is very color-conscious because her K-12 years were spent in British colonial territories before they became independent. Her children (all ABC's, American-born Chinese) call her a "racist" because she is color-conscious. Her ABC daughter thinks the Sum Ting Wong bogus names racist for sure, but "people will joke, no big deal, you can't stop people's from joking if they want".

  25. Avinor said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

    For me as a non-anglophone European with some limited Mandarin skills, those puns immediately struck me as being in the style of "how Americans think that Chinese sounds like". So very interesting to read the comments about it being mock-Cantonese in anglicized spelling.

  26. Chris C. said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

    I am vaguely ashamed that my first thought on seeing this list was, "Idiot troll couldn't even make up Korean-sounding names."

  27. David Morris said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

    The surnames Kim, Lee, Park and Choi account for something like half of all Korean surnames. I've seen war memorials in Korea on which one whole column is filled by people named 'Kim' (which falls close to the beginning of the Korean alphabet). Assuming that those surnames make up exactly half of Korean surnames, and if my knowledge of statistics serves me correctly, then there's a 93.75% chance that in any reasonably random list of four Korean names, there's going to be at least one of those names.

    In the early days of my relationship with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, I created a Korean name for myself, though I never use it – 음대호: 음 for 'M', the first letter of my surname, eumak (music) and eumshik (food); 대 for Daehan minguk and 'great' (as in Sejeong Dae-wang) and 호 for Hoju (Australia). (음 is a rare-ish Korean surname, but it does exist.)

    In one class in Korea I had two young female students named So-eun and Eun-ju. One morning I cheerfully and accidentally said 'Good morning, soju!"

  28. The Ridger said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    I dunno. This is a country where the writer/director of a major motion picture could tells us that a Korean bed-time story featured Narfs and Skrunts, after all (M. Night Shamyalan's "Lady in the Water").

  29. dw said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

    It's amazing that this made it onto the air.

    Not really. The same TV station fell for the "Mike Litoris" gag:

  30. Martha said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

    Jongseong Park said: So it's a bit of a mystery why so many Koreans write the syllables of their given names as separate names in Romanization,

    I always ask my Korean students if their first name is one word or two. They say they don't care, but I've noticed that they typically write their names themselves as one word, with the first letter of the second syllable capitalized.

    Here's something I've always wondered. I know that Koreans put surnames first. But I've never understood why, when reporting about Korean people, do American newscasters put the surname first? I mean, why do we talk about Kim Jong-un, not Jong-un Kim? I think it would make it easier for Americans to recognize a Korean surname when they see one.

  31. J. Xiao said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 11:11 pm


    The media doesn't seem to have a unified protocol on using western naming order. For instance, we don't see them ( calling the Hungarian PM 'Orbán Viktor' like in its native form either. Though it could also be lack of knowledge about Hungarian naming order, or plain indifference.

  32. Local Television Station Gets Punked said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    […] fair game and it is funny as hell to boot that the reporter was so oblivious. You might find this discussion on Language Log interesting. Astonishing that broadcasters in San Francisco didn't recognize that […]

  33. ChuckRamone said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    When I was a kid, I bought a gag t-shirt for a fictional Chinese restaurant, and on the back of it were listed a bunch of dirty joke puns playing on the sound of Chinese. And I'm Asian American so people thought it was extra funny when I wore it. I'm still not sure why I not only bought that shirt but also wore it quite a bit. Was it self-hate? Was I letting everyone know I have a sense of humor? I don't really remember. Anyway, as soon as I saw this story it reminded me of that shirt.

  34. Jongseong Park said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 10:46 am

    Martha: I always ask my Korean students if their first name is one word or two. They say they don't care, but I've noticed that they typically write their names themselves as one word, with the first letter of the second syllable capitalized.

    Do you mean like JongSeong? The Korean alphabet groups the alphabetic symbols into syllabic blocks so that 'Jong' and 'seong' would form separate blocks even though no space is ever inserted between them. So the CamelCase might have been motivated by wanting to represent that syllabic division graphically in the Roman alphabet, even if I personally think it's ugly.

    We Koreans are not agreed ourselves on the first thing about the Romanization of our names, including on the naming order, so I can't really blame outsiders for being confused.

  35. Lee C. said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    but I wonder if at least some non-Koreans have figured out that for example 'Wong' or 'Chan' cannot be Korean surnames

    I wouldn't be surprised to see a Korean name among four random people living and working in America, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a non-Korean working for a Korean airline. Perhaps that would actually be highly implausible, but ignorance of immigration patterns in Korea is doubtless as widespread in America as ignorance of Korean linguistics.

  36. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 11:35 am

    Especially given that many of the passengers on the flight (including those killed) were Chinese, and "Asiana" is an (intentionally?) vague name, knowing that the airline was based in South Korea and the pilots would therefore be likely to bear Korean names might require having paid closer attention to the details of the story than one might reasonably expect someone engaging in lowbrow ethnic humor to have done.

