I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

110 Responses to “"No Asians" - cornering a racist turns out unexpectedly well”

  1. Roose_Bolton says:

    Somehow I figured out the punchline without being able to understand a word out of yr man’s mouth. That was one thick Aussie accent.

  2. Hamish Grant says:

    Hilarious when people within the same culture can’t understand one another. 

    I used to live in Toronto’s Chinatown and sometimes the signage for shops and such would carry rather amusing linguistic mistakes, some of which seemed to be the result of two people who don’t understand English very well transacting a request for signage over the phone.  Case in point, a general goods store that advertised “NORELFIES” = novelties… 

  3. Fnordius says:

    Another story it reminded me of: a rookie reporter came back form an assignment, and wrote that “two thousand three hogs” were stolen from a local farm. So the editor called the farmer to verify the count. “Is it true that two thousand three hogs were stolen?”

    “Yeth,” replied the farmer.

    The editor corrected the story to read “two sows and three hogs”.

  4. Les Bessant says:

    Now that’s a classic – I remember seeing that on some TV show or other *mumble* years ago. Quite possibly as long ago as the 80s…

    • Kimmo says:

      The guy’s car plus the reporter’s hair dates the vid between 1983-85, IMO…

      That generation of Corolla came out in ’83, and the hair is a 70s hangover.

  5. chgoliz says:

    “They’re just a mob of crooks”….should have realized right then, because he’s right about that!  (Not that I’m bitter regarding my last real estate transaction, mind you.)

  6. Abraham Limpo says:

    The accent is too thight and the recording is too muzzled to make any sense to me (not english native speaker).

    Can someone get me the 5c version?

  7. Wreckrob8 says:

    When I was fifteen or sixteen my mother was selling her house. I was left to show prospective buyers around while she was at work. One couple couldn’t resist questioning me about the racial make up of the street. I asked them to leave immediately and told them the house was no longer on offer to them. It works both ways.

  8. tomwood says:

    And what’s all this fuss about violins on TV?

    • Felton / Moderator says:

      In the US, the sax is considered more offensive than the violins.

      • OtherMichael says:

        FOR GOOD REASON!

        When John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln the good,
        He hid himself in a deep Potomac wood,
        But the Devil came and and got him and dragged him down below,
        And took him to the gate — and the rest you know,
        Twenty thousand pigs on their hind legs playing
        “The Beale Street Blues” and swaying and saying:–

        “John Wilkes Boooth, you are welcome to Hell,”
        And they played it on the saxophone and played it well.
        And he picked up a saxophone, grunting and rasping,
        The red-hot horn in his hot hands clasping,
        And he played a typical radio jazz;
        He started an earthquake, he knew what for,
        And at last he started the late World War.
        Our nerves all razzed, and our thoughts all jazzed,
        Booth and his saxophone started the war!

        source

        Somewhat ironic, given the misunderstood-subject of this thread….

    • Brainspore says:

      “Never mind.” —Roseanne Rosannadanna

  9. yadayada says:

    Where’s Emily Litella when you need her?

  10. Narmitaj says:

    Sounds like Denis Norden doing the intro voiceover, so it’s possibly from his show about TV shows (mainly bloopers and out-takes) It’ll Be Alright On The Night, which he presented on British TV from 1977 to 2006. He’ll be 91 this week.

  11. lknope says:

    I wonder if whoever took down the ad at the newspaper thought to himself, “At least he used the preferred nomenclature.”

    • Stooge says:

      That, more or less, is the consideration that has stopped me finding this clip particularly funny: the guy placing the ad isn’t racist, but the only reason that innocently funny situation arises is because someone at the newspaper misheard him and thought “no Asians” was fit to print.

      • lknope says:

         Maybe he figured it was fair warning.  If you don’t want to deal with a racist…don’t call up this guy.

      • Glippiglop says:

        Curiously enough, this is still a modern day problem.  In the UK it isn’t uncommon for room to rent ads to contain phrases like ‘Asians only’, ‘this is a Muslim household’ or just be written in the dialect of the owner.  The BBC even wrote an article on the subject not too many months ago. 

