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  #1  
Old 07-04-2004, 07:52 PM
PaulFitzroy PaulFitzroy is offline
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Where did the slurs "Wop" and "Kike" come from?

What the hell do they mean? I've heard it so many times. Other ethnic groups have understandable derogatory slurs (Nigger is a corruption of Negro, Polack is obvious,
Spic I assume comes from ''Hispanic,") and the list goes on. But if you're Italian or Jewish, you get stuck with weird insults that seem more like nonsense words than anything comprehensible.

Who knows the origins of "wop" and "kike?"
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  #2  
Old 07-04-2004, 07:58 PM
SoulSearching SoulSearching is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulFitzroy
What the hell do they mean? I've heard it so many times. Other ethnic groups have understandable derogatory slurs (Nigger is a corruption of Negro, Polack is obvious,
Spic I assume comes from ''Hispanic,") and the list goes on. But if you're Italian or Jewish, you get stuck with weird insults that seem more like nonsense words than anything comprehensible.

Who knows the origins of "wop" and "kike?"


What about "gook", it doesn't make any sense either. And is "crout (sp?)" for Germans relate to that stuff you put on hotdogs?

These posts are kind of ignorant but I think the poster and I have righteous educational intents.
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Old 07-04-2004, 08:05 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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This is from The History Channel, I think. "Paragons of accuracy" as they are, you can take it for what it's worth.

When Italian immigrants came to Ellis Island, many of them did not have the proper documentation. A note was made to that effect: "Without Papers". It was shortened to "W.O.P."

Jewish immigrants had s chalk circle drawn on their clothing for some reason. "Circle" in Yiddish was "Keikel"; hence, "Kike".

I'm not prepared to believe it without an authorative cite. I mean, if the Italians were without papers, why weren't they deported? Were the Italians the only ones without documentation? If not, why isn't anyone else called "wop"? And what's with the circles on the Jews? Were they the only ones?

So anyway, that's one explanation. I'll bet it's wrong.
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Old 07-04-2004, 08:08 PM
ltfire ltfire is offline
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WOP means With Out Papers. Immigrants arriving in the U.S. had to have paperwork from the old country, I guess. Why it applied just to the Italians, I don't know.
Can't help with Kike.
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  #5  
Old 07-04-2004, 08:11 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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This site says:
Quote:
The etymology of kike is hotly contested, although it is commonly agreed that the word dates back to the late 19th century. Many plausible theories have been advanced:
It mentions the circle thing:
Quote:
a) To borrow from Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, "The word kike was born on Ellis Island, when Jewish immigrants who were illiterate (or could not use Roman-English letters), when asked to sign the entry-forms with the customary 'X,' refused -- and instead made a circle. The Yiddish word for 'circle' is kikel (pronounced KY - kel), and for 'little circle,' kikeleh. Before long the immigration inspectors were calling anyone who signed with an 'O' instead of an 'X' a kikel or kikeleh or kikee or, finally and succinctly, kike."

Rosten explains that for the Jewish immigrants, an 'X' was an evil sign, representing both the horrors of crucifixion and the sign of their (Christian) oppressors. Jewish - American merchants continued to sign with an 'O' instead of an 'X' for several decades, spreading the nickname kike wherever they went as a natural result. At that time kike was more of an affectionate term, or used by Jews to describe other Jews, and only developed into a racial slur later on.
And it also mentions three other possibilities. The author of the page writes:
Quote:
Although any of these explanations could be truthful, only Rosten's (theory "a") has the weight of strong oral history in its favor.
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  #6  
Old 07-04-2004, 08:14 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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This site says "wop" comes from:
Quote:
Credible sources universally agree upon the wordís etymology. Apparently, the Spanish word guapo, meaning "dandy," was carried to Sicily by Spanish soldiers, where it became part of the Sicilian/Neapolitan dialect as guappo. Guappo, with two Pís, became a term of affection, meaning something along the lines of "handsome guy" or "dude". Italians who immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century brought the term with them, not as a slur, but as a term of affection for one another. In time, guappo, shortened and spelled phonetically, was adopted as a derisive term for Italian-Americans by their new countrymen.

[snip]Note that some unreliable sources, especially internet sources, offer an alternate etymology for "wop," claiming that it is an acronym for "With Out Papers" or "With Out Passport." The idea is that this moniker was given to Italian immigrants upon their arrival to the United States without the appropriate documents. Although many acronym-derived racial slurs exist (WASP is the most obvious example), the guapo derivation is too strongly supported by scholarship for much credence to be given to the "With Out Papers" theory. Irving Lewis Allenís Unkind Words also mentions an alternate acronym derivation: "Works On Pavement," coming from what Allen calls an "occupational stereotype." (p. 100)
So...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
So anyway, that's one explanation. I'll bet it's wrong.
Looks like I'm only batting 500 on this one.
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  #7  
Old 07-04-2004, 08:41 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulFitzroy
Spic I assume comes from ''Hispanic,")
Actually, it doesn't. It comes from spiggoty/spigotty. It dates to the building of the Panama Canal, when the Panamanians would approach an English speaking visitor and, when asked if they spoke English, some would say "yes, spik-a-de-English."* The Americans referred to them as "spiggoties." Shortening the word to "spik or spic" was just a matter of time.

I may not have conveyed the exact spelling of the phrase, but it's the etymological truth, no matter HOW fanciful an explanation it sounds.

*Cites available from 1909.
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  #8  
Old 07-04-2004, 09:24 PM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
Jewish immigrants had s chalk circle drawn on their clothing for some reason. "Circle" in Yiddish was "Keikel"; hence, "Kike".
My grandfather (a Jewish Immigrant) once told me that the circle was a reference to the little piece removed in a circumcision.

