Interrogasian: The Hybrid Issue

Why do the Chinese spit so much?

January 1, 2008

Hyphen's sensei of sensibility answers your questions about Asian culture.

Dear Interrogasian,

Why do the Chinese spit so much?

-Chan is Spitting, Frisco

The Green Monster isn't just a Fenway Park institution; it's also the dilemma plaguing Chinatown dwellers. Spitting is such a regular occurrence that if there were a bingo game made from Chinatown activities, "Stepping on Loogie" would be center square. Spitting is a holdover of revolutionary and post-revolutionary China, when agricultural society transitioned to industrial. Much like the Clampetts, peasants brought their country ways with them tothe big city. Mix with smog and you've got Popo coughing up a lung and spilling the contents on the sidewalk. But that's not to say there aren't movements to curb this unappetizing practice. As SARS cases rose in 2002, the Chinese government unrolled a campaign of plastic bags, with fines levied to offenders. And now, as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach, there is a revitalized effort to remind folks to keep throat-clearing, phlegm-hawking and other cherished public elimination habits confined to private sector. Maybe we can get DJ Kool to cut a PSA: "Let Me Clear My Throat (In the Privacy of My Own Home)."

Dear Interrogasian,

My dad bought a computer and it comes with this promotional sticker on it that probably points out some of the features of it, like processing power or whatever. Why is it, that after he 's bought it and owned it a while, he still keeps the sticker on it, which is clearly meant as a promotional thing, like you know, for display in the store? Then I noticed this again when I went to a guy's house and he had one of those three-drawer clear plastic roily things and he had left the stickers on it that say Rubbermaid or whatever. It's ugly.

-Lump Sum Mel, Oakland

It could be your OCD kicking in, but as I read this, I'm looking at my HP printer still emblazoned with a sticker boasting its 20-page a minute performance virtue. My grandmother bought a Trinitron in the 1970s that kept its triangle sticker in the upper right corner for its lifetime. I guess it could be chalked up to Asian Quirk, but there could be an answer: a sign of social status. After decades of experiencing the sudden disappearance of means (through war, internment, fascist regimes, etc.), Asians place value on new, store-bought things. It's the same reason why we save wrapping paper, shoeboxes, twist-ties, soy sauce packets and dry cleaner bags. Just like how rappers used to wear baseball hats with the tags still on them, Asians (probably unconsciously) leave stickers on appliances to show that they have the ducats to enjoy life's material spoils even if it's 30 years old and requires getting up to change the damn channel.

Dear Interrogasian,

What is up with Asian females and the movie Dirty Dancing? Is there a reason why so many Asians are drawn to it?

-Nobody Puts Baby-Chan in a Comer, Catskills

That's an excellent question. Perhaps they're drawn in by the romance between Baby and Johnny (Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze). Maybe they're empathizing with Jennifer Grey's character or owning that feeling of being trapped with your square parents while cool things are jumping off somewhere else. Maybe it's the proliferation of basic cable and Asian folks being too cheap to spring for HBO. Look at the parallels between the Dirty Dancing universe and Asian American upbringing: Catskills 1963=Grand Canyon vacation 1986; Baby=every nice, mousy girl named Grace Lee. It all comes down to a simple motive: Asians love to dance. Watch Flower Drum Song or The Debut some time. At every single KSA throw-down I've been to, somebody got lofted airborne to the song (/Ve Had) The Time of My Life. Dirty Dancing has infiltrated our culture. It is like a mirror held up to our lives. Get used to it.

Dont know Grace Park from Chan Ho Park? Direct your Asian culture questions to interrogasian [at]

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