Chinaman's chance(redirected from a Chinaman's chance)
offensive slang Little or no chance at all; a completely hopeless prospect. This derogatory phrase originated in the 1800s and referred to Chinese immigrants who worked for extremely low wages, faced racism and higher taxation, and were prohibited from testifying in court for violence committed against them. Primarily heard in US, South Africa.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Also, ghost of a chance. An extremely slim chance, a hopeless undertaking. Both versions are most often put negatively, as in He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of finishing the work in time, or They haven't a ghost of a chance to get as far as the playoffs. The first term, now considered offensive, dates from the late 1800s when many Chinese immigrants came to work in California and were resented because they worked for lower wages. Its precise allusion is unclear. The variant, which relies on the meaning of ghost as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms fat chance; not an earthly chance.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Chinaman's chance, he hasn't a/not a
No chance whatever. The term dates from the latter half of the nineteenth century, when Chinese immigrants came to California to help build railroads. Their presence was sharply opposed because they would work for far less than white workers. “We are ruined by cheap labor,” wrote Bret Harte in his poem “Plain Language from Truthful James.” According to some authorities, the term applied to those Chinese who tried to supplement their earnings by working claims and streams abandoned by gold prospectors, a virtually hopeless undertaking. Others, poet John Ciardi among them, believe it derives from the way they were regarded as virtually subhuman and had no legal recourse if, for example, they were robbed, attacked, or otherwise abused. It largely replaced the older not a dog’s chance, at least in America, but is now considered offensive. Also see fat chance; snowball's chance.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
Slim to no possibility. There have been several explanations about the origin of this odious phrase, all arising from Chinese immigrants working in the American West. One is that they were given the most dangerous jobs, such as setting and igniting explosives. Another is that judges and juries routinely convicted Chinese defendants on the flimsiest of evidence. A third is that Chinese miners were allowed to work gold claims only after others had taken the best ore. In any event, “Chinaman's chance” should be relegated to the slag heap.
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price