must have killed a Chinaman

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Referring to a putative, and otherwise unrecorded, Anglo-Australian superstition that killing a Chinese person brought about bad luck.

Phrase[edit]

must have killed a Chinaman

  1. (Australia, New Zealand, offensive) A jocular explanation for bad luck.
    • 1925, L. M. Newton, The Story of the Twelfth: A Record of the 12th Battalion, page 132
      It appeared as though someone in the Battalion must have killed a Chinaman, as the weather continued rough and stormy, with strong wind.
    • For more examples of usage of this term, see the citations page.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Because of its negative historical connotations, the term Chinaman is no longer considered appropriate; it persists only in this expression.

References[edit]

  • must have killed a Chinaman”, entry in The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Eric Partridge, page 393
  • I must have killed a Chinaman”, entry in A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the sixteenth century to the present day, Eric Partridge & Paul Beale, page 218