chinaman's chance

Chinaman

[chahy-nuh-muhn]
noun, plural Chinamen.
1.
Older Use: Usually Offensive. a term used to refer to a Chinese or a person of Chinese descent.
2.
(lowercase) Archaic. a person who imports or sells china.
3.
(often lowercase) Political Slang. a person regarded as one's benefactor, sponsor, or protector: to see one's chinaman about a favor.
Idioms
4.
a Chinaman's chance, Usually Offensive. the slightest chance: He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of getting that job.

Origin:
1765–75; China + -man


Historically, Chinaman was a neutral compound word, similar to Irishman or Englishman, but it began to take on negative connotations in the 19th century, when many Chinese immigrants went to work in the American West. The expression a Chinaman's chance originally made reference to these Chinese laborers, though the exact origin of the phrase is disputed.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
Chinaman (ˈtʃaɪnəmən)
 
n , pl -men
1.  archaic, derogatory or a native or inhabitant of China
2.  (often not capital) cricket a ball bowled by a left-handed bowler to a right-handed batsman that spins from off to leg

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

Chinaman's chance

Also, ghost of a chance. An extremely slim chance, a hopeless undertaking. Both versions are most often put negatively, as in He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of finishing the work in time, or They haven't a ghost of a chance to get as far as the playoffs. The first term, now considered offensive, dates from the late 1800s when many Chinese immigrants came to work in California and were resented because they worked for lower wages. Its precise allusion is unclear. The variant, which relies on the meaning of ghost as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms fat chance; not an earthly chance.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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