Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Chinaman n.

1. (US) a cup of tea, much of which originated in China.

[US]DN I 385: Chinaman [...] cup of tea.

2. an Irishman, stereotyped as an immigrant.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 209/1: late C.19–20.

3. (Aus.) in dice, a five [? anecdotal, lost story of five Chinamen].

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Sept. 35/1: One at a time’s good fishin’. Come along me beauties; two blanky Chinamen (fives). ’Struth, but that beats cock-fightin’.

4. (US drugs) addiction to a narcotic, usu. heroin [the Chinese origin of opium, the base of heroin; note: cit. a.1963 may be symbolic rather than a ref. to withdrawal].

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]W. Burroughs letter 15 May in Harris (1993) 125: It is a relatively simple matter to send the Chinaman on his way. I made it 3 or 4 times already the codeine route.
[US] ‘The Fall’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 84: The Chinaman spoke, and it wasn’t a joke, / For I knew this was the end. [Ibid.] 85: But believe me, friend, when lockjaw set in, / The Chinaman took his toll.
[US]R.A. Wilson Playboy’s Book of Forbidden Words 153: Other terms for a drug habit are [...] the Chinaman.

5. (W.I.) a farthing, a small coin [like the stereotyped Chinese, the coin is small].

[WI]cited in Cassidy & LePage Dict. Jam. Eng. (1980).

6. (US) a derog. term for one who has political influence [the image of the ‘wily Oriental’].

[US]R. Campbell Junkyard Dog (1999) 2: Then comes my Chinaman — who is called a rabbi in New York, a mentor in the colleges and a political sponsor elsewhere.
[US]J.A. Juarez Brotherhood of Corruption 108: In the structure and lingo of the Chicago Police Department, a Chinaman is someone in a white shirt (above the rank of beat cop) with heavy political pull—a person who could, with one word, make or break a cop’s career [...] their power comes from their connections to people in high places.

In compounds

Chinaman’s eyes (n.)

(US) in craps dice, a throw of two 1s.

[US]A. Baer Two and Three 11 Jan. [synd. col.] Even the Gobb of Siam knows that [...] a pair of Chinaman’s eyes mean two aces.

In phrases

have a Chinaman on one’s back (v.)

to be addicted to narcotics, esp. heroin.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981).
[US]W. Burroughs letter 30 Nov. in Harris (1993) 27: I want to stay out of N.O. long enough to get this Chinaman off my back. (Kick the habit).
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
kill a Chinaman (v.)

1. (US prison/drugs) to withdraw from narcotic addiction.

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 117/1: Kill the Chinaman. (Often varied: ‘To kill a Chinaman’ or ‘to kill a (the) monkey’; or ‘to get the monkey off one’s neck.’) 1. To break a drug habit completely.

2. see also SE phrs. below.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

Chinaman’s luck (n.) (also luck of a Chow)

(Aus.) good luck, with an implication of it being undeserved.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Oct. 20/1: The ‘Chinaman’s luck’ of the Boodle-wraith has again got it out of a very tight corner. The report of the Royal Commission on Q. Works is an awkward document, and now the Works under-secretary dies suddenly, thereby making most of the criticisms quite harmless; for the man who’s dead will get his full share of the blame, and at least a little over. The Ministry’s luck is simply appalling.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Dec. 17/1: A farm hand [...] was passing one night through some tall grass, felt a snake twine itself round his leg, inside his trousers, and climb upwards. He bent down, and made a wild grab at where he thought its head was, and, with the ‘luck of a Chow,’ seized the head, with a handful of trouser.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 130: luck of a Chinaman Very lucky, enjoying good fortune, sometimes implication you do not deserve it.
Chinaman’s nightmare (n.) [racial stereotyping]

(US) bedlam, chaos.

[US]‘W.T. Tyler’ Rogue’s March 45: It was a Chinaman’s nightmare up there at GHQ .
Chinaman’s shout (n.) [the presumed meanness of the Chinese]

(Aus.) a supposed ‘treat’ for which everyone involved must pay.

[Aus]Table Talk (Melbourne) 12 Mar. 28: On Thursday when a draw resulted between teams chosen by [...] Mrs Harold Cohen, it was a ‘Chinaman’s shout,’ for there were no losers to pay for afternoon tea.
[Aus] Le Courrier Australien (Sydney) 5 june 7/1: We have many names for the ‘shout’. There's the dinkum shout in which each person stands treat in turn and then there's the Dutch shout the Chinese or Chinaman’s shout, and the American or Yankee Shout.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang.
Chinaman’s trot (n.)

(Aus.) a slow and steady jog.

J.J. Murie From Ocean to Ocean 22: I frequently caught myself going at a ‘Chinaman’s trot’ where I could not do any riding.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 108: I followed the buggy at a Chinaman’s trot.

In phrases

I’ll be a Chinaman (also I’ll be a cross-eyed Armenian)

a mild oath.

[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 32: If we’re not in a helluva trap, I’ll be a cross-eyed Armenian.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 181: I’ll be a Chinaman, I done thought you was dead, girl.
kill a Chinaman (v.) [the stereotyping of the Chinese as capable of bringing on ill luck]

1. (Aus.) to experience any form of bad luck .

[UK]V. Palmer Passage 272: But my luck’s out – I must have run over a Chinaman some time or other.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 222: ‘You’re restless, Jimmy,’ Nan said, teasing me. ‘Have you killed a Chinaman?’.
J. Andersen Winners Can Laugh 58: Superstition plays an important part in the life of the racing fraternity. The sighting of an oriental person before, during or after placing a bet is always regarded as a sure sign that fortune will smile on you. (A run of bad luck is usually attributed to the killing of one by the unlucky punter.).
[Aus]Tracks (Aus.) June 81/4: Young American Hank Mills wins the Rip Curl Pro Trials from Chris Davidson and the luckless Nick ‘I killed a Chinaman’ Wood.

2. see also sl. phrs. above.