There is a notion floating about on the Net to the effect that the Vietnam War was needlessly prolonged by generals, diplomats and reporters who were unwilling to lose their access to what the players had by then learnt to call LBFMs or “Little Brown Fucking Machines”, aka Vietnamese and Thai women. The acronym is still in use and causes considerable outrage, some of it justified and some perhaps less so. It does not, or at any rate need not, denote a woman regarded as a machine that one fucks. To that appalling interpretation may be contrasted the suggestion that it really signifies a woman who fucks so enthusiastically that she seems as tireless as a machine, rather like what women call a “stud” when it is they who want one.

This latter understanding of the acronym is supported by the paired acronym for the American woman, who on this conspiracy theory constituted the other half of the reason for remaining in Vietnam, namely the OOSM – for Oversized, Overbearing Spending Machine. For this cannot denote a machine that one spends, but has to signify a woman who spends so enthusiastically that she seems as tireless as a machine. It is worth noting that American women make 80% of all discretionary purchases, including a majority of consumer electronics and new cars.

Whether the South-East Asian women were really as enthusiastic about sleeping with the aforesaid generals, diplomats and reporters, not to mention the ordinary soldiers, as the designation suggests, is a whole different question, to which the answer is probably a negative. As for the first half of the two acronyms, it can hardly be disputed that Asian women are generally smaller and browner than most Americans, although it has been said that the main difference between Asian and Western wives is that the former wait three years before showing their man who is boss, rather than doing so immediately. But this is a point about perceptions and their consequences; and it is also a point about how a reasonably offensive expression can be made yet more offensive still by diligently uncharitable twisting of language.

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