Are you Oriental? I love Oriental people…and Oriental food, not to mention Oriental furniture.


The word “Oriental”…is it offensive to you when one refers to you as such? I’ve been called this indirectly and directly several times in the past several years. One time, I was in class lecture and the instructor said “Oriental” to refer to Asians. Good thing he didn’t look at me when he said it because I would’ve smacked him. Well, maybe not, but the funny thing is that nobody in the classroom noticed it except me. Granted, I was the only Oriental in the classroom. Were the non-Orientals not aware or do they just not care? Is this word really offensive? I mean, do I personally care? Uhh…not really. I think it’s kind of silly that I’m being referred to as some sort of object like a piece of furniture or rug. But whatever. I did have one dude ask me if I spoke Oriental and he was totally serious. That was a riot. I told him of course I can…I’m Orientese and I was born in the Orient and that makes me Oriental…motherfucker!

I think the majority of the guilty parties are of an older age/generation. Nevertheless I think most people know that this word is not exactly politically correct and can be deemed offensive to Orientals in general. I swear the next time someone calls me Oriental, I’m going to refer to them as…American? White? Shit, there isn’t an equivalent for “Oriental” for them is there? Damnit. At any rate, I have to decide now whether I prefer to be called an “Oriental” or “China Man”. You know what? What we need to do is have this O-word to be like the N-word for Blacks. Shit Oriental, never mind. What do you guys think? Do you get offended? Has this ever happened to you? What did you do?

Read on the meaning behind “Oriental”:

38 thoughts on “Are you Oriental? I love Oriental people…and Oriental food, not to mention Oriental furniture.

  1. The word oriental have so much profound meaning to it. And it sounds good.
    Asian is so blah…..and bland.

    Lets start a revival…..tell the world “we want oriental back in PC!”. Who decided that was offensive…does anyone know?

  2. Yeah I never understood why oriental is offensive. Someone told me once that you say “oriental rug” but not “oriental people.” What’s the difference? Maybe we should be called Yellows…like Black/white.

  3. European is an adjective used to describe objects as well as people. But it’s connotation in America pretty much means “the old country.” I never considered “oriental” offensive personally, but its connotation is practically opposite from the term “european.” When something is oriental, it’s foreign, strange, and alien. If some dude calls you oriental, he’s implying you don’t belong here.

  4. > It’s because Oriental is an adjective to describe objects, things and not people.

    That’s not true, but it’s the PC usage:

    Main Entry: Oriental
    Function: noun
    1 sometimes offensive : ASIAN; especially : one who is a native of east Asia or is of east Asian descent

    Interestingly, check out definition 2a (which must be pretty obscure as I’ve never heard it used as such):

    Main Entry: ori en tal
    Pronunciation: “or-E-’en-t&l
    Function: adjective
    1 often capitalized : of, relating to, or situated in Asia
    2 a : of superior grade, luster, or value b : being corundum or sapphire but simulating another gem in color
    3 often capitalized, sometimes offensive : ASIAN
    4 capitalized : of, relating to, or constituting the biogeographic region that includes Asia south and southeast of the Himalayas and the Malay Archipelago west of Wallace’s line

  5. If I am “Oriental”, what happened to the “Occidentals”. Besides, “Occidental” reminds me too much of “accidental” and “oxymoron”.

    As a female, since I AM being objectified in all ways, I might as well be like a piece of “Oriental” furniture. Although, I know Persian men without wax jobs should be referred to as “Oriental rugs”, for they too, are “Oriental”. Derrogatory in all ways.

  6. It seems to be the N-word equivalent for asians…its kinda archaic term, we use the term east asian now. I don’t mind it, its just…awkward thats all.

  7. About “yellows”…I am ‘white’ but my skin is exactly the same color as my former SAM boyfriend’s…we put our arms up to compare. My whole family is pink-white but I have a light yellow color for some reason. I get asked whether my skin tone is ‘olive’ but it isn’t really, it’s just yellow. I can’t wear some colors of green because it makes my skin look weird.

    My mother used the term ‘Oriental’ respectfully, and that was just the word that was used back then. Some of you have to realize that most people in this country grow up without any Asians around–like when I was a kid in the Midwest. Any Chinese, etc. who were around WERE foreigners or recent immigrants. I have realized somehow in the last ?10 years or so, that ‘Oriental’ has come to be considered derogatory. You just have to realize that a lot of people wouldn’t know this. They might not mean anything bad by using it–or again, in a lot of places in this country, they just don’t know that there ARE a lot of Asian-Americans in some places in the U.S. Innocent ignorance.

