An interesting (?) anecdote.

The friends for whom I was dog/house sitting for the last three weeks are Hong Kong Chinese.  On posting abroad, they had prudently laid in a year’s supply of staples to bring with them, all their favourite HK brands – or brands that are popular in HK – of course.  I neglected to take toothpaste with me and was given a tube of this brand…

I used to use this brand myself when I was in HK – a bit of nostalgia.  There is, however, a

This particular brand of toothpaste was not always called ‘Darlie.’ Up until the late nineties, when a little sensitivity began to percolate into HK society, the brand was…

You might note that the illustration has changed from the caricature of a black man in the original to a much blander, non-racial stereotype version, but, so far, the story is only of mild, if any interest, I would imagine. There is, however, a punchline. I’m sure that the observant charioteers have noticed that there are some Chinese characters under the brand name. The characters are the brand name in Chinese. The gweilo name might have changed, but the name in Chinese remains ‘Black Man Toothpaste.’    😀

7 thoughts on “An interesting (?) anecdote.”

  1. How utterly bizarre. Why would they sell something named like that when they neither admire or wish to emulate blacks?
    What I find interesting is that the Chinese appear to be from a different planet most of the time, just the hugest cultural gulf between us and them. Are my impressions correct, but then I have met very few and only in passing. What do you think of them?

  2. Bravo: I had not heard of this product but it is fairly common in China and Japan to use English names for products that are often inappropriate and sometimes totally bizarre, something to to with a literal translation process. Pocari “Sweat” is the often quoted Japanese isotonic soft drink. I found local toothpaste in both counties to be very strange, odd flavours like wintergreen and orange and was always glad to get back home to Colgate.

    CO: I think it is only the white teeth of black people they wish to emulate, so it probably makes some sense to a Chinese adman.

  3. Feeg, you’re right, it was the teeth 🙂

    And you’re right too, Christina, it is generally accurate to say that Chinese people do not think as we do. You know that I’ve been around Chinese people a lot and I believe it is true to say that. It may also be the case that Chinese people actually use a slightly different physical mechanism to think than other physically differentiated flavours of the common stock. I recall reading some time ago about a Chinese therapist in the US who taught ethnic Chinese aphasics how to speak again by stimulating linkages between the visual perception and speech areas of the brain – linkages that are not there in, for example, the fish-belly white side of the family.

    On the ‘black man’ thing. This is not necessarily pejorative in Chinese. It is perfectly acceptable to say of someone, ‘he is a yellow person,’ or ‘she is a white person.’

  4. Bravo: the Chinese brain is set up very differently. The writing system requires use of the opposite side of the brain than an alphabetic writing system. The use of tones requires the brain to process language completely differently. Speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, etc have been found to be several times more likely to possess perfect pitch than speakers of non-tonal languages as well.

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