19 September 2019
Michael Chugani (left inset) says Jockey Club manager Patrick Cummings (right inset) made a slip of the tongue when he used the word 'colony'. Photos: HKEJ, am730, Jockey Club
Michael Chugani (left inset) says Jockey Club manager Patrick Cummings (right inset) made a slip of the tongue when he used the word 'colony'. Photos: HKEJ, am730, Jockey Club

Jockey Club manager or Michael Chugani: Which one misspoke?

Social commentator Michael Chugani is known for his ability to skewer his targets in fluent American English and Cantonese.

However it may have been Chugani own ox that was gored when he took Patrick Cummings, the executive manager of public affairs (racing) at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, for an apparent slip of the tongue.

In his bilingual blog, in the course of which Chugani explains the English idioms he liberally uses, he said he pricked up his ears when he heard Cummings, an American, use the word “colony” twice during an interview with RTHK.

Chugani wrote, “Even though Hong Kong has been reunited with China for 18 years already, Cummings still called it a colony during the interview. He said a South African jockey would be returning to the colony for the new racing season. Then he said the global nature of the colony is stronger than it has ever been.

“I am not sure if Cummings made a slip of the tongue or if he prefers to live in the past when he twice called Hong Kong a colony, but somebody at the Jockey Club should remind him that Hong Kong is no longer a colony.

“The expression ‘a slip of the tongue’ means making an unintentional mistake when speaking.”, a website founded by Robert Chow Yung, who organized an anti-Occupy Central campaign last year, praised Chugani Thursday for having pointed out the Jockey Club manager’s procolonial mindset.

Some pro-Beijing netizens suggested that Cummings should be fired and criticized RTHK for broadcasting his remarks.

Unfortunately it appears that the “unintentional mistake” was made by Chugani.

As a netizen pointed out in a social media forum, a jockey colony is an American term of art in racing used to refer to the group of jockeys that normally race in a particular place.

So, a jockey from the New York colony, say, might take part in a race in a city in California, the home of its own colony.

That is why a British jockey, the netizen said, may be confused when he first hears the word “colony” in racing circles if he goes to the United States.

And it has nothing to do with the term “colony” in the general sense in which Chugani understood it.

What Cummings was suggesting in the RTHK podcast (Cummings from 52 minutes onwards), I suspect, is that champion jockey Joao Moreira, who made a record US$26.3 million in prize money last season, may face more competition in Hong Kong because the global nature of the jockey colony here is stronger than it has ever been.

So Mike, while your blog post may have backfired, don’t be overly concerned about the significance of the city’s return to China.

As Deng Xiaoping promised Hongkongers before the handover, “The horses will go on racing, and the dancing will carry on.”

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