    It’s probably a geography problem, too. I mean, most Americans can’t find Iraq on the globe. They won’t know specifically where Asians might be from besides China.

    The only problem with ‘Asian’ is that it refers to both Chinese/Japanese/Korean etc. and Indian/Pakistani (and Thai, etc.) ‘Oriental’ was more specific. When I hear ‘Asian’ I tend to think of Chinese/etc. but I have to remember that people also use it to refer to Indian/etc. I mean, most of the time it doesn’t matter.

  8. Read Edward Said! Orientalism is an amazing book, an unparalled exploration of language and race. Been like 15 years since I read it (I was a high school nerd), but it remains a classic. Albeit really dense and academic.

    The title remined me of the usage of oriental in an Orientalized, fetishized, ignorant context. For the same concept, facile ideas of what is Asian culture, I use “Asiany” or “Chinesey”; a friend uses “Ching Chongy”. Same concept.

    I go to so many openings of China stores and offices by Western companies, and they always have a fucking lion dance. Because, to them, that makes it “Chinese”. Whileas it would be more authentic to have a Kunju opera singer, a rock band, an interpretive dance, anything that actually still exists in Chinese culture for consumption by Chinese, rather than foreigners. “Real” Chinese openings will usually feature small girls in too much make-up singing an operatic rendition of an American pop song.

    The problem is not the term but rather it’s generality. I can’t even use “Chinese” anymore: do you mean contempemporary, Maoist period, Republican period, Revolutionary period, Dynastic period, which Dynasty? Northeast, Northern, Far West, Central, South, Southwest, or Easten (Jiangbei or Jiangnan), or Taiwan or Hong Kong or Macau?

    My pet peeve is the popularity amongst A-As for the “Hapa” term for Eurasians. Maybe they like it because it rhymes with APA? It actually means part Hawaiian, and the actual Hapas are really angry with their language being raided and abused to mean something it doesn’t mean. I’m a linguistic purist, so am on their side. All the Eurasians I know say they don’t need a special new identity word, they’re happy with half-[]/half-[]. And if you actually must introduce a new term, either make something up or borrow from another language a word that actually MEANS what you’re using it as. Why not use the Mandarin, Hunxie, literally mixed-blood, could shorten it to Hun or cutify it as Hunny or something.

  9. Mango, I’m checking on why your posts didn’t post. I didn’t delete anything, and I’m checking with the others as well. – REF

  10. Mangohare,

    I’ve had a recent post disappear as well. I’m sure it’s a bug in the system and not censorship.

    I get a little weirded out when I hear someone say Oriental. I think it is because the term came from a more racist period, and therefore retains those connotations for me.

  11. Hapa is just Hawaiian for “part” or “half”. It doesn’t necessarily mean half Hawaiian.

    Chinese stores opening here in my local Chinatown still do lion dances. They’re traditionalists. You would never see a rock band or interpretive dance. That is popular in contemporary mainland China as a result of their adoption of elements of Western culture. Kind of ironic that makes it more Chinesey.

  12. Contro is on the right track. Oriental signifies objectification with a twist of colonialism.

    “Orientalism” by world famous academic Edward Said is a seminal work that goes into the West’s objectification of the East. I guess I learned something while getting my English degree.

  13. I find that usually this is not done (said) in a manner intended to cause harm but moreso out of enthnocentric ignorance.

    My solution is to first respond and close out the immediate train of dialogue, then politely add on “ohh just as an fyi, “Asian” refers to people, “Oriental” refers to food and furniture”.

  14. As Red rightly points out, “Orientalism” deconstructs this topic far better than we can.

    I know that the term means white/Western ideas and stereotypes of Asianness rather than actual Asianness, and thus for me is represents ignorance and idiocy.

    Lion dances are authentically Chinese, but Cantonese Chinese. They’re as foreign to Shanghai and Beijing as sushi and hamburgers. It’s just one of those, Ooh, Asia is *different* cliches that dumb-ass foreigners so love to seize upon. Like how Japanese culture is orientalized by the geisha (like the lion dance, an authentic part of the culture, but transformed by fetishization), when the salarymen and the cosplay kids are much more representative typologies.

  15. Does that mean the term occidental is acurate, but the term oriental is superficial?

    Here is a wiki draw…..That’s one way or looking at it.

