Cuomo Lands A Wopper Over Italian Slur

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Climbing_into_the_Promised_Land_Ellis_Island_-_Lewis_Wickes_HineNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a curious moment this week when he announced “I’m undocumented. You want to deport an undocumented person, start with me because I’m an undocumented person.”  Putting aside the bravado and drama, there was on aspect of Cuomo’s comments that caught me eye as an Italian-American (I am half Sicilian).  Cuomo declared “You know what wop stood for? Without papers.” That is news to me.

Cuomo, 60, said “I’m an Italian-American. I came from poor Italian-Americans who came here. You know what they called Italian-Americans back in the day? They called them wops. You know what wop stood for? Without papers.”

The Online Etymology dictionary would beg to differ.  The slur originated from southern Italian dialect “guappo” or “dandy, dude, stud.”  However, another site says it “derives from the Spanish guapo, meaning a dashing braggart or bully, and which eventually derives from the Latin vappa, meaning flat wine or scoundrel.”

This appears to be a Democratic talking point. James Kinney, the mayor of Philadelphia, reportedly said the following:

Well, you know, Ellis Island had opened in 1892. The bulk of Irish Diaspora came to America in the 1840s. We didn’t have papers either. We were undocumented. There was an anti-Italian slur, when I was growing up in my neighborhood called W-O-P — that’s without papers. If you come to the country without documents because you’re starving in your country or you’re being held hostage by drug dealers or you’re afraid your children are gonna be shot in the streets or on their farm, I think that that’s self-preservation and self-survival. And any group of people would flock to America because that’s been the historic place where people came to be saved.

The acronym theory has been widely rejected by various sites.  One such site reports that the earliest usage of “wap” is found in 1912 in Arthur Train’s Courts, Criminals, and the Camorra.


73 thoughts on “Cuomo Lands A Wopper Over Italian Slur”

    1. Olive Garden is the bane of my sister and I. It seems that whenever people get together with us, despite having a cornucopia of fabulous authentic restaurants in most all cuisine around, they insist on having “Italian” at Olive Garden. Formerly we would cringe at the suggestion of going there, but we learned that this was unwise since we would need to fortify our stomachs prophylactically should we fail influence them to choose another location.

      I had a bitter/sweet experience involving them. Many years ago on a business trip I suggested to some others, rather sarcastically but knowing the demographics and wants of the people in the town, that an Olive Garden would do well there. Most likely coincidentally, someone brought the restaurant to that town. People flocked to that swill hawker like sheep to the slaughter. A family Italian restaurant a block away, which did have great food that she and I ate for years, closed due to the competition. Now Olive Garden is the only place in town to get Italian fake Italian and people march in to receive their over-salted, TV Dinner caliber vittles.

      1. Darren:
        Bring the crowd home like Italians do! Here’s something you can make in 15 minutes that will put Olive Garden to shame and get your honorary Dago status:

        1. Thanks for the recipe Mark. We’ll give it a shot next week. I’ll even put the pescaterianism on hold for the day. 🙂

  1. “Wop” is legit, if dated, slur familiar in the steamy ghettos of NYC, Philly, and Boston. It has no Italian etymology because it’s origin is more likely the Tammany franchise. Which is a Democratic “talking point” for historians. Now, “wop” is easily found in (paper) literature and film of a certain genre –mid-century noire, gangster romances, pulp fiction– famously revived by Scorcese, for example. If you couldn’t sit through a screening of his ouvre, you could have simply checked Urban Dictionary or, heaven forfend, the OED online. Your incredulity reminds me of an essay I came across a few years ago wherein the writer debated the political potency of identifying oneself either “black” or “negro.” But not s**c or n****r. Who talks like that?!

  2. shows how little Cuomo knows about US immigration. All immigrants were listed on a ship’s manifest which was turned over to immigration officials. all carried some sort of passport

  3. CV Brown – turn off auto-correct. 🙂 Your life will be less frustrated.

  4. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story? This will be an internet meme in seconds, and will become part of the vernacular.

    I agree with the above poster that guapo in Spanish means handsome or hot, or it can be used sarcastically.

  5. I am not a big fan of governor Cuomo. My sincerest apologies to any Italians who post here. I do not want to offend you.

  6. Cuomo has just OK’d 35000 felons to vote, like all the Dums they are desperate. Illegals, felons, martians they’ll OK anyone providing they cast a vote for the Dums.

    1. However, cats, dogs, and office furniture must present proof of residence in order to vote. Jill Stein to lead protests regarding voter suppression.

    2. Hardly unique. New York is now in line with 17 other states in permitting those who are on parole to vote.

  7. Sidebar since you’re mezzo Siciliciano: Largest lynching in American history was in March 14, 1891, in New Orleans when 11 Sicilians were lynched in retaliation for the murder of police chief David Hennessy. Eight others hid in the prison, thereby escaping the fate of the others. Racism, or more accurately xenophobia, was rampant in New Orleans and there were even ads for public works project in the paper that read “No Italians.” My Sicilians who did not want to naturalize did after that incident, though why I don’t quite understand. But of course returning to the poverty of Sicily was not an option. Needless to say, they didn’t have government handouts and lived in fear of such violence. They flourished and New Orleans has the largest community of Abreshe Sicilians in the world now.

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