On Friday 16, April 2021, I asked a dozen American citizens about the caterpillar-shaped chocolate cake familiar to most, if not all, Britons. Surprisingly — or unsurprisingly, I can’t decide — most of my interviewees didn’t know what on earth I was talking about. This is what they said:
Without Googling anything or asking anyone at all — especially not anyone from the U.K. — who or what is Colin The Caterpillar?
CHRISTOPHER a writer from Tennessee: An animated character?
BRANDY, an advice columnist and Canada-born U.S. resident: A character from a children’s program.
Logically’s new tech reporter ERNIE: A lovable cartoon bug used to advertise something clean-ish. Maybe laundry soap.
BETH, who hails from New York but who resides in the U.K., shows off the knowledge you can only get from really immersing yourself in a country’s culture: I think it’s a birthday cake that children in the U.K. have on their birthday. It’s chocolate and looks like a caterpillar.
MOLLY, another American who lives in the U.K., also has this down: A cake!
What do you think the cultural significance of Colin The Caterpillar is? If you don't know who or what Colin is, then please just use your imagination.
ERNIE: Well, now I'm thinking he didn't advertise laundry soap … if you're telling me now he's got cultural significance.
CHRIS, a man who lives in Washington D.C.: Colin is a lovely British caterpillar with a top hat and a monocle and teaches children that it’s OK to have more than 10 fingers or toes.
MAIRÉAD, an Irish-American writer from Boston: Colin The Caterpillar is a descendant of both Colin Firth and Colin Farrell, two British/Irish icons. People from far and wide come to see him. I’ve heard he even attracts more tourism than the royals.
BRANDY: Well if he’s indeed a children’s character, I’m guessing he [teaches] children how to approach the uncertainty of a future in which they will change and become different with grace and good humor and that the horrible, rancid TERFs who plague your little island now object to the very notion that anyone born a caterpillar could become a butterfly.
BETH: After World War II, when there was nothing nice in any of the shops, someone made a cake that looked like a caterpillar because it was somehow easier with whatever tools were/weren't available at the time. Then because children were forced to eat this instead of a normal birthday cake, when they became adults, they also forced their children to eat this instead of a normal birthday cake.
MOLLY: He's...a cake?
What is this?
This is neither Colin nor Cuthbert but Sainsbury’s Wiggles The Caterpillar Image: The Tab
BRANDY: Oh, no.
ERNIE: Abjectly horrifying. Mostly because I think it's meant to be edible.
MOLLY, incorrectly: Colin.
EMILY, from New York: A Yule log gone wrong.
MAIRÉAD, smugly: A cake made in the likeness of Colin.
Would you eat this?
BRANDY: Depends on what inside. Plenty of British things I would assume are sweet turn out to be filled with meats.
CHRIS: What’s inside? Too many questions, not enough answers.
LINDSAY from New York is also worried about the insides: Yes, assuming that it is cake and not like...dog food, or something.
CHRISTOPHER, accurately: Probably not gluten-free.
What or who is this?
In a shocking twist of events, all participants bar one select the correct answer — Colin “The Caterpillar” Firth — strongly suggesting that the Oscar-winning actor is the only Colin with true, international appeal.
Still wondering who Colin is and why he recently hit headlines? Read the full fact check here.