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18588612

        • penguinchris says:

          I live near Little Saigon in SoCal (and my girlfriend is Vietnamese, and lives there) and the vast majority of decent-priced rooms for rent contain similar phrases in their listings (primarily on Craigslist, which is one of the few ways to find low-cost places to live here). 

          Being familiar with the Vietnamese people that live there, I understand why they do it. They aren’t all outright racists; perhaps xenophobes is more fair. They choose to live in an area that is almost all Vietnamese people for a reason – they don’t want to deal with other people (and often their English isn’t perfect). And obviously not everyone is like that – I’d guess that the vast majority don’t care. But for the plenty that do care, in the end it’s probably best that they put stuff like that in their ads for rooms for rent – it means that I don’t have to deal with them, and I don’t have to waste time going to see their room for rent only to be treated rudely (which happened several times when I was looking for a place to live for a while last year – I eventually rented a room from a nice older Vietnamese lady with poor English who seemed wary of me at first but was always nice to me).

          Generally speaking, I am probably among very few white males in the US who experiences racism with any regularity, since I spend so much time in Little Saigon. I’m still obviously overall in a position of privilege, and other than being treated rudely occasionally it doesn’t really affect me. But I treat Vietnamese racists the same way I treat white racists I’ve known… I just don’t have time for them.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          It appears that many of those pictured aren’t for sales or rentals, but roommate ads. I don’t know about the UK, but in the US, you get a bit more leeway in choosing someone who’s going to be sharing your bathroom and kitchen.

  12. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    This is the ultimate “Did you watch the video or just read the headline before commenting?” test.

    • Strange Quark Star says:

       Obviously YouTube itself did not watch it; suggested videos after this one are: “CNN: are Asian students smarter?”, “Asians on the slingshot ride.”, “Russel Peters – Asians”, “Asians in the library”, “Asian Secrets”, “Documentary on high school In South Korea”, “Asianisation of Australia” and “Ask Asians”.

  13. marilove says:

    I think I need coffee before I can understand those accents! 

    • How terrible rude and racist  of you!

      Oh, you said Kaffee.  Never mind, then.

    • Ladyfingers says:

       Is this an American thing? Apparently you guys dubbed Mad Max and have subtitles for British films.

      • As a Brit I understood every word.

        It was definitely a very thick accent – but I’ve also noticed that Americans more often struggle to understand other English speaking accents.

        • Brainspore says:

          I think part of that may have to do with modern pop culture: when I was living in Australia I noticed that they were exposed to a lot more TV and movies from the U.S. than Americans see from Australia (or the U.K.). 

          Personally, the thing that confused me more often than the different accents was the occasional unfamiliar slang.

          • I would be tempted to blame a lack of ‘outside awareness’ that the US is often famed for – but even if I were going to go that far I don’t think I’d apply it here, on BoingBoing. If we were talking on YouTube, then definitely, 100%.

          • wysinwyg says:

            There’s also the fact that since American English and Australian English both descended from UK English, both are closer “genealogically” to UK English than they are to each other.  It seems intuitive to me that people from the UK would understand Australian accents better than Americans and vice versa.

            But then we export tons of media so it’s also intuitive to me that Australians would be used to the California/Iowa “unaccented” American English.  You guys still might have trouble with folks from Do-ahchestah, Lung Eyelundt, Minnersoter, and Mayumphis(y’all).

          • Very good point!

            Actually hearing through accents is a bit of a skill of mine, but more importantly over here we get enough American media that there’s probably not an American accent we don’t hear relatively frequently – plus YouTube et al. bringing the world closer together, and all that.

            The only thing that’s ever thrown me, now that I think about it, was a Japanese lady in a sushi restaurant in Leipzig, she spoke English with a half Japanese, half German accent – different parts of my brain were arguing over what was going on.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I had the impression that Australians were deliberately trying to sound as far from British English as possible. Unless they come from Adelaide.

