[KS] pigtails

Gari Keith Ledyard gkl1 at columbia.edu
Wed Jun 19 01:23:41 EDT 2002

	It's interesting how not much happens on this list over weeks at a
time, and suddenly soneone asks a curious question and everyone wakes up.
Why are we otherwise so reluctant to use this potentially great thing that
Rob Provine and his associates have provided for us?
	Of course Koen's question about "pigtail," in the sense of a
derogatory term for the Manchu queue that Chinese men were forced to adopt
(after cutting off their topknot and shaving the front half of their head)
following the Manchu conquest in 1644, raises broader issues.  The
responses so far, including the interesting quoted material in some of
them, seem to boil down to "pigtail" being of only late Qing currency and
perhaps even origin.
	The OED citations helpfully provided by Jay Lewis are interesting
in demonstrating that the earliest English usages of the term have no
reference to Chinese at all, but rather to the queue that British soldiers
and sailors wore in the second half of the 18th century and a little into
the 19th.  It seems that some wore their queues long after they were no
longer fashionable, to the extent that the term came to mean old fashioned
or amusingly conservative.  Such people were called "pigtails."
	For the Chinese dimension, I checked out one of my favorite
lexical works: <Hobson-Jobson, a glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words
and phrases, and of kindred terms...>, by Henry Yule and Arthur Burnell,
1886 (updated 1903 by William Crooke).  Although the bulk of the corpus in
this book of over 1000 pages deals with Anglo-Indian words that had some
currency in English and certainly in the literature of the British empire,
there are also a good many listings relating to the Malay and Chinese
parts of the world, where Yule and Burnell dug up a lot of their entries.
One of these is "pigtail" (p 710).  They write: "This term is often
applied to the Chinaman's (sic) long plait of hair, by transfer from the
queue of our grandfathers, to which the name was much more appropriate..."
(I.e., THEY were CHARMINGLY ridiculous.)  They cite "Miss Bird, <Golden
Chersonese>," (1879, apparently a novel) and quote a particularly
offensive passage needing no repeating here. <Hobson-Jobson> will occasion
a lot of politically correct shaking of the head nowadays, but as a work
of lexicography it is quite fascinating.
	Considering this together with the OED, the term pigtail
originated in the British military, where queues lasted for two or three
generations down to about 1820, and was appropriated by British in China
to refer to the Chinese.  (It should be emphasized that in the earliest
literature the Asian usage offensively referred more to Chinese males than
to their queue.)  Judging from the late 19th century references in Chinese
and Japanese to <tunwei/tonbi> cited by Young Kyun Oh and Richard Miller,
it would seem that the Chinese probably picked up the British
condescension and calqued it as <tunwei> directly from the British usage.
It was probably the anti-Manchu Chinese revolutionaries who coined the
Chinese variation. I've read a lot of Chinese and Korean hanmun historical
sources on the Manchus in the 17th and 18th centuries, but I have never
seen the term <tunwei/tonmi> in the sense of the Manchu queue.  Nor is it
in any Korean dictionary that I have handy as I write.
	In response to Kirk Larsen's query on the relationship between the
Manchu queue and the Korean topknot, I don't believe there could be any.
Korean males seem to have worn the topknot or something like it very early
in their history.  In the form used in the Cosen dynasty and the
construction put upon it in that period, it was exactly the same as the
Song and Ming topknots.  There was a connection with the Manchu queue only
in the fact that Koreans well appreciated that the Chinese were forced to
wear them but that the Manchus, in spite of the humiliations they they
inflicted on the Koreans (esp. in the 17th century), had not enforced them
in Korea.  Throughout the Qing dynasty, thousands of Korean diplomats
proudly wore their topknots (in Ming style, with the knot in a net under
the hat) while in China, to the great astonishment and chagrin of the
Chinese who were denied the privilege.  As to the broader question Kirk
raises about possible connections between "traditional Korean court dress"
and its "Manchu/Jurchen/barbarian" counterparts, there was absolutely none
if by "court dress" he refers to the formal dress of civilian officials.
Their dress consciously and rigorously copied official Ming stye, except
that it skewed the ranks two steps lower than the Ming: that is, a Korean
rank one (ilp'um) uniform was exactly the same as a Ming uniform for a
rank three official, and the last two ranks, eight and nine, had a more
distinctive Korean cut.  If Kirk refers to the formal Korean military
dress, all one can say is that there was no resemblance that I can see
between the Korean uniform and the Manchu.  The Korean military hat and
other items of the dress were quite different from Ming military styles as
well.  Some Korean writers of the 18th century who wondered about the
origin of the Korean military dress were uncertain as to its origins and
history, suggesting that it had native roots of some antiquity.
	Richard Miller's suggestion that the derogatory "pigtail" started
out in the U.S. needs some back-up.  It might be checked in H. L.
Mencken's _The American Language_ and its supplements.  But on the basis
of the above, I would rather suspect that the term was first used in our
revolutionary generation in its British military sense.  It is significant
that of the American founding fathers who wore a queue (George Washington
aand Alexander Hamilton come to mind), most seem to have had military
backgrounds.  You never see pictures of Samuel Adams or Benjamin Franklin
with a queue.

Gari Ledyard

On Sun, 16 Jun 2002, Koen De Ceuster wrote:

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> Dear List,
> Looking through Yun Ch'iho's hanmun diary, I was struck by his at times
> derogatory terminology when talking about the Chinese. In particular, his
> use of the term 'pigtails' (tonmi) was striking, as it is a term not
> unfamiliar to Western ears. He used it after visiting a public park in the
> English concession in Shanghai on 11 February 1885. The park was closed to
> Chinese ("No Dogs nor Chinese admitted"), which led Yun Ch'iho to jot down
> his thoughts on international relations, and the inability of the Chinese to
> stand up to the mighty Western powers. It is in this context that he used
> the word.
> On other occasions (a.o. expressing his exasperation at Chinese political
> interference in Korea), he would use the term 'Manchu pigs' (hodon).
> My question in fact is related to the specific use of 'pigtails.' Does
> anybody on the list know where the term originated, whether it was used in
> Japan (and by whom), or was it a Western term, that seeped into his
> vocabulary through his contact with American diplomats and missionaries?
> Any useful hints are most welcome.
> Koen De Ceuster

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