But he may have told me this after half a bottle of schnapps.
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Old 07-04-2004, 09:40 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoulSearching
What about "gook", it doesn't make any sense either. And is "crout (sp?)" for Germans relate to that stuff you put on hotdogs?

These posts are kind of ignorant but I think the poster and I have righteous educational intents.
"Kraut" does indeed derive from the stuff you put on hotdogs.

As for "gook," well, things get complicated. Check here for some thoughts on the origin of this term.
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  #10  
Old 07-04-2004, 09:53 PM
MikeS MikeS is offline
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Here's what the OED has to say on the etymologies of the above words:
  • kike: said to be an alteration of -ki (or -ky), a common ending of the personal names of Eastern European Jews who emigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th c. (The earliest citation given in the OED is from 1907.)
  • wop: origin uncertain; perh. ad. It. dial. guappo bold, showy, ruffian, f. Sp. guapo bold, dandy, f. L. vappa sour wine, worthless fellow.
  • spic: shortened from SPIGGOTY.

And "gook" is listed as "origin unknown."
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  #11  
Old 07-04-2004, 11:13 PM
DocCathode DocCathode is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeS
Here's what the OED has to say on the etymologies of the above words:[list][*]kike: said to be an alteration of -ki (or -ky), a common ending of the personal names of Eastern European Jews who emigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th c. (The earliest citation given in the OED is from 1907.)
That makes no sense to me. The patronymics -ki, and -ky are found in Russia, Romania, the Ukraine etc. If this is the origin of kike, why didn't it apply to all people from this area?

Re Kraut

It must be understood that to many Germans and German-Americans (like my Dad) sauerkraut is far more than something to put on a hot dog. It is a side dish, salad, or appetizer all by itself. Sure the Germans brought plenty of other foods (numerous sausages, many recipes for beer,) but most of these were palatable to Americans of the time. The appeal of a plate of rancid cabbage escaped them, and sauerkraut was singled out.
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  #12  
Old 07-04-2004, 11:17 PM
jiggs jiggs is offline
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In regard to the term "gook", I'm aware of a use that seems to pre-date the origins discussed here and in the cites. In June through August 1904 there appeared in the New York Evening World newspaper a comic strip titled "The Great American Gook", by Ferdinand Long. The strip starred a nutty sort of robotic alien called a "Gook". The humor of the strip was derived from the Gook being completely out of control and at odds with civilized people. The strip created a short-lived fad of applying the word gook to anyone with strange customs, anyone who didn't fit in. I don't know whether the cartoonist originated the term or picked up on an existing bit of jargon. I also don't know if the use of "gook" in this context outlived the strip to the extent ofdovetailing with the later usage.
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Old 07-04-2004, 11:51 PM
rfgdxm rfgdxm is offline
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Since the word "gook" came up in this thread, I've long had a question I've never known the answer to. Does the word "gook" have a different meaning than in the UK? The reason I ask is because of a line in the song "Ticking" by Elton John.

http://www.eltonography.com/songs/ticking.html

"They had you holed up in a downtown bar screaming for a priest
Some gook said "His brain's just snapped" then someone called the police"

It just seems odd to me Bernie Taupin (Elton's lyricist) would gratuitously toss in the song a racial slur. Or does perhaps "gook" mean Asian in the UK, but the term isn't seen as being particularly offensive?
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  #14  
Old 07-05-2004, 12:22 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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The word gook first shows up in print in 1859, but not in the sense that it was used by US troops in the 20th century. It was spelled gooh in that cite, but in Farmer and Henley's slang dictionary(1890-93) it was defined as "Gook...(American).--A low prostitute."

There is also a 1911 cite from the cartoonist T. A. Dorgan in which he said"Packey had the softest time of his life trimming the Gotham gooks." Combined with slightly later cites, this use meant "a foolish or peculiar person(gink?)

The "gook" military use which shows up in 1920, almost certainly had an origin in the term "goo goo" which was used by American troops before 1900 in a deprecating sense.
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  #15  
Old 07-05-2004, 12:30 AM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
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The Word Detective says
Quote:
"Wop" (in the variant form "wap") as derogatory slang for an Italian or Italian-American first appeared in New York around 1912, and, far from being an English acronym, probably actually comes from an Italian word. In the Neapolitan dialect, a "guappo" is a swaggering ruffian, hoodlum or street tough. If "guappo" sounds like a cool profession, it's worth noting that the root of "guappo" was most likely the Latin "vappa," meaning wine that had gone sour or, figuratively, a useless person. In any case, by about 1914, the spelling "wop" had become standard.
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Old 07-05-2004, 12:52 AM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
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Johnny L.A., your site and mine are similar, yet a little different...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
Guappo, with two Pís, became a term of affection, meaning something along the lines of "handsome guy" or "dude". Italians who immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century brought the term with them, not as a slur, but as a term of affection for one another. In time, guappo, shortened and spelled phonetically, was adopted as a derisive term for Italian-Americans by their new countrymen.
I'd love to read more on your site, but your link is not working. Can you redirect me?
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  #17  
Old 07-05-2004, 12:59 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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I think Johnny's link was http://kpearson.faculty.tcnj.edu/Dic...dictionary.htm
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  #18  
Old 07-05-2004, 01:23 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Quote:
I'd love to read more on your site, but your link is not working. Can you redirect me?
You'd think that closing in on 12,000 posts, I'd have learned to be more careful with my coding.

The URL is http://kpearson.faculty.tcnj.edu/Dictionary/wop.htm

Thanks for the assist, samclem.
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