Chinese Tuesdays: Hairy Russians

Ed: Sam Duncan is now based up in Daqing, China's far northeast, as of the end of last year. Here's a new one of his blog posts about some of the local turns of phrase (东北话) he's picking up there


People here in the Northeast have their own word for Russians, 毛子 (máozi). 毛 means hair so I guess the term translates as "hairy ones.” The nicer version is 老毛子 (lǎomáozi – old/venerable hairy ones), and the more derogatory usage is 傻毛子 (shǎmáozi – stupid hairy ones).

My neighbour tells me that she doesn’t really mean any harm by 傻毛子. If she sees a tall blonde woman in Harbin she will say to her friend, “Look at that 傻毛子, she’s beautiful”, with no negative connotations, though she freely admits that it’s a negative word on its own. My coworkers tell me it’s still pretty commonly used, but maybe not by the post-90s generation.

Then there’s 二毛子 (èrmáozi), which means someone of mixed Chinese and Russian origin. Another, more elderly neighbour uses this word a lot, and loves to bring up the 二毛子 whenever anything remotely connected to Russia is mentioned. But a couple of my coworkers had never even heard the word, so I guess it’s not so common these days.