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Letters from ‘Mr. Deng’ at features a growing library of highly entertaining Flash cartoons, starring Odd Todd, the alter-ego of self-proclaimed “Laid Off Person” Todd Rosenberg.

Worth a visit in its own right, also features a “Letter of the Day” from site visitors, and among the most prolific and entertaining is someone claiming to be one “Mr. Deng from Suzhou, China.” Mr. Deng regularly sends Odd Todd postcards, letters, and e-mails that detail small episodes from the life of said “Mr. Deng,” with Mr. Deng’s always amusing anecdotes and insights–and the most comic, side-splitting strings of “Chinglish” I have ever read in my life.

But I’m here to tell you that I think Mr. Deng is a fraud.

By that, I mean that while I’m sure the writer is in Suzhou, (1) I don’t believe he’s Chinese, (2) I don’t believe he works in the Suzhou No. 1 Shoe and Rubber Mfg. Co. Ltd. as he claims, and (3) I don’t believe he’s a “he.”

Don’t get me wrong, though–this is still highly entertaining stuff. Keep reading.

Mr. Deng is not a native speaker of Chinese. Just look at the characters “he” wrote on the postcards. They’re child-like and non-native, just like all of us learning Chinese wrote in our first weeks and months of Chinese character learning. And the left-leaning script on the handwritten notes (like my sister used to write) definitely suggests a female writer.

Also, the “Chinglish” and misspellings in Mr. Deng’s writing are too consistently humorous to not be intentional.

Furthermore, a Chinese man working for a manufacturer in China wouldn’t so consistently guess the kind of off-the-beaten-path photographic subjects that will appeal to Americans, which I think Mr. Deng’s do. Lastly, by now a real Chinese man would have made some business venture overtones to Odd Todd–at least sent a product to be the “Official Chinese Shoe and Rubber Provider of”

So there it is. You read it here first. “Mr. Deng” is no “Mr.” and no “Deng.” In fact, I’m going to guess is that “Mr. Deng” is actually a young woman in her mid-20’s who majored in some Humanities-related course of study at a college or university in the U.S. Midwest or East, has sandy blonde or light brown hair, maybe wears glasses for reading, and has unstoppable, infectious laughter once she gets going. (And I’ve decided to call her “Kristin,” for some reason.)

In other words, she’s a creative genius, and I wish she’d hurry up and write a full-blown Letters from Mr. Deng book, because the way she channels her perceptions of China through the interpretive lens of this Mr. Deng character is one of the most entertaining things I’ve come across online in a long time…sort of like the cartoons themselves.

But don’t just take my word for it. You can read the collective letters from Mr. Deng at (Oh, and don’t forget to tip Todd a buck or two. He definitely deserves it.)

In the meantime, as Mr. Deng himself reminds us, “Remember that tomorrow will be worse so enjoy the today!”

January 2005

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