[Ads-l] "wop" = "without papers/passport" (1971)

paul johnson paulzjoh at MTNHOME.COM
Tue May 23 10:56:55 EDT 2017

In the fifty's my Italian classmates claimed it came from the sound 
spaghetti made when it hit the wall.

On 5/23/2017 9:05 AM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> The bogus acronymic etymology deriving "wop" from "without papers" came up
> recently in Jonah Goldberg's National Review column:
> http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/447848/wop-without-papers-etymology-incorrect
> I see that's attested back to 1971, though there are suggestions of earlier
> oral transmission.
> ---
> Alan Dundes, "A Study of Ethnic Slurs," Journal of American Folklore, Vol.
> 84, No. 332 (Apr.-Jun. 1971), p. 192
> http://www.jstor.org/stable/538989
> One folk etymology for the word "wop," a common term of disparagement for
> Americans of Italian descent, is that in the early 1920s many Italians
> tried to enter the United States illegally. These would-be immigrants were
> rounded up by U.S. officials and sent back to Italy with documents labelled
> W.O.P. which supposedly stood for "Without Papers" referring to the papers
> needed for legal immigration.
> ---
> Tucson Daily Citizen, Dec. 7, 1971, p. 30, col. 1
> https://www.newspapers.com/image/23550083/
> "If anyone called me a 'wop' I was furious and wanted to slug the guy right
> then and there," [Cleveland Indians manager Ken] Aspromonte said, "but then
> one day my grandfather explained the origin of the word. He told me that in
> the early 1900's so many Italians were coming into the United States that
> many of them didn't bother to get visas. When they'd arrive on Ellis Island
> and didn't have papers with them the inspector would holler out, 'Here's
> another one, without papers.' So somebody took the letters 'W-O-P' for
> 'without papers' and that's how it got started," Aspromonte said.
> ---
> Also from 1971 is the related derivation "without passport."
> ---
> Monroe (La.) News-Star, July 30, 1971, p. 6, col. 1
> https://www.newspapers.com/image/32327198/
> "Glad You Asked That!" (syndicated column by Hy Gardner)
> "Wop" reverts to the turn of the century when millions of Calabrians and
> Sicilians came off their ships holding a slip of paper with the name of the
> foreman they had been assigned to. U.S. immigration officials rubberstamped
> the papers "W.O.P." -- meaning without passport.
> ---
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"there can be nothing more equivocal and ambiguous than words". William 

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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