        • Girard says:

          Another contributing factor may be that the UK (maybe even just England alone!) has as much or more dialect diversity as the States, crammed into a much smaller geographic area.

          I didn’t have any trouble with this video, but lived in the UK until I was 5, have a British sister and as an adult have worked at jobs with Brits, Kiwis, Aussies, and South Africans…and those jobs entailed teaching English to non-English-speakers…so, I’ve, uh, encountered a lot of dialects. However, I relatively recently moved south of the Mason-Dixon line, and some folks with a particularly thick accent around here are somewhat unintelligible to me.

          • Very true! You’re only ever an hour away from another accent.

          • Felton / Moderator says:

            The most unintelligible English dialect I’ve ever run across was that of a guy from the north Georgia mountains.  He spoke very quickly in a deep southern accent, like a real-life Boomhauer. He was my supervisor at the print shop where I worked, and I couldn’t understand half of what he said, even though I was from the same state.  I didn’t last very long at that job.

          • Petzl says:

            Personally, I find strong York accents can be almost unintelligible.

      • KeithIrwin says:

        As an American, I’ve never had any trouble at all understanding Australians.  Went on a trip there in mid-December once and the only communication difficulty I ever had was trying to figure out who this “Chrissy” people kept talking about was.  I worked out, of course, that it was Christmas, but it took me a bit.

        But I may be a bit better with accents than other Americans. When I was in high school I was once watching a documentary on CSPAN which was filmed in Ireland and mostly involved interviewing people with what I would judge to be with very thick Irish accents. I was following it about 95% with some effort. My brother sat down and watched it with me for about 5 minutes and then turned to me and said, in all seriousness, “Keith, what language are they speaking?”

        • marilove says:

          I find it FAR easier to understand strong accents in person, where there is more of an ability to catch context and subtle cues. Much harder when you’re using a laptop with crappy speakers.

        • Wreckrob8 says:

          In Ireland they speak the best English.

          What funnel? asked Stephen.
          —The funnel through which you pour the oil into your lamp.
          —That? said Stephen. Is that called a funnel? Is it not a tundish?
          —What is a tundish?
          —That. The … funnel.
          —Is that called a tundish in Ireland? asked the dean. I never heard the word in my life.
          —It is called a tundish in Lower Drumcondra, said Stephen, laughing, where they speak the best English.
          [...]

          Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man.

      • noah django says:

         Americlap here.  FWIW, I had no trouble with the accents because I am so worldly and cultural, doncha know.  OTOH, I missed a few words as usual since I’m listening on my crap computer speakers and my ears are so bad, I often miss whole blocks of dialogue when my fellow countrymen are speaking to me.

      • penguinchris says:

        I watched a bit of the Mad Max dub since it was on the DVD and I was curious; it was well-done but certainly strange. Some of the original dialogue was definitely hard to understand, though, and I understand why they would have dubbed it for general release in the US. For The Road Warrior the accents were turned down several notches, but I think the strong accents in Mad Max worked well to add flavor and character to the film (and I personally had no problem understanding them, but it occasionally took a little effort).

        I’m not sure but it seemed like Mel Gibson may have been hamming up the accent a bit for Mad Max since it’s set in the sticks – his accent was not quite so strong in Gallipoli or The Year of Living Dangerously (both came out after Road Warrior, though).

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Since Mel Gibson lived in New York until he was 12, his Australian accent could reasonably regarded as his secondary accent.

      • marilove says:

        Haha. I was being slightly facetious. Mostly I need coffee before I’m able to understand ANYONE. That said, some British accents are quite strong (though always rather lovely).

        • Wreckrob8 says:

          Ah! So the woman in San Diego who told me my accent was ‘too’ British and she couldn’t understand me only needed coffee. Perhaps she was not expecting British kids – this was 1977 and I was sixteen – to be wandering around alone in San Diego asking for directions. I think she was a bit taken aback and could not be bothered to take the time to listen to me again. My too British accent is a poncey RP accent.

