Racist Typo

I was reading the Metro on the train this morning when I came across a travel feature on Mystic, Connecticut.  I briefly scanned it — and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Talking about a bar in town, this is how the piece begins:

The bar is rapidly filling up, and soon the air is thick with chatter and the chink of ice on glass.

I knew something wasn’t right.  I had seen that word before, and I was pretty sure it was a racist term.  After double-checking with a few coworkers and Urban Dictionary, I confirmed it.  It is a racist term for a Chinese person or a person of Asian descent.

How could this appear in the paper?!

Clearly, the writer, Linda Laban, was searching for an onomatopoeia of some kind.  Either she originally put in the word clink and an editor changed it, or she thought that the word chink had a good sound to it.  And I in no way think that she or the editors are racist. It looks like an accidental typo.

That being said, where was the editor to find this horrible error and remove it?

We all know that Metro is no stranger to errors — the paper is usually peppered with them.

Even today, there was a great blurb on the front page:

It is predicted that 56 billion people worldwide will be hypertensive by 2025.

At least I can laugh at that one.


16 responses to “Racist Typo

  1. Sorry, but both dictionary.com and merriam-webster.com indicate that this is a valid use of the word.

    The 56-billion people error is pretty funny, though.

  2. Alexa Moutevelis

    EXCUSE ME!!! Hypertension is no laughing matter!


  3. I knew that “chink” was not only a racial epithet, but also a word that had a meaning completely unrelated to the slur for people of Asian descent – BUT I had to look it up, because the definition failed me. This is what I found:
    chink1 Audio Help /tʃɪŋk/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[chingk] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun 1. a crack, cleft, or fissure: a chink in a wall.
    2. a narrow opening: a chink between two buildings.
    –verb (used with object) 3. to fill up chinks in.

    … as in “a chink in one’s armor”. I knew I had heard it somewhere! Whew.

    So, despite the fact that there is indeed a legitimate and innocuous meaning of this word, the author used it wrong.

    However, this kinder, gentler definition may explain why a spell checking program may not have identified this usage as incorrect – and why an editor easily overlooked it.

  4. D’oh! If i had only read down a little further, I would have found a second definition clearly describing the sound of two glasses clinking together. Go figure – it IS a legitimate use of the word, even if it IS offensive when used in a different context.

  5. It was a regular word long before it was a slur.


  6. Yeah, I am afraid that “chink” is quite the actual word. For the sound, and for a crack.

    That word makes me think of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where one of the players is a wall with a chink, between which the lovers can speak.

    Though, in my high school’s production of the play, the player playing the wall was Chinese, which made the whole situation really awkward every time they talked about the chink in the wall. Yikes.

  7. “We all know that Metro is no stranger to errors — the paper is usually peppered on them.”

    I believe, dear, that you mean to say that the Metro is usually peppered with errors.

  8. How did I miss that? Thanks, David. I swore I wrote that originally.

    I guess technically it’s okay to use the word, but I bet that most publications would dissuade writers and editors from using it.

  9. i saw that glorious statistic as i read the metro the other day. wonderful to know.

  10. As far back as 1770, “chink” was use as onomatopoeia. In the example I’ve linked, it is used for the sound coins make when they collide.


  11. Hi! I’ve really been enjoying your blow and have nominated you for an award. Details are in Readerville

  12. thekoolaidmom

    56 billion? by 2025… hmm… if we’re going to hit that goal, we’re going to have to start multiplying like rabbits! and even then… all those poor hypertensive babies!

  13. Just call me Joe

    I’m a political wog, er… I mean wonk!

  14. Just call me Joe

    I’m subject to attack for that comment, and I’m very vulnerable – there’s a chink in my armour.

  15. Don’t know about anyone else, but I am an editor and I would not dissuade anyone from using a perfectly valid word (though depending on my demographic, maybe I’d substitute “clink”).

    Of course, I would also not post a pearl-clutching blog slagging a publication without at least consulting a dictionary first; it takes all of 30 seconds.

  16. Completely unrelated! I’m from D.C., and our subway system is called the Metro. I seriously read your first sentence three times before I got anything sensible out of it.

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