British coconuts

In this BBC article on cultural assimilation of Asians into British society, I encountered the term “coconut,” which apparently means someone who is “brown on the outside but white on the inside.” While I am familiar with similar slang terms used in such as “banana” or “twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) and “oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside) this one is new to me. Does “coconut” have any currency in other Anglophone countries besides the UK? Are my American examples also used in the UK or other countries? Do any readers know of other similar terms in use in American, British, or some other form of English? Best of all would be equivalent terms in other languages-properly translated of course.

13 thoughts on “British coconuts”

  1. “Coconut” was a derogatory term in New Zealand (and Australia?) used to describe South Pacific Islanders, usually first-gen immigrants. Its usage has pretty much died out. The term “banana” is now used by the Asian community themselves in New Zealand, almost as a badge of pride. In fact, it has been adopted for the name of a few conferences organised by the Asian, or perhaps more accurately, Chinese immigrant community.

  2. One of my best friends in college was a Taiwanese fellow enamored with South Asia. He called himself a “Milano cookie.”

  3. Zhou Enlai had called Lee Kuan Yew as “banana”back in the day.Although it could be borrowed term from English.

  4. That article is disturbing for the implication that immigrants to Britain want to both be seen as British and keep their own culture. That *might* work in a ‘melting-pot’ like the US or Canada, but in the UK?
    “Three-quarters felt their culture was being diluted by living in the UK and nearly half believed white people do not treat them as British.”
    I should hope “their culture” was now British culture. You want to be British? Then act British. I live in Japan, and act accordingly. It’s the default standard for migration: respect and obey the cultural mores of the land you now call home.

  5. Your US terms oreo and twinkie are familar from films and TV shows, but are not in widespread use in the UK since the confectionery products they refer to are not sold here.

  6. Here’s a list from my book the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang (Oxford University Press, 2004).

    apple: A person who is ethnicallyAmerican Indian but culturally American. In the Navajo language, the word bilasáana ‘apple’ is used.

    banana: A white-acting East Asian person. A typical comment: “He’s a banana and posts to soc.couples.intercultural trying to brag that he’s a ladies man who dated Latinas. I think he wants a white girl.” (From the Usenet group soc.culture.korean, Mar. 21, 1997.)

    Bounty bar: In the U.K., a white-acting black person. Bounty bars are a chocolate bar made with a coconut filling by Mars, Inc. They are not sold in the U.S., but are similar to the Almond Joy chocolate bars made and sold by Hershey’s, Inc., which are.

    cedar: A white-acting American Indian. Most likely in the Southeast. Rare.

    coconut: A white-acting Black, Hispanic, or South Asian person.

    egg: A white-acting East Asian person.

    Oreo: A white-acting Black person. From the Oreo-brand dessert cookie, which has two dark chocolate wafers filled with white icing.

    potato: A white-acting Hispanic or South Asian person.

    radish: A capitalist person or institution masquerading as communist; a Chinese person who behaves like a Westerner.

    rotten banana: A black-acting East Asian person; a white-acting black person.

    turnip: A Russian communist who is secretly a royalist. From the post World War I period.

    Twinkie: A white-acting East Asian person. From the brand name of a yellow cake-like treat filled with white icing.

    watermelon: A communist or socialist masquerading as an environmentalist.

  7. “Tamago”….
    So would it be a term for a guy like Alex Kerr/Dave Spector or someone like the late Kiichi Miyazawa.Curzon?

  8. How can a banana and an egg be the same? One is yellow on the outside and white inside, the other white on the outside and yellow inside. If the external colour refers to racial reality, as in Twinkie, then Tom Cruise in the Lost Sammer-eye would be an egg, then.

  9. I’ve seen Miyazawa in one of the symposium over Japan’s role in the new century.
    After the symposium was over,Miyazawa instantly walked toward this American panelist to shake hands.Very westernized.Only he ignored and walked by two Japanese ex-public servant sitting in the middle.I imagined their ranks are too low to have their hands shook by ex-PM.Very Japanese.
    Miyazawa was known for fluent English speaker and cosmopolitan on hand,he always wanted to know which university you graduated.Anybody who didn’t gradute the faculty of law of Todai will be ranked as sencond instantly.Something he could never get over from MoF days.

    Egg is more suitable term than racial banana to describe the case of Kiichi Miyazawa.

  10. Us Latinos and Filipinos here in the US use coconut quite often for white-acting, brown-skinned folks. But it’s considered a bit derogatory, not PC enough to be acceptable for a news story.

Comments are closed.