    Whether the Korean-American community ought to launch an education campaign to promote better understanding of Korean onomastics among Americans who would like to engage in more factually-accurate lowbrow ethnic humor is a question I will leave for others to opine on. But since you can apparently fool the media without that level of verisimilitude in your tasteless hoax, maybe there's no real need for it?

  37. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 11:55 am

    I wonder if some of the newer foreign-government-promoted transliteration systems would, if adopted consistently (which I should emphasize is not necessarily a good thing), reduce the substantial degree of overlap between common Chinese surnames and common Korean surnames in English transliteration. For example, "Jeong" looks unambiguously Korean to me and "Zhong" looks unambiguously PRC, but the same original-language names can and do both surface as "Chung" (maybe via Cantonese in the latter case) in transliteration. Of course "Chung" will at least lead to a consistent (however inaccurate in the original context) pronunciation by Americans reading the name.

  38. KWillets said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

    Growing up in the Bay Area, I can remember friends, Asian and otherwise, making these types of puns in elementary school, and I would expect at least someone in the news staff to flag these. Maybe the editorial staff were playing games with each other.

    Kids would make up book titles like "Spots on the Wall, by Hu Fung Poo" — it was that level of humor, maybe first or second grade. Anybody should recognize it, and many would identify the names as specifically Chinese or Cantonese.

  39. julie lee said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 12:23 pm


    I also enjoy ethnic humor. One of my favorites is “the heathen Chinee", which I found in Dryden or Pope, I forget which. My brother and I among ourselves always say “Chinee” instead of “Chinese". We also enjoy saying “dangtang” (downtown), “hawing some hwan” (having some fun) in imitation of some Chinese speaking English.

    KTVU-TV said there was no malicious intent. I once read that if one is not sure if something was meant maliciously or not, go with one’s feeling. Asiana felt “Sum Ting Wong", etc. was offensive, hurtful. Many Asians felt the same. NTSB felt it was offensive and fired the intern.
    KTVU also apologized.

    A journalist writes today on the Internet that KTVU says it cannot make further comments because Asiana planned to sue. Of course it can make further comments. It can say that it has fired the originator or originators of the bogus names. Or perhaps say that the originator was an Asian like yourself who was enjoying some ethnic humor, if that was the case.

  40. Matt McIrvin said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

    I'm dismayed by the number of people sharing this without even a nodding recognition of the ways this is problematic.

    I've seen several people getting angry that other people are offended, and grumbling about political correctness run amok, people who can't take a joke, etc.

    But it's subsided now, since the George Zimmermann verdict seems to have given people a different racially-charged thing to argue about.

  41. julie lee said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    Just now I wrote "hawing some hwan" (having some fun) as an example of English spoken by some Chinese..

    Actually it should be "hawing sahng hwahng" (having some fun), which is English spoken with characteristics of a (Chinese) Taiwanese dialect. Chinese from different provinces often speak English with pronunciation reflecting the speech or dialect of that province.

  42. noah said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    The juvenile racist humor doesn't bother me much, because it's like background radiation: everywhere, all the time. And I don't lament the Internet's ability to propagate this stuff, because I think the Internet does far more good in exposing people to their own unnecessary prejudices. It's a way of learning that the "other" isn't so "other." But what does bother me about this case is that a TV station felt it could get "confirmation" from a summer intern and that the FAA is putting a "summer intern" in the position to confirm sensitive material to the media. Actually, this whole thing sounds fishy. And so does Asiana's threat. Would it sue for libel/slander? Well, even if it could prove that the falsehood was consciously propagated and malicious, could it prove damage to reputation? It was a childish prank, and Asiana has bigger issues to deal with.

    [(myl) Um, "Asiana Airlines confirms it will sue KTVU-TV over broadcast of racist fake pilot names", CBS News, 7/15/2013:

    Asiana has decided to sue KTVU-TV to "strongly respond to its racially discriminatory report" that disparaged Asians, Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said. […] She said the report seriously damaged Asiana's reputation. Asiana decided not to sue the NTSB because it said it was the TV station report, not the U.S. federal agency that damaged the airline's reputation.


  43. Julia said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    Like KWillets, I remember juvenile humor with fake book titles. But they poked fun at any ethnicity where a double entendre was possible. E.g. "The Yellow Spot," by I.P. Freely.

  44. Circe said,

    July 16, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

    julie lee:

    One of my favorites is “the heathen Chinee", which I found in Dryden or Pope, I forget which. My brother and I among ourselves always say “Chinee” instead of “Chinese".

    You might find it interesting that the right, non-offensive way to say "Chinese" in Hindi is to say "Cheenee" (चीनी) derived from "Cheen" (चीन), the Hindi word for China. Unfortunately, one of the common Hindi names for cane sugar is also "cheenee" (चीनी), which is a cause of much confusion about the geographical origin of sugar among children learning Hindi.

    Interestingly, this pubmed indexed article claims that the origin of the word "cheenee" for sugar in Indian languages is a bit more convoluted. The paper claims that the word originated not in a reference to China the country, but to China as in porcelain (which is also referred to in Hindi as "cheenee mitti"(चीनी मिट्टी, lit. "Chinese clay"), and "porcelain-white sugar" came to be known as "cheenee".

