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A false or facetious display of obeisance, or an insult disguised as a compliment. A derogatory phrase, it should not be confused with the linguistic or sociological components of compliments as used in Chinese language and culture.
Chinese fire drill
1. A wild or chaotic situation. Today, this term is often considered offensive. Boy, that meeting quickly devolved into a Chinese fire drill with people just shouting over each other.
2. A prank in which people get out of a car (while it is stopped at a red light) and run around it to change seats. Now that you have your own car, I don't want to hear about you kids doing Chinese fire drills or any other ridiculous things like that.
A nickname for lokao, a bright green vegetable dye from China. Look at this vibrant color—the artisans must have used Chinese green.
Overtime pay which is calculated at less than an employee's normal hourly rate (usually one-half), rather than one-and-a-half times it, as is usually paid in traditional overtime arrangements. It is a potentially derogatory term, so discretion is advised. Overall, I love having the flexibility to work the hours that I see fit; the only downside is that I only get Chinese overtime when I have to put in more time for a project than usual.
1. A puzzle game consisting of intricate and complex pieces that fit together in a specific manner, especially of multiple boxes that fit inside one another. My uncle gave me this Chinese puzzle for Christmas, and I still haven't been able to solve it!
2. Any problem, question, or situation that is especially complex or difficult to understand. Dealing with growing income inequality is truly a Chinese puzzle for lawmakers today. I can't understand a thing about how this engine works, it's like a dang Chinese puzzle!
A figurative barrier meant to impede or silence the flow of information between two or more parties so as to stop or limit conflicts of interest from arising, as in investment banking or law firms. An allusion to the Great Wall of China. "Wall" is sometimes capitalized. Because of the sheer size of the company, many departments represent competing clients and interests, so several Chinese walls are in place to make sure no one can be accused of benefitting from insider knowledge.
1. A game played between a group of people in which a story or message is told by one person in secret to another, who then retells it to the next, and so on, with the resulting end message usually differing widely (and often amusingly) from the original. It can be considered a pejorative term, so discretion is advised. Primarily heard in UK. Chinese whispers is a great game—it's always hilarious to see what the last person has interpreted by the end!
2. Any information or gossip that has been spread and retold by multiple parties, thus obfuscating, distorting, or exaggerating the original information. A somewhat pejorative term, it takes its name from the party game described above. Primarily heard in UK. The firm's CEO denounced the rumors of impending layoffs as being nothing more than Chinese whispers. It's a common occurrence that sensationalist news headlines devolve into Chinese whispers, thus leading a large number of people to accept misinformation as fact.
have more chins than a Chinese phone book
offensive slang To be exceptionally or exceedingly fat, i.e., having multiple rolls of fat (chins) on one's neck. Intended as a humorous insult, the phrase is a pun on the word chin and the supposed commonness of "Chin" as a Chinese surname. Your mama is so fat, she has more chins than a Chinese phone book!
it's all Chinese to me
This might as well be a foreign language, because I don't understand it at all. A variant of the more common phrase "it's all Greek to me." Can you make sense of these instructions? It's all Chinese to me! I tried to listen to the judiciary hearing, but all that legal jargon is all Chinese to me.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Chinese fire drill
A state of utter confusion. This cliché dates from about 1940 and today is considered quite offensive, disparaging the Chinese as disorganized. Nevertheless, it has not yet died out.
A barrier that sets apart conflicting interests within an organization. Analogous to and named for the Great Wall of China, intended to keep out invaders, it has become, according to David Segal of the New York Times (“Chinese Walls, Pocked with Peepholes,” June 14, 2010), a metaphor/cliché for separating the parts of an organization focused on profits from sections concerned with other matters. The usage dates from the 1970s and has been applied not only to financial institutions but to groups of doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
Chinese fire drill
A politically incorrect term for chaos. The phrase supposedly originated in the early 1900s. A ship with British officers and a Chinese crew practiced an engine room fire drill. The bucket brigade drew water from the ship's starboard side, carried it to the engine room, and simulated throwing it on the “fire.” Another crew carried the buckets to the main deck and threw the water over the port side. But when orders became confused in translation, the bucket brigade started to draw the water from the starboard side, run over to the port side, and then throw the water overboard, bypassing the engine room completely. A 1960s stunt was for a carload of teenagers of college students to stop at a red light, whereupon at the command “Chinese fire drill,” driver and passengers got out, ran around the car, and returned to their original seats. The same idea is sometimes heard as the equally politically incorrect “Chinese square dance.”
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price