"Wop" in 1908?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 30 02:48:28 UTC 2010

FWIW, I heard or read somewhere, back in the '70's, that, like Garrett
Morris, (European) Italians "like a gal wif a big butt." The speaker
or the writer went on to claim that women with one leg slightly
shorter than the other were considered especially desirable because
the effort involved in walking developed their glutei to the maximi.

To the extent that I can recall the circumstances, the speaker or the
writer did not represent this claim as either a slur or a joke, but
simply as a "natchul fack," as the boyz N the hood would say, about
the males among Italian "country folk."

IAC, my point is that it "may" be the case that "big mattress" = "big
butt" and that "walk joust like a kangaroo" refers to walking with a
slight limp.

OT: For those who like puns, the black band leader, Lucky Millinder,
wrote and recorded a 78 with the title, "D-Natural Blues, meant to be
understood as "dih natchul blues" and not as something that could have
just as easily been titled, "Blues in D-Natural."


On Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 6:15 PM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Wop" in 1908?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I'm stumped by "mattress" too.  Bustles were out by '08, though that would
> have been my guess.  Anything earthier would presumably have been taboo
> in song from a prominent publisher like Witmark.
> Other than that, no suggestions.
> Walking like a "kangaroo" may humorously imply a springy step. Maybe.
> I wonder if Brockman inspired Chico Marx.  See photo on the cover of the
> sheet music.
> JL
> On Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 5:16 PM, Baker, John M. <JMB at stradley.com> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       "Baker, John M." <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: "Wop" in 1908?
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>        What do the lyrics mean when they say that his ex-girlfriend has
>> "got big mattress and a blond-a curl"?  Presumably it's not the literal
>> meaning of "mattress."  I'm also a bit bemused to see the assertion that
>> she "walk joust like a big Kangaroo," in a context that seems to imply
>> that this would be an attractive thing to do.
>> John Baker
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>> Of Jonathan Lighter
>> Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2010 4:54 PM
>> Subject: Re: "Wop" in 1908?
>> James Brockman's novelty song, "Wop, Wop, Wop!" (N.Y.: Witmark, 1908
>> [but
>> actually copyright Feb. 3, 1909]) may have helped popularize the word.
>> Acc. to the N.Y. _Eve. Telegram_ (July 29, 1909)  (findable here if
>> you've
>> got lots of time:
>> http://www.fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html<http://www.fultonhistory.com/Fu
>> lton.html>
>> ),
>> it was "one of the quaintest Italian novelty songs of the many that have
>> been offered to the public the last two or three years. It is by no less
>> a
>> person than Mr. James Brockman [1886-1967: ed.], the well known writer
>> and
>> composer.
>> "The story, told in a serio-comic way, tells of the troubles of an
>> Italian,
>> whose feelings are injured by the various nicknames given him in this
>> country, and deals with his efforts in trying to prevent being called
>> first
>> 'Dago,' then 'Guinie,' and last of all, 'Wop.'
>> "Mr. Brockman has set the words to a tuneful and pleasing little melody
>> that
>> makes it a particularly bright song for a part of the social programme."
>>  Check out the lyrics. They imply that "wop" was something new:
>> http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.100004968/pageturner.h
>> tml?page=2&section=&size=640
>> JL
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