Posted by sepoy on July 12, 2005 · 2 mins read

Raver emailed last night: "Yesterday's word of the day [oed] was grep, today's is desi. Have you been picking the word of the day?" Funny thing is that I had an entry written yesterday on desi but deleted it accidentally. Ah, fates.

So, Desi is the new Black. Um. Desi is the new Macarena. Check out this Time profile of "desis". When Time Warner Inc. is not selling out their reporters to the federal government, they do amazing investigative journalism with marketing firms to uncover the secret, ultra-hip cultural phenomenons like desis. Enjoy these tidbits:

Unlike Hispanics and other Asian minorities, South Asians often arrive fluent in English. The influence may be more British than it is American--cricket is preferred to baseball--but a desi in the U.S. can still pick up USA Today and understand a Gap ad.
To make an advertising message culturally relevant, says Saul Gitlin, executive vice president at Kang & Lee Advertising, you have to do more than toss a desi face into a commercial. Values such as education, hierarchy and status are unshakable for desi families, even if modified to reflect American lifestyles.
Marketers are also recognizing that in close-knit, largely immigrant communities, familiarity with a brand plays a much more important role than it does with the general public. "Word of mouth is huge," says Lakshmi Bhargave, 25, a graphic artist in Chicago. "We have this theory that between Indians, it's more like two degrees of separation rather than the usual six."

Yes, hierarchy and status is what really defines desis. Cadillac should introduce a Escalades for Brahmins Club! Anyways, nothing exists until it gets its own marketing specialist, right? Desi has officially jumped the shark.

If you are still wondering, desi literally means "native or from the homeland" and is used in contra-terms with pardesi - foreigner. OED also quotes Hobson Jobson as putting vilyati as the opposite. In UK or US, those who hail from South Asia call themselves desis. Contextually, the desis abroad are all pardesis.


Baraka | July 12, 2005

Once Apu hit the world stage, it was only a matter of time.

thabet | July 12, 2005

Is it the dream of American desis to attain middle-class status? Because over here, when you're middle-class you *know* you've made it among your fellow desis. Forget all about religion (Islam, Hindusim or Sikhism) and traditional beliefs: desis, even those in lower-income brackets, are consumerists par excellence. Also is apna used among American South Asians, or more accurately, US-Pakistanis (as in 'apna television station' or 'apna radio')? In summer 2000, there was concern in the Scottish parliament that Apna Ghar, a housing association which helps provide homes to poorer families, came under scrutiny because it was assumed they were targetting only "Asian" families due to its name.

sepoy | July 12, 2005

oh wow! simultaneous comments! thabet: Hard to say about apna, mate. I don't know any desi middle class - just grad students obsessed with bombay who pass suparis and say "apun ka" instead.

Morcy | July 12, 2005

Just wait for my upcoming snap movie apostrophe of Bride and Prejudice. the idea of middle class consumerism drives that flick.

Ajjuj | July 13, 2005

Sepoy, Did you see nightline yesterday - about civil liberties in Lodi, Ca? I saw the last few minutes and it seemed like a few hard questions were asked of the FBI NY bureau ex chief.