American-Born Confused Desi

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"American-Born Confused Desi" ("ABCD") is a term used to refer to South Asian Americans born or raised in the United States, in contrast to those who were born overseas and later settled in the USA.[1]


"ABCD" or "American-Born Confused Desi" has become a polarizing factor in the South Asian diaspora in the US, with first-generation immigrant parents and young South Asians of second or later generations.[2] Though the term was originally coined in reference to Indian-Americans, it has been adopted by the South Asian diaspora at large. The term "desi" comes from the Hindi word देश (deś, lit.'homeland'). The word has its origin in Sanskrit, deśa, and is pronounced desh in the Bengali language. "Desi" means "of the homeland" and denotes anything or anyone from South Asia. The term has been commonly known since at least the 1980s. The term "confused" is used to describe the psychological state of many second-generation South Asian Americans who struggle to balance values and traditions taught at home with attitudes and practices that are more conducive to the culture of The United States.

The longer and lesser known form "American Born Confused Desi, Emigrated From Gujarat, House In Jersey" is also occasionally seen; playing on the alphabet theme, it has been expanded for K-Z variously as "Kids Learning Medicine, Now Owning Property, Quite Reasonable Salary, Two Uncles Visiting, White Xenophobia, Yet Zestful" or "Keeping Lotsa Motels, Named Omkarnath Patel, Quickly Reaching Success Through Underhanded Vicious Ways, Xenophobic Yet Zestful".[3] The former version of the A—Z expansion was proposed by South Asian immigrants as a reaction to the latter version that derogated them.[4]

Coconuts is also a term used which basically refers to people who are "white from the inside and brown from the outside".

Cultural implications[edit]

Among South Asian Americans, the term may be considered divisive, as first generation South Asian Americans use it to criticize the Americanization and lack of belonging to Indian Asian culture they perceive in their second-generation peers or children.[5] Writer Vijay Prashad describes the term as "ponderous and overused" and notes it as one of the mechanisms by which new immigrants attempt to make second-generation youth feel "culturally inadequate and unfinished".[6] In fact alternative acronyms of ABCD exist, such as "American-Born Chutiya Desi" (Chutiya is a Hindi slang for dumbass).


The term American-Born Confused Desi first appeared in the movie American Desi (2001). ABCD: American-Born Confused Desi is a 2013 Malayalam language movie released in India. The film narrates the journey of two young American Malayalees to their motherland, Kerala, with the title based on the term "American-Born Confused Desi".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Radhakrishnan, Rajagopalan, "Diaspora, Hybridity, Pedagogy", Peripheral Centres, Central Peripheries (ed. Ghosh-Schellhorn, Martina & Alexander, Vera), page 116, LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9210-7
  2. ^ Airriess, Christopher A., Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America, page 287, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, ISBN 0-7425-3772-2
  3. ^ Das, Diya (2007), The Evolution of an Identity: Indian American Immigrants from the Early 20th Century to the Present, Tribute Books, p. 60, ISBN 0-9795045-6-2
  4. ^ Mitra Kalita, S., Suburban Sahibs, page 13, Rutgers University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8135-3665-0
  5. ^ Skop, Emily. "Asian Indians and the Construction of Community and Identity". In Ines Miyares; Christopher A. Airriess (eds.). Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Rowman and Littlefield. p. 287. ISBN 0-7425-3772-2.
  6. ^ Prashad, Vijay (2000), The Karma of Brown Folk, University of Minnesota Press, p. 131, ISBN 0-8166-3439-4

Further reading[edit]