    The term “Oriental” is derived from the Latin word oriens, which is the present participle of “orior”: to rise. The implication is that it refers to the rising sun, hence the use of Orient to describe the “land of the rising sun”, i.e. the Far East, and is exactly analogous with the Chinese term for Japan. Comparable terms are the French-derived “Levant” and “Anatolia” from the Greek anatole, two further locutions for the direction in which the sun rises. The opposite term “Occident” – derived from the Latin word occidens, from the verb “occido”: I fall – was once used to describe the western world, i.e. the “land of the falling (setting) sun”, but is slowly falling into disuse.

    The creation of a polarity oriens/occidens originated in Roman imperial administration from the time of Diocletian and was taken up in Christian Latin literature, but the term Orient did not enter Western European languages until the time of the Crusades

  16. BTW the posts seem to have technical problems uploading sometimes…. I thought I was being deleted but looks like that isn’t the case…..For future reference….

  17. Both terms are accurate, but only oriental has the negative baggage. It was never a slur, just an exotification. As such, it could be rehabilitated more easily than words that are specifically slurs.

    I think it needs to be allowed to die out entirely for a good 20 years, and then can be reintroduced and reshaped.

  18. I can reshape it now though….in how I use it. I use the word orient quite often. Not to connotate geography, but to distinguish direction. I also call myself an oriental every chance I can find. Other wise I use asian.

    It may require me to explain the latin derivitive, here and there but. I like the word because it has a very positive energy.

    Orior – “to rise” is a very good metaphor. Even for slurs, I think the baggage is only in the eyes of the beholder and the ears of the listener.

    I think E. Said comes from a very high tension political point of view that I think is effective argument for the middle east and Israel. I’m not sure if I can swallow the whole pill on the entire Asian culture. I wish he had suggested more solutions rather than count the bodies….

    Too many brilliant theorists like Said have had to pass without seeing their dreams and ideas fully explored. Like the ideas of Bucky Fuller, maybe some one will come up with the right math. (You know he’s left us a few years back.)

  19. I don’t understand why all the Asia (cultural, political, language, literature, religion) experts here are all caucasian. If I wanted to find out something about the old country, I’d ask my parents or someone else who’s yellow.

  20. Actually, it’s kind of interesting, but a lot of this Asian cultural information is stuff you really have to study to learn. Most likely, even your parents don’t know much about it. I hear lots of Japanese comment that many foreigners know more about their culture than they do. I think Asian parents learn about their culture more through experience than bookreading, so they know all the everyday stuff, but may not know much about history or politics UNLESS that is something they are truly interested in.

  21. Hey, I would totally understand if my presence here is inappropriate. If the SAMs who run this want to email me and tell me that I shouldn’t be here because I’m white and female, that’s fine. I don’t want to spoil anybody’s party.

    I don’t consider myself an expert on anything. I have some opinions based on my own experiences. That’s all.

  22. must be somethin’ in the air today…..Major shift in the stars????

    Mrs. R You are very very welcome here as far as I’m concerned….I thank you sista.

    we need some more sistas. Thanks KM (or is it KRN?) free spirt for comming by also…

  23. DEAsianGuy said: “I don’t understand why all the Asia … experts here are all caucasian. If I wanted to find out something about the old country, I’d ask my parents or someone else who’s yellow.”

    Mrs. Robinson said: “Hey, I would totally understand if my presence here is inappropriate. If the SAMs who run this want to email me and tell me that I shouldn’t be here because I’m white and female, that’s fine.”

    Oh, come off it. Nobody said that you shouldn’t be here because you’re “White” and female. He was remarking on the overbearing presumption typical of enlightened, progressive, condescending caucasoids like you.

  24. On the flip side, I wonder what the westerrn experts are like in Asia. Would they actually know more about American literature, culture, and history than we do? (which would be tough to imagine given the average educational level I suspect we readers have)

  25. Shanghai Meimi, i didn’t realized you cited Orientalism earlier in the thread. I obviously didn’t read the thread in chronological order.

  26. In Europe, “Asian” mostly refers to Indians/Pakistanis. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are Oriental. I don’t find the term derogatory at all. It’s just not part of American vernacular…

    You know what they say…you have Orientals and then you have Accidentals.

  27. i am white, very caucasian, and i love the term Oriental, i am on the kinky side of life and love to be dominated but onlt by Orientals…..!

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