Why 'Just a Gwai Lo'?

Funny you should ask that question. When I was in China, my roommate there was from Hong Kong, and I told him that gwai lo was the only Cantonese word I knew. Before going to China, I had studied Mandarin for a semester, and then upon returning, studied again for another 8 months. (It has now been over two years since I have stopped studying, largely because I've taken all the Mandarin Chinese classes there are to take at SFU.) I told my roommate that if I became a famous Hong Kong pop star, my first #1 hit would be called "Just a Gwai Lo". Since I wasn't very creative in choosing a blog title (the original title was very, very bland, so I won't bore you with it), I went with "Just a Gwai Lo".

Now what does gwai lo mean? Well, it's actually a racist word for white people, usually white males. "Racist" may not be the best word to describe the term: perhaps merely impolite may be closer to accurate nowadays. The gwai part means "demon" or "ghost", and the lo part means "guy". So, I'm a ghost person. Why use a "racist" word for myself in my domain? Well, one could ask the same question of Turbanhead. Referring to his choice of website name, he once wrote:

I figured I'd appropriate the word for my own use, thus diffusing it's meaning. Have you ever heard the term "nigger" used by blacks to refer to themselves? When used by blacks it has quite the different connotation than when used by someone not black.

When used by white guys, the term "gwai lo" has quite the different connotation than when used by someone who is not white.

So there you have it. A long answer to be sure, but an answer nonetheless.