  14. blueelm says:

    LOL! About the time he started talking about how “even the agent himself said I can have my sign etc.” it became obvious what had happened. But the sound of the reporter’s voice when it clicks is priceless!

  15. Benjamin Terry says:

    In the very early 80s, my brother and I were in the back seat, parents in the front.  My brother was about 4 and bored.  For whatever reason he was placing a glass Pepsi bottle on his knee, then stacking a 2nd one on top.  Then, like kids who always want some attention he said,”Mom, Dad, look at my knee grow!” and my parents are like “(Son) you should never say that!” “Where did you hear that?” etc. and he kept asking them to look. At the time I didn’t know what my parents were going on about, but I figured they must not be understanding him right and asked them to look at his knee, etc.  Mmm, things kids say and entertaining misunderstandings.

    • Missy Pants says:

      We had a rather long moment at a dinner party of someone mistaking “bowl of mints” for “bowl of mince” – as in raw meat, it went on for ages as one by one the guests realized what was going on and disolved into gales of laughter and were unable to explain why they were laughing. But “knee-grow” is awesome. :)

      • relawson says:

        Source escapes me now, but I heard a tale of a parent in the toy store with their kid pointing down the aisle yelling “LOOK! DIGGERS” and a black family happened to be in the area he was pointing.

        • redesigned says:

          lol kids… my daughter when she was just 3 years old was waiting in a waiting room with me, to pass the time we were playing the game “I spy with my little eye” then you say the color of what you spy and the person has to guess what you just saw.  Of course after 10 min of sitting there a young black man entered the waiting room, and my daughter said really loudly, “I spy with my little eye something brown!”  Now even though I grew up in a mixed family, being the only caucasian child (adoption), i was mortified that the boy might be offended and quickly changed the game.  Later i tried to explain to her why it might not be best to say something like that but it also occurred to me that this was just the innocence of a child, she meant absolutely nothing by it.  It is easy to read into things ideas or preconceptions that aren’t necessarily there.

        • mocon says:

           My daughter once said something about the “funny little black man on TV.” 

          That is definitely not a description we would have used in our house, so we asked her to repeat herself.  After hearing it many times, it was clear we weren’t misunderstanding her.  As I started to ask where she had heard such a thing, she said, “you know, he does this!” and took a bow. 

          After bowing a few more times, we realized she meant the TIVO mascot character that hops and takes a bow when you boot up the unit.

          Good times.

    • tomwood says:

      Driving on a long vacation a long time ago, me and my two brothers in the back seat, mom and dad up front. Parents talked about stopping for coffee and little brother said something to the effect that he wanted coffee too (he’s about 5 I think). Dad says something to the effect of putting arsenic in little brother’s coffee. (I don’t remember the context, but there must have been something innocent that sparked this.)  Long pause….. Little brother: “I’ll put horseshit in your coffee too.”

    • Kevin She says:

       On open lab I worked at had a lot of Mandarin speaking staff; a new grad student of African descent asked me why everyone was saying “nigga” all the time when speaking in Mandarin. Turns out, “neh ga” means “your” as in “ne ga pipette” meaning “your pipette.”

      • Gemma says:

        Thanks for this. I’ve wondered about that myself when overhearing Chinese students chatting on the bus. I knew it must have been a sound-alike, but it still catches my attention sometimes as my brain takes a split second to realise that I didn’t really just hear a racial epithet.

      • Petzl says:

        Sure, that’s what they told you.

      • cj howeareya says:

        Upon first meeting my future in-laws, this homonym had very, very concerned.

        Talk about a “phew” moment. . . .

      • Marie O'Connor says:

        It actually means “that.” So it would mean “That pipette” :) It is also used in a manner similar to the English “um”. 

      • Robotech_Master says:

        This reminds me of a story my Dad likes to tell. A lot of people don’t realize it, but there’s a pretty big Mennonite community in Southwest Missouri–largely carpenters and other craftsmen. My Dad is acquainted with some of them from his antique clock repair work (after all, they’re somewhat more common among semi-lowtech groups such as Mennonites), and one of them told him an amusing story.

