Obama Learns to Hock a Lugey

You know that noise you make when you’re trying to transfer mucus from the back of your throat into your mouth so you can spit it out?  It’s the disgusting sound of forced air and snot violently vibrating your whippy snappy thing (see diagram below).  In medical terminology it is called “hocking a lugey” (from the Latin hocem lugoris meaning “dude, that’s gross”).  It’s not a pretty sound really, but it’s one of the common things you learn to block out when you live in China. It can even be a bit freeing to know that should you be in a position to genuinely NEED to hock a lugey (or even just really want to) . . . you can . . . and no one will look at you funny.

Last week on our return walk from taking Sissy to the bus stop an older Chinese gentleman walked past us and hocked a good one.  Judah (now 20 months old) took this as a learnable opportunity and (in a moment that made his old man proud) hocked his first lugey . . . and then his second . . .  and his third.  Actually I’m not sure there was ever actual lugage but he had the sound down pat.  The older gentleman and his wife thought it was the best thing they had ever seen and proceeded to give my son hocking lessons, laughing loudly every time he repeated.

We then had the now famous conversation (see “On Being Black in China) regarding Judah’s dark skin and curly hair and arrived at the inevitable conclusion once again.  “Ahhhh, he’s like Obama” (the only logical point of reference for someone with a both black and white birth parents).  So each morning this week Judah has met this same sweet elderly couple who run to his stroller, get nose to nose with him and with perfect whippy snappy execution, make hocking sounds and wait.  Judah never lets them down.  He hocks.  They laugh.  Then they pat him on his curly head and say loudly, “Obama!  Obama!” and walk on.

Next lesson:  The Snot Rocket (also commonly blocked out by expats in China)


  1. i still have a visceral response every time i hear that sound, but it WAS freeing those two times that i’ve needed to spit in public here in china. (in my defense, i had a serious cold both times.) but i did get self-conscious that a foreigner might catch me in the act…

  2. And the snot rocket Stephanie? You know you want to.

  3. Thanks for the instructions with pictures! I’ve been wanting to try this but was afraid I’d do something wrong. Thanks again!

  4. Snot is one of the grossest things EVER. And the idea of it going through one’s mouth to exit the body…DISGUSTING.

    But like any good expat living in China, I’ve mostly learned to block it out.

    Unless it’s my taxi driver. Who snorks and sniffles and chokes and coughs up snot the ENTIRE taxi ride.

    That’s when I hit my limit and the gagging ensues.

  5. Jen – gagging is rude.

    Not so much the snorking, sniffling, choking and coughing up nicotine phlegm balls. That’s ok . . . but come on . . . gagging. There is a line.

  6. Peter – Would love to put live pictures with the instructions. Maybe a video. Up for a modeling job now that you know how?


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