Chink in one's armor

The idiom "chink in one's armor" refers to an area of vulnerability. It has traditionally been used to refer to a weak spot in a figurative suit of armor. The standard meaning is similar to that of Achilles' heel.[1]

Grammarist provides a sample usage by The Daily Telegraph that they find acceptable:[2] "Such hype was anathema for the modest professional fighter, who has 22 victories under his belt, and not a perceptible chink in his armour."


The phrase "chink in one's armor" has been used since the 15th century.[3] It adopted a more idiomatic meaning in the 17th century.[3]

Notable controversies

Further information: Chink
ESPN posted a headline using the text "Chink In The Armor" but quickly retracted it.

While the phrase itself is innocuous, its use in contemporary times has caused controversy in the United States due to it including a word that can also be used as an ethnic slur to refer to someone of East Asian descent.[4] Considerable controversy was generated in the United States when an editor for ESPN used the phrase as a headline on the company's web site in February 2012; the headline was titled "Chink In The Armor", and referred specifically to Asian American basketball player Jeremy Lin.[5] The headline was a reference to Lin's unsuccessful game against the New Orleans Hornets, suggesting that Jeremy Lin's popularity and winning streak were weakening.[6] While ESPN has used the phrase "chink in the armor" on its website over 3,000 times before, its usage in this instance was considered offensive because it directly referred to a person of Chinese descent.[7] Many viewed the usage of the phrase as a double entendre.[5] Slate called it "a bad choice of words at best and a smirky, passive aggressive racist dig at worst."[8] ESPN quickly removed the headline, apologized, and said it was conducting an internal review.[9] The editor, Anthony Federico, denied any idiomatic usage, saying "This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny … I’m so sorry that I offended people. I’m so sorry if I offended Jeremy."[5] Nevertheless, he was fired.[5]

An on-air ESPN commentator used the same phrase to refer to Lin, asking "If there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?"[10] The commentator apologized, saying "My wife is Asian, would never intentionally say anything to disrespect her and that community."[10] He was suspended for 30 days.[10] Forbes believes he did so without racist intent.[7]

As a result of the controversy, a writer for Slate suggested the phrase be retired permanently.[8] While admitting that the phrase "chink in the armor" is not inherently racist, the writer argued that any usage of the word "chink" was offensive, regardless of context.[8]

Comedy television show Saturday Night Live satirized ESPN's use of the phrase,[6] pointing out the difference in society's reaction to racial jokes about Asian people versus racial jokes about black people.[11] In the skit, three sports commentators were featured happily making jokes about Lin's race, while a fourth drew contempt for making similar comments about black players.[6]

A commentator on CNBC in 2013 used the phrase when referring to Rupert Murdoch's divorce of his Asian-American wife, sparking outrage.[12] In 2015, The Wall Street Journal using the idiom in a tweet to promote an article about various difficulties Chinese President Xi Jinping was encountering. The organization subsequently deleted the post, stating that "a common idiom used might be seen as a slur. No offense was intended."[13]


  1. "Chink in one's armor Synonyms, Chink in one's armor Antonyms". Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  2. "Chink vs. kink". Grammarist. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  3. 1 2 "Chink in one's armor | Define Chink in one's armor at". Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Jason McIntyre (2012-02-20). "ESPN's Fired "Chink in the Armor" Editor Says it Was an Honest Mistake". The Big Lead. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  6. 1 2 3 Ben Yakas (2012-02-19). "Video: ESPN's Linsanely Stupid "Chink In Armor" Headline Gets Criticized, Mocked By SNL". Gothamist. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  7. 1 2 Greg McNeal (2012-04-18). "ESPN Uses "Chink in the Armor" Line Twice UPDATE- ESPN Fires One Employee Suspends Another". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  8. 1 2 3 Weigel, David. "Chink in the armor, Jeremy Lin: Why it's time to retire the phrase for good. - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  9. Jason McIntyre (2012-02-18). "ESPN's Insensitive Jeremy Lin Headline: "Chink in the Armor" [Update: ESPN Apologizes". The Big Lead. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  10. 1 2 3 "Jeremy Lin and ESPN: Network rushes to quell furor over slur". LA Times. 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  12. "Outrage over CNBC reporter's 'chink in the armor' comment about Murdoch's wife". 2013-07-31. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  13. Wemple, Erik (August 31, 2015). "Wall Street Journal tweets out unfortunate cliche about Chinese president". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 2, 2015.

External links

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