whiteface, yellowface

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sun May 12 16:47:04 UTC 2013

For "whiteface," the OED says: White or light-coloured make-up, esp. as worn by a clown, or by a black actor playing a white character. orig. U.S.

Here's an example of a white person using whiteface to play a geisha: 


Kimura continued, “It brings back all the worst stereotypes. The accents, the whiteface. I’m embarrassed for everybody who is involved in this.


Wiktionary has "yellowface" (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/yellowface) but the OED does not. It's discussed as a practice still used today in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrayal_of_East_Asians_in_Hollywood. The word was used in "Anna May Wong" In Her Own Words," in reference to a woman actor that she co-starred with. A rundown of the practice can be found at http://www.forgetthetalkies.com/2008/12/race-in-silent-film-yellowface/.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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