[KS] pigtails

Koen De Ceuster koen.de.ceuster at pandora.be
Tue Jun 18 03:58:19 EDT 2002

Dear Jay, and others,

I should maybe specify that Yun's use of the term 'pigtail' is clearly
derogatory. In other instances, mention is made of the Manchu pigs (Hodon),
or, talking about Yüan shikai, the pig Yüan (Wondon).

So, maybe my question should rather be, where, and when does the derogatory
use of the term 'pigtail' begin. I am inclined, in the case of Yun Ch'iho to
favor a Japanese lineage. Considering that Yun Ch'iho also used the word
'China' to refer to China, a word that in Japan, 'Shina' became the
preferential term to refer to China (instead of the more reverential
'chugoku'), I am inclined to favor a Japanese influence on Yun.

Obviously, given the earlier reaction by Young Kyung Oh, one could ask
whether the use of pigtail in English, was not borrowed from the Han
Chinese, after all.

More food for thought.


 -----Original Message-----
From: 	Koreanstudies-admin at koreaweb.ws
[mailto:Koreanstudies-admin at koreaweb.ws]  On Behalf Of Jay Lewis
Sent:	maandag 17 juni 2002 23:05
To:	Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
Subject:	RE: [KS] pigtails

Dear Koen,
	Below (# 2. between the *******) is the relevant entry in the OED on
`pigtail'.  Aside from relating to a hairstyle or the Chinese, the following
meanings existed (1, 3, and 4 below).
	I agree with Richard Miller.  The term was most likely from the English.  I
think Yun Ch'i-ho picked the term up from the Japanese, who had picked it up
from the English.  The older Japanese term (Tokugawa) for Koreans was either
Chousen-jin or Toujin.  The latter seems to have been something of a generic
Tokugawa-era term for `Asiatic foreigner' and had no particular derogatory
meaning, or at least as far as I've been able to identify.
	As you can see from the OED entry, the word indicated a hair fashion common
to labourers, soldiers, and sailors in England from at least the 1750s.  The
pigtail fell out of fashion and appeared old fashioned by the mid-1800s.
The use of the word for the Chinese was probably a shorthand, like
`tricolours' or `baguettes' might refer to the French, and not particularly
derogatory or, at worst, mildly derogatory.
	We have to remember the deep associations behind Yun's usage of the term.
In the Sinitic language sphere, `pigtail' carried many other associations
that the English lacked.  The associations of pigs with people in the West
and in the Sinitic sphere are different.  In the West, people can be
pig-like, but in the Christian `great chain of being', there is a complete
division between the world of animals and men, although some extreme views
of African slaves apparently ignored this division.  In the Sinitic sphere,
people can be little different from animals if they lack `civilisation', and
this is why the insult is much stronger.
	The origin of the word `pigtail' in English does not seem to refer to
pig-like qualities.  It refers to being old-fashioned, i.e., not conversant
with machinery and not `modern'.  Strangely, the English courts still retain
the wearing of wigs by lawyers and judges, and these wigs have pigtails.
The purpose is to mark these people as knowledgeable of `age-old' common
	These are just a few thoughts about the term as used by Yun Ch'i-ho.

Jay Lewis
1. a. Tobacco twisted into a thin rope or roll.
b. A farthing candle. dial.
c. Naut. A short length of rope; a rope's end.
d. Electr. A short length of flexible conductor; spec. one in an electrical
machine connecting a brush to its brush-holder; (see also quot. 1971).
3. A pigtailed monkey. Obs.
4. attrib. and Comb. (chiefly from 2). a. in sense 'of, pertaining to,
wearing a pigtail'; colloq. Chinese: as pigtail brigade, land, party; b. in
sense 'characteristic of the period when pigtails were worn', old-fashioned,
pedantic, absurdly formal (cf. Ger. zopf), as pigtail drill, period,
professor, tory; c. = PIGTAILED 1, as pigtail macaque; also pigtail tobacco
(see 1a); pigtailwise adv.
2. a. A plait or queue of hair hanging down from the back of the head;
applied spec. to that worn by soldiers and sailors in the latter part of the
18th and beginning of the 19th century, and still frequently by young girls,
and esp. to that customary among the Chinese under the Manchus.

1753 HANWAY Trav. (1762) I. VII. xciii. 428 They observe an uniformity about
their heads by wearing pigtails. 1768-74 TUCKER Lt. Nat. (1834) II. 595 The
French carpenter can~not saw his boards, without a long pig-tail and ruffled
shirt. 1822 W. IRVING Braceb. Hall (1849) 52 A soldier of the old school,
with powdered head, side locks, and pigtail. 1830 Examiner 801/1 Trousers
came in with the French Revolution, pigtails went out with Lord Liverpool.
1838 DICKENS Nich. Nick. xiv, [Mrs. Kenwigs' girls] had flaxen hair, tied
with blue ribbons, hanging in luxuriant pigtails down their backs. 1874 M.
E. HERBERT tr. Hübner's Ramble I. xii. 193 Chinamen..with their black caps,
and equally black pig~tails. 1885 FAIRHOLT Costume in Eng. (ed. 3) II. 321
Pig~tails in the army were reduced in 1804 to seven inches in length and in
1808 cut off. c1890 F. Wilson's Fate 76 He..wiped his grizzled moustache and
twisted its extremities into pig-tails. 1895 B. M. CROKER Village Tales
(1896) 66, I was still a rather troublesome schoolgirl in short frocks and a

b. transf. The wearer of a pigtail; a Chinese.

1886 Cornh. Mag. July 55 Sweetmeats..being great favourites with the

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list