The Corner

The Way We Speak Now

Here is a story for our times — a true one.

My wife has a friend, an immigrant from China, a capable and industrious

woman whose English is less than fluent (though a darn sight better than my

Chinese). This woman has a daughter the same age as ours (11). The

daughter is a very bright kid, straight ‘A’s at school, spends spare time in

the library, plays two musical instruments… the whole “model minority”


Well, the lady got a flier from the school district about a free summer camp

program. After reading it as well as she could, she signed up the daughter

for it, listing my wife as a back-up contact.

My wife got a call from the school district.

“Mrs Derbyshire, I’m not sure your friend understands the nature of this

camp program. Perhaps you could explain to her.”

“Oh? I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, this program is for special kids.”

“Oh! Retarded, you mean?”

“No, no. Kids with… *issues*.”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite…”

“These kids are all from the projects, you see.”


“Disadvantaged kids. With special needs.”

“I’m not sure…”

“Your friend’s daughter would really be out of place there.”

“But why….?”

“The camp program is run by the police department…”

[At around this point, the penny dropped. Our friend’s daughter will not be

attending the camp.]


The Latest