A US university investigation into one of its professors has ignited a debate over the use of a seemingly innocuous Chinese word.
Professor Greg Patton at the University of Southern California (USC) was telling students in a communications lecture last month about filler, or pause words, such as 'err', 'umm' or 'you know' in English.
Enunciated, na-ge sounds like the N-word, which led several of the professor's students to complain to the university. Responding to the complaint, the dean of the university, Geoffrey Garrett, told students that Prof Patton would no longer be teaching the course.
Footage went viral online showing the black man slapping the Chinese commuter and shouting "you dare try that again" and "never say that again"
Even Chinese basketball star Yao Ming has spoken of how the word brought him "some trouble" while playing in the US for the National Basketball Association (NBA).
CC Chen, a student at the USC, defended Prof Patton, arguing that it was "clearly an academic lecture on communication" and the professor was "describing a universal mistake commonly made in communication".
"For him to be censored simply because a Chinese word sounds like an English pejorative term is a mistake and is not appropriate, especially given the educational setting," she said. "It also dismisses the fact that Chinese is a real language and has its own pronunciations that have no relation to English."