Jul 06

Hong Kong Guide: Hong Kong Foot

“His feet stink, I think he has Hong Kong Foot.”

I have heard of this conversation many times (not that I have Hong Kong Foot). Many people often refer to smelly and rotten feet as “Hong Kong Foot”. I often wonder, if we are doing justice by using Hong Kong in this manner.

Hong Kong Foot is a slang for Athlete’s Foot. You know those fungus are forcing a friendship with you, when you start having flaky and itchy skin on your feet. By then, the only thing that you can do is to accept their friend requests, albeit unwillingly. Thereafter, you have to find ways to block or delete them from your life. (Don’t worry, I am not keen to go into medical details or even show you pictures of foot fungus.)

So how did the term “Hong Kong Foot” come about? With all due respect to other nationalities (I’m just pulling random examples), why not call it Sri Lanka Foot, China Foot, or even British Foot?

As it turned out, after the Qing Dynasty lost the first Opium War, the British stationed themselves in Hong Kong. The hot and moist weather in Hong Kong, coupled with wearing boots that provided minimal ventilation, proved too much for the British soldiers. Consequently, many of them caught a foot disease in Hong Kong. It was a medical condition that had never been seen before in Europe. The European doctors thought the epidemic had started in Hong Kong and therefore came up with a very sophisticated name for the disease. It was called…

Hong Kong Foot.

Since then, Hong Kong Foot has been commonly used, even though formal names (e.g. Athlete’s Foot or tinea pedis) have also been given to the medical condition.

As it turns out, a good name – even if it’s for a smelly purpose – will last for generations.

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