Author: R.Y. Honda
Source: Puka Puka Parades, June 1966, vol. 19 no. 6

Please let me tell you my story of how the word Kotonk came about.

Way back in the days of Camp McCoy, the 100th Infantry was sorely in need of a distinct name. One Puka Puka was inevitable. As for the troops Bulahead, Buda head, Ricehead, Jap Yank, Jank, and Nisei G.I. were used off and on, including Local Boy to distinguish us from the Haole. A Haole G.I. was, moreover, a Horse Blanket or a Donkey.

Do you remember Pilipili? (Whoever bothered to learn his last name? except the Top Kick and the Payroll Clerk), It was he, I am certain, who in telling us a story of his wild escapades said, “—then I came to the door, see, and I grab the what you call the knob —.” Only he pronounced the silent k and said konob. Damn if that wasn’t funny. Everything else became k- this and k-that.

Although Pilipili was called Konob since then for a while, Pilipili was too good a name. Instead, Konob became the hailing name for each other in the Headquarters Company. Konob soon turned into Kodonkey —a Japanese-American G.I.

The void was being filled. Kodonkey became Kodonk; Kodonk became Kotonk. Kotonk was for us and Donkey was for Haole. So now we finally had something all for ourselves. But not for long.

When the Mainland Nisei and the “local boys” were organized as the 442nd, the “local boys” in short order began calling the other guys Kotonks–with quite a difference in meaning.

I am sure we have revealed in the version of “the sound of reverberations in the cranium resulting from a good uppercut” in all good comradeship, but I am also sure that its use on our Mainland friends has palled over the years.

Many from the old Headquarters Company will agree that my story is at least half true, if not substantially correct.

R. Y. Honda