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In Dutch we have a saying "een Chinese vrijwilliger" (literal translation: Chinese volunteer) which we often use figuratively. When we use it in that way, we imply that we are going to pick someone out of a crowd, very often against his will. I, for instance, use it when I ask my pupils to read out loud and nobody is very willing to read out loud. The figurative meaning is in fact the opposite of being a volunteer.

Now I wonder whether English native speakers also use "a Chinese volunteer" in the figurative sense. Or do you use another nationality?

Thank you

Tine
Comments  
No, English does not use that idiom or the phrase with another nationality. I cannot think of special phrase. Such a person is an unwilling volunteer or a forced volunteer. They have been chosen by a sort of reverse 'Hobson's choice' (q.v.).
It may not exist as a noun, but as verb, "being shanghaied" basically means the same thing.
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When I was in Belgium, the topic came up and a French speaker said they use BLACK volunteers, but I don't know exactly how they phrase it.
You get it wrong .. "Chinese volunteer" is a system to pick someone to do the task if no one wonts to.
you say "OK if no one wonts to do it, wets use the Chinese Volunteer".
Then, the first person to speek (usually asking "what is that ?") is assigned the task.
This works good for conferences and meetings, where you the people are not very familiar with each other.
AnonymousYou get it wrong .. "Chinese volunteer" is a system to pick someone to do the task if no one wonts to.
The problem with that is that we don't use the expression in English.
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I quite like this expression. I think we should adopt it in English, provided it isn't offensive to the Chinese I guess.
I'm a Belgian reader of this forum and am working for an American company. I used the same expression last week in a team meeting and then realized I had translated Dutch into English. After reading the above details about this expression, I'll be able to explain it to everyone. So thank you for that ;-)

I would like to add something to the origin of the expression. It seems the expression found its origin (in all likelyhood) from the Korean War (1950-1953). People from both Belgium and the Netherlands fought on the side of South-Korea. Chinese people were obligated to fight on the side of North-Korea, yet were named volunteers. And so it seems the expression "Chinese Volunteer" was born... I was born in 1982 and know (and use) the expression quite often. I might have been thought it in school, I suppose. I don't know by heart if this is still the case. If you choose to use this expression (litterly "Chinese Volunteer") I would advise you to explain the origin to avoid insulting anyone ;-)

I am a student from Hong Kong who's been studying in a Flemish school for years, when the term came to me in class I was not necessarily offended but totally confused. And when I googled the term it brought me here. To be frank, even as a 'sort of Chinese', though we don't share exactly the same history/language/culture with China, I found this term a bit of a bizarre which stands from a very distanced and unclear context, and largely unknown to the rest of the world. In Cantonese, we sometimes use the term 烈士 (literal translation of 'martyr', it has less religious meaning but more from a triad/rebel/revolutionary uprising point of view) when someone has to be picked out and sacrificed. But it's more of an ironical reversal from the term Martyr because of the passivity nature.


P.S. I found dutch humour funny though, kinda sound cool sometimes but people are not necessarily getting it. Just like the rhyme 'Met alle chinezen, maar niet met den deze' Such a dry humour!

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