        Since they’re raised bilingually, they often tend to drop into their own Germanic dialect, though they try to avoid it when outsiders are around for politeness’s sake. But one day at a housebuilding site they didn’t happen to notice a non-Mennonite woman standing nearby until they’d been conversing for a while. When my father’s friend apologized to the woman, she said something to the effect of, “Oh, that’s all right. I understand why you’d want to talk about *that* so nobody else could understand.”

        My Dad’s friend was puzzled, until it came out that, among the other syllables of their language, the woman had heard them discussing a measurement or quantity involving six of something. “Six” in German is “sechs,” and pronounced like “sex”.

        I still don’t know if my Dad’s friend ever managed to convince her of what “sechs” really meant. :)

      • sort of “na” that (tis like a hiss but with a T, is ‘this’) “e” the number one (e, er, san….) “ga” connecting word that connects number to noun.  na-e-ga that one… tis-e-ga this one.

  16. Mark Dow says:

    Christ, what an aussie troll.

  17. Vnend says:

    Thank you.

  18. G.L. Dryfoos says:

    I’m not sure how to wait for 1:40 into the clip when the clip shows itself as being only 1:29 in length. But I’ll try.

  19. anansi133 says:

    When typos are outlawed only criminals will make typos.

  20. Rick Adams says:

    To be fair to this guy: They come to his country expecting special treatment and thinking they’re so superior. They should all go back to NoPetsistan or wherever.

  21. Ron says:

    Man, do I feel like a dick. I was so ready to hate this guy, and to fit every one of his shortcomings into my stereotype of a racist pig. There he was, looking like a deer in the headlights, hair disheveled, seemingly swallowing his words in fear of being called out. The reporter had him on the ropes, enunciating his righteous purpose with such clarity, and I was on the edge of my seat for the knockout.

    And then, misunderstanding revealed, the man smiled, laughed, and suddenly he was just like any of us, unprepared for public exposure, slightly confused by the attention, and mumbling responses to what must have seemed like a line of questions out of Monty Python. “Tell me sir, explain to the world, what have you got against agents?”

    He probably didn’t even have anything in particular against agents; he just wanted to sell his house without paying commission.

    That was hilarious, sure, but there was so much more.

  22. feetleet says:

    My dander was standing at attention. Conniption on stand-by. Phasers set to ragequit. And then… literally, comic RELIEF. I think that just made me a nicer person. And maybe a little embarrassed at my own prejudiced ass. 

    As us Texans might say: ‘Our urine has oil.’

    • redesigned says:

      “I think that just made me a nicer person.”    that part of your comment made my day.  so true.  anything that busts up our preconceptions makes us better and this was a great reminder that we don’t always know what is going on with other people even when it seems obvious.  maybe that person who just cut us off in traffic had an emergency or just had something terrible happen to them and are not thinking about their driving.  it is really easy to just jump to conclusions.  thanks for putting words to that same feeling i had.

  23. Brainspore says:

    I’d hate to be the typesetter who had to explain that little freudian slip.

  24. Jonathan says:

    If the punchline of the video indicates that this guy *isn’t* a racist, then you shouldn’t refer to him as one in the title. Not an intentional dig, I’m sure, but it should be edited.

  25. Jim Kelly says:

    Ah, but what if they’re *secret* Asians?

  26. My wife is Malaysian, ethnically Chinese and when she says Agent (referring to real estate agents) it always sounds like Asian. She gets upsets when I point things like this out so I haven’t said anything.

    edit: also this is a really, really old video. I am pretty sure that TV reporter is long retired.

  27. This is a really entertaining and happy video. Too bad nothing’s changed since it was made, and I really expected the guy to be an unapologetic redneck. Nothing’s changed..
    On the accent, I’m American and I understood the Aussie accents perfectly well. I have trouble with that damn Luther on BBC though – they all talk so softly..

  28. Marko Raos says:

    I must admit I too am a bit of a racist when it comes to Agents. “They just put a sign there…” interested only in money… They should go back to their Agentistan or whatever hellhole they came from.

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