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Embracing the ‘Coastie’ Label

Coastie, a new term for out-of-state students that is floating around the University of Wisconsin, Madison, definitely seems like a euphemism for Jewish American Princess. And I am just not sure it is such a bad thing.

The term, which, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been used at the school for around a decade, has just peaked in popularity due to a the “Coastie song,” and subsequent YouTube video, that has been getting its fair share of attention.

Lyrics include:

What’s a coastie?

Black tights all day

That’s a coastie

Starbucks, big shades!

She a coastie

Always blowin’ daddy’s money

You a coastie

My East Coast Jewish honey

And later:

My Jewish American princess baby

Walks wit a swag and talks so crazy

East Coast accent,

East Coast fashion

Black spandex wit an ass like Bascom!

Smokin on a cig as she passin,

I graduated from UW, Madison in 2001, and I can’t remember anyone using the word “coastie,” though its in-state counterpart “sconie” was in circulation. Instead, we relied on good old “JAP,” though that, of course, was only something you were allowed to say publicly if you were Jewish and among Jews. I never identified with this cohort — I actually avoided wearing the color black for three years as a way to disassociate myself with the group — but I can attest to the fact that these pretty conflated in-state/ out of state, Jewish/ non-Jewish divisions existed along with a simmering tension.

This is why, despite the obvious stereotypes put forth in the song — which, by the way, I find kind of catchy and fun — I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think, if taken lightly, which the song genuinely seems to do, the whole “coastie” phenomenon might actually give students an opening to talk about these divisions, something we couldn’t really do.

Since “coastie” is a new label, unlike the already loaded JAP, there is room for improvisation of meaning. It has a colloquial lightness to it, and, in the case of UW, Madison, has its counterpart in “sconies” — removing much of the sting of JAP.

Labels can be dangerous and limiting, but, on the other hand, a shared language and a sense of humor can open doors. I hope the young Badgers have some fun with this.

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