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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue May 23 22:51:18 EDT 2017

Dundes includes a (folk?) derivation along related lines, just above the acronymic etymythology excerpted by Ben below:  
“What does a pizza sound like when you throw it into the wall? Wop!” 

Of course, throwing it against the wall is more of a conventional way of testing doneness of spaghetti than that of pizza.  


> On May 23, 2017, at 10:56 AM, paul johnson <paulzjoh at MTNHOME.COM> wrote:
> 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 Blackstone
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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