Is the Term 'Chinaman' Derogatory?

July 5, 2014 7:23 PM

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Is the Term 'Chinaman' Derogatory?

At the intermission of Noël Coward's Private Lives, my wife asked me whether I had been offended by the use of the word "Chinaman." We were watching a splendid production by the Washington, D.C. Shakespeare Theatre. Other than that one bit of language, it was a perfect comedy of manners.

Coward, who set the standard for English wit in the 20th century, wrote the delightful three-act during the Depression. It could not have been more sophisticated then; it remains stylish now. The leads are a couple so well-to-do they have no discernible occupation other than to be clever, droll and ...

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