  45. julie lee said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 12:55 am


    How interesting that "Cheenee" is actually the right way to say "Chinese" in Hindi. Looks like Dryden (or Pope) in the 18th century got "Chinee" from Hindi through various English writings, and wasn't trying to be humorous. Hindi "Cheen" probably comes from "Chin" (also spelled Qin), the name of the 3rd century B.C. Chinese dynasty that had trade with India. And so interesting that Hindi "cheenee" for sugar comes from the Hindi term for porcelain from China. Thanks!

  46. ennis said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 2:19 am

    I believe julie lee ask for English or Scottish examples, a famous one, the pair of Irish vandals:

    Ben Dover and his sidekick Phil McCavity.
    sorry but I laughed at them all, American, English, Chinese, Spanish.

  47. Lachlan said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    Why does anything “negative” with reference to a person of ethnicity get plumped straight into racism? I don’t see what is so racist about the names, they were mere tongue in cheek puns. The names were inappropriate, disrespectful, insensitive (since some people died in the incident) and factually wrong though. That’s about it.

    Where and how does it degrade Koreans? It may have been wiser had the names been "Bim Bim Pap", "Bu Go Gi", "Gun Dum Sty", Run Ing Man" etc. At least it’s more Korean in context.

    I actually found all four names quite funny. Accepting light ethnic humour means a person is more culturally exposed, and it should be a good thing. However, you're always find odd balls who get called Pokemon, Four eyed sea turtle or Ninja turtle and then they throw a massive kung-fu tantrum. All I have to says is, grow up!

  48. julie lee said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 11:22 am


    Thanks. I can sometimes enjoy ribald humor. My favorite has been
    Elvis the Pelvis
    Had a brother
    Called Enis the Penis
    I shared it with my eleven-year-old son many years ago. He shared it with his 11 year old friends, all boys, and they all loved it.
    I think the reaction to the Sum Ting Wong names may be a function of age.
    I thought them funny but mean, my American-born daughter thought them racist but so what, and last night I found that my American-born grandson, age 11, thinks they are delightful. He loves them.

  49. Jongseong Park said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    Where and how does it degrade Koreans? It may have been wiser had the names been "Bim Bim Pap", "Bu Go Gi", "Gun Dum Sty", Run Ing Man" etc. At least it’s more Korean in context.

    What's the joke there? Those are not puns but just garbled references to snippets of Korean cuisine and popular culture (bibimbap, bulgogi, Gangnam Style, and Running Man) which don't resemble Korean names at all aside from consisting of three syllables each.

    I suspect what may have offended some Koreans is the very fact that Chinese sounding names were used. There is regretfully a racist undertone to how many Koreans view the Chinese, so the very idea of being bundled with them in the eyes of outsiders is anathema to those Koreans ("This would never have happened if the pilots were Japanese", I can hear them think). Think of how an anti-Semite would react to being mistakenly targeted with a Jewish joke.

    As for whether the targets of ethnic humour should just "grow up" and accept being the butt of light-hearted jokes, let me just say that it's much easier for the "normal" people to think that when they would never be the target of such jokes themselves.

  50. ChuckRamone said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 2:51 pm


    What is a kung-fu tantrum? I don't think kung fu teaches people to throw tantrums. Or is it that when an Asian person is unhappy about something they angrily do martial arts? The beginning of your comment sounds somewhat reasonable but it devolves into a ridiculous parody.

  51. fs said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

    For Colbert's take ("at least get the ethnicity right") — where he /does/ use properly Korean surnames:

    The names are problematic because they:

    1. Drag back the racial attitudes prevalent in the United States from the 1880s (when the racism was hardly light).

    2. Mock the "Chinese" accent — lack of copula in "Wi Tu Lo", th / r in 'Sum Ting Wong".

  52. TT said,

    July 17, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

    Tibid no1: A few years ago there was a certain home owner name Mike Litoris appeared on KTVU

    Tibid no 2: KTVU is a Fox News affiliate

  53. john said,

    July 18, 2013 @ 1:59 am

    There are some Korean names that sound funny in English, for example "Geom Beom Seok" (which sounds like CUM-BUM-SUCK).

    It would have been funnier if they had read Kay Sae Kee (which is Korean for S.O.B.), or Shee Pal Lohm (which is like f**ker).

  54. dw said,

    July 18, 2013 @ 10:30 am


    Tibid no1: A few years ago there was a certain home owner name Mike Litoris appeared on KTVU

    Already pointed out above.

    Tibid no 2: KTVU is a Fox News affiliate

    It's not a Fox News affiliate: it's a Fox affiliate.

  55. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 23, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    Just for completeness, is a relevant later development on the threat-of-litigation angle of the story.

  56. dw said,

    July 23, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

    For even more completeness, the TV station is now using copyright threats to try to force videos of the episode offline.

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