Chinese fire drillChinese fire drill
- A situation or activity marked by confusion or disorder.
- A prank in which the people riding in a car get out and change seats when stopped at a traffic light.
Origin of Chinese fire drillProbably from earlier military slang Chinese, clumsy, inept (a derogatory epithet based on racist notions of Chinese inferiority), later reinforced by such derogatory expressions as Chinese ace, inept pilot (from a joke in which the phrase one wing low was interpreted as a Chinese name ).
(plural Chinese fire drills)
- A prank performed while stopped in a car at a red-light; each passenger (including the driver) shouts "Chinese fire drill", exits the vehicle, runs at least once around it, then re-enters, taking a different seat.
- (derogatory) A silly, pointless exercise.
- Although this term seems to have lost all traces of an insulting meaning, it is possible some might be offended.
Perhaps from the WWI era, from the British practice of using Chinese as a slur; now used only as a festive exclamation.