"Wop" in 1908?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 29 16:05:03 UTC 2010

Great work, Doug.

You've noticed that none of these early exx. (or later ones for decades) say
anything like, "so called from the phrase 'Without Papers/Passport.'"

Opinion: the ety. from It. dial _guappo_ is correct. Its orig. aplication by
Italian-Americans to other Italian-Americans led non-Italians to refocus the
meaning. Hence the rapid demise of the more general English sense.

However, the unpub. HDAS files show the word occasionally being applied to
various European nationalities (incl. Poles and Germans) into
the 1990s.
Jack London wrote in 1913 (with ref. to 1898): "I was trying to get work as
wop, lumper, and roustabout."

Berry & Van den Bark (1942) list "wop" as a 'section hand.'" The
meaning fits superficially, but I believe it to be an error. (Track it on GB
and see what I'm talking about.) London seems to be referring to
day-laborers' jobs: the kind, of course, often filled at the time by Italian


On Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 3:23 AM, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at nb.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "Wop" in 1908?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Probably related to "Wop" and/or to its etymon:
> ----------
> _The Evening World_ (New York NY), 9 May 1907: p. 3:
> <<Maybe Roberto Fiaza Nobi thought that he could impress the Magistrate
> in Ewen Street Police Court by claiming to be a count. Nevertheless he
> was charged with following and annoying a young girl on the street, and
> his name might as well have been Tony Woppo for all the good his title
> did him.>>
> ----------
> _The Sun_ (New York NY), 28 Aug. 1906: p. 5:
> <<[title] SNITCHER IN THE WAPPO GANG / .... / If Blinky Loretto, leader
> of the Wappo gang, down on Cherry Hill, had only been wise to the
> snitcher he wouldn't be doing his latest "bit" in the Catholic
> Protectory. .... / .... When Dago Pete Bascino was admitted to
> membership in the gang early in the summer nobody had the faintest idea
> that he would ever squeal on the mob. Although Blinky is only 10 years
> old, ....>>
> [some miscellanous slang in this item, including "spiel off yer best
> Ginnie" which I suppose means "speak your best Italian" (when selling
> stolen books to Italian-speaking locals)]
> ----------
> -- Doug Wilson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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