FOB: an acronym for "Fresh off the boat." A noun used prejoratively to refer to Asians who have either recently arrived to the U.S. or have been in the U.S. for a while, but have resisted acculturation. It is also used as an insult to denigrate Asian-Americans who do not fit into a social group, or display behavior similar to a recent immigrant.

I learned the term FOB from an Asian-American classmate in 1992 while I was in the seventh grade at Walter Reed Junior High School in North Hollywood, California. The use of this term seems to be limited to Asian-Americans and Eurasian-Americans about other Asians and Asian-Americans, although it is used publically even when members of other races are present. This term is not limited to any one Asian-American group. The FOB stereotype often consists of wearing clothing different from the norm, a general disregard for appearance, the frequent use of their native language, in addition to either a heavily accented English or the lack of knowledge of English.

The meaning of "Fresh off the boat" may have arisen from the images of immigration popular in American culture. Often on the news, particularly in California, one will see a boatload of Chinese refugees stranded off the coast. Most recently, the movie Lethal Weapon 4 has taken advantage of this motif. Likewise, before planes, the most frequent method of immigration was through seafaring. Thus, a recent immigrant would literally be "fresh off the boat."

I believe the term FOB arises from the Asian-American perception that other Americans lack the ability to tell Asian groups apart, and that FOBs often perpetuate negative stereotypes in other people's eyes. FOB is used as a means to distance oneself, from both the stereotypes and the people, keeping with the separation of Asian and Asian-American social groups that I observed and participated in while in high school. FOB is handled as a serious insult, and is used as a means of social control, especially among American-born Asian-Americans.

A very interesting result of this is a "reverse-FOB" effect I have noticed in Asia, directed to the "bananas", namely the Asian-Westerners (banana as in yellow on the outside, white on the inside). Be it Australian, American or Canadian, people in Asia have a high level of disdain for Asian Westerners who do not know their native language.

The FOB effect is sad but very widespread. When I was visiting New York this summer, one of my grandfather's best friends is the president of the Chinese American Association in NYC (a prestigious post). We were looking for his apartment in Chinatown and lost in the maze, we proceeded to ask people. Everyone assumed we were FOB's, fresh off the boat, looking for the so-called "contact", or liason to help set us new immigrants up in America. I was deeply insulted and verbally lashed out at them. The result was quite ugly and I will not speak of it any more here.

While living in Asia, when I first arrived I had no knowledge of Mandarin. I was treated quite badly by the locals, who viewed me as a banana. Lucky for me I was a quick learner and within a year I was fluent, and I encountered no more problems. But many of my Asian American friends suffer the "reverse-FOB" effect, as I like to call it.

Social discrimination really sucks. Can't people just get along?

FOB is used by people of Middle-Eastern descent, and Southeast Asian. I am Pakistani-American, and I have heard of this term as being used with fellow desis; it is basically the opposite of an ABCD.

A prototypical desi FOB would be someone who moved to America after completing high school in a desi country. Stereotypically, they smell rather different than your average American. I'm not so sure why this is, most probably because of the differences in diet. They most certainly will have a thick Apu-like accent, this is crucial to achieve maximum FOBiness. General social ineptness is a large part of it too. So, a desi FOB is someone who is new to America, has a distinct odor, a matching accent, and will display signs of social ineptness.

Acceptable uses of the word are much like any other racial slang, allowed only by those that are "in." A desi may refer to another desi as FOBy in jest, to their face. If someone is truly FOBy, it wouldn't be nice to say it to their face, it's more palatable to quietly point it out to your friends. In my experience, it is generally frowned upon for someone who's not Middle-Eastern to call someone a FOB. It is a word used mostly by second-generation immigrants, whos parents were the first to move to America. I don't find it to be as common among people over 25 to use the term.


I was first introduced to the F.O.B culture a few years ago, when I was in 8th grade. Being as naive as I was then, there is no WAY I could have foreseen the INCREDIBLE impact that F.O.B culture was to have on my highschool experience, and numerous other aspects of my life.

Literally, F.O.B translates to Fresh Off (the) Boat, and I assume it was initially meant as some sort of racial insult to add to the arsenal that included such slurs as Gook and Chink. (In addition to putting people down, it can also conviently be used in place of any of your favorite curse words: (Shut the FOB UP).)

As my familiarity with the F.O.B phenomenon grew, I noticed others began using it more often as well, but in place of the cumbersome EFF-OH-BEE pronunciation to which I had grown accustomed, it evolved into the wonderfully pithy FOB.

In highschool, I took every oppurtunity to bestow the title of FOB unto every one of my wonderfully gracious asian friends. But as time passed, clearer distinctions became evident, and this one umbrella term was no longer sufficient to describe them. It was then, in my later years in highschool, that I developed the FOB classification system. There were the church fobs - those who wore their church t-shirt everyday and went to church and youthgroup several times aweek; the gangsta fobs - the scary ones who get many intimidating tattoos and would as soon stab you as look at you (at least they want you to think that); the nerd fobs - these guys aren't necesarily BOOK SMART like the typical asian stereotype, but they aren't as trendy as their fob brethren; and OF COURSE the FOB FOBS! The fobs fobs are my favorite because they are usually the most comical. They all wear trendy Asian clothes, with trendy Asian hairstyles, and they converse loudly and freely in their native toungue.

As most good ethnic slurs do, FOB has developed into a sort of empowerment movement as well. Fabulous Oriental Beings, and FOBULOUS people are popping up all over the place. While this may be seen has too much of a deviation from the original, I say MORE POWER TO THEM!

Fob is more than just one acronym, more than just one curse word,more than just one idea: fob is a REVOLUTION!

can you feel it?

its coming. . .

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