Antedating of "JAP"

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 29 04:21:57 UTC 2008

Notwithstanding the sorority subthread, others share the view of
post-war origin.
The Return of the JAP, Alana Newhouse, Boston Globe, March 13, 2005

BEFORE PARIS HILTON made a career of flaunting her daddy's money, before
Carrie Bradshaw transformed Manolo Blahnik from a shoe into a raison
d'etre, even before Madonna unabashedly asserted herself as a Material
Girl, there was the Jewish-American Princess. First identified in
postwar America, the JAP was a girl lavished with the best in life-from
the top of her professionally straightened mane of hair, to the nose job
she got for her 16th birthday, to a wardrobe of designer clothes and the
most expensive shoes money could buy.
Now, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Herman Wouk's ''Marjorie
Morningstar''-which, along with Philip Roth's ''Goodbye, Columbus,'' is
widely viewed as one of the earliest references to the stereotype-the
JAP is back. Only this time, the term isn't an insult but an ironic
badge of honor.

Some of the more recent references that I found--including other parts
of the Globe article (above) and the Wiki entry, along with its
sources--take a view that surprises me somewhat on the use of "JAP",
especially in the 1980s. Perhaps I lived a sheltered life in the 80s,
but my impression was that, although clearly derogatory, "JAP" was an
intra-cultural term more than an inter-cultural slur. This was so much
so that when I used it, in passing, in the 1990s, a couple of my
California friends wondered how the Japanese entered the conversation.
Although there is no question that JAP was occasionally used alongside
other ethnic slurs, and it was, by no means, a term of endearment, I
wonder if this was really in such common use as to rise beyond a couple
of narrowly defined subcultures. By late 1990s, I have heard some uses
of "JAP" by non-Jewish teenage girls to essentially ascribe
materialistic tendencies or consumerism to themselves. However, I would
question any claim that this had anything to do with anti-Semitic
stereotypes more than with the original coinage (in all appearances,
self-deprecating). If a non-Jewish teenage girl proclaims, after a
shopping spree, "I can be such a JAP sometimes!" this hardly means that
the connotation being conveyed is in any way anti-Semitic. (Which would
have meant that the statement was essentially, "I am such a Jew!") In
fact, if anything, it is much closer to the contemporary meaning of the
expression, as reflected by most sources in the last four-five years
(including Wiki, Boston Globe, NYT, several novels, etc.).

The reason I question this issue is that it may very well lead to a
clash over the terminology between social linguists and sociologists.


PS: Unfortunately, my reaction essentially amounts to anecdotal evidence
(beyond the late-use evidence, which is what one can easily find
on-line). If someone can come up with clear evidence contradicting my
experience, I will gladly stand corrected. However, one should not
discount the evolutionary turn that the use of "JAP" has clearly taken
in recent years. This should not evolve into a battle of anecdotes (nor
is it likely appropriate for this thread or this listserv). My reaction
was precipitated by a shock I got from the Wiki article and some of its
cited sources. Please do not interpret this as some kind of crusade.

Alison Murie wrote:
> Surely this is very late?!?  Unless I'm hallucinating, I first
> encountered this term in the late 40s early 50s.
> AM
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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