??? WOP / W.O.P / Guappo / Guapo  ???


The word wop was a standard word used in the English language dictionaries.  Now it is used with the same meaning without being designated with that use in the dictionaries.  To remove conflict I could see  no place where  it was used to mean Without Papers but before 1850 I found:

The initials W.O.P.  were used to signify Warrants, Orders, Passes (as published in Albany 1860 by Weed – Parsons and Company.)  This is where the confusion came with the line Without Papers.  The letters for without papers would simply be—WP.

 W.O.P—Warrants, Orders, Passes— was used by the United States Government and some states to represent documents from the old country.  W.O.P.—Warrants, Orders, Passes—  was also used on Government documents next to the names of persons for whom marriage licenses were issued by the secretary of the province of New York, previous to 1784. 

 Websters Unabridged Dictionary published shortly after my lifetime in 1959—Wop is a person of dark skin; of latin or Italian decent.  But already the meaning and usage had been washed out. 

From the Progressive Dictionary of the English Language of:  The Progressive Publishing Company, Chicago 1885 we get:

Wop is "to whop".  Specifically "Old Osborne was highly delighted when Gregory wopped her third boy in Russle-square. 

While Wop was sometimes used generically to mean any darker skinned laborers that predominately but not necessarily came from Eastern Europe.  In all reality it was to signify:  labor that could be used till dead.  There was no value by rich management and or company owners to fret about the lives of Wop. Those who did the hardest work and did not often speak English.

 These lives were documented in: The Wop in the Track Gang – An exaggerated arraignment of conditions affecting unskilled track labor from the Railway review Vol. 59 p.373 Sept. 16 1917 and 1916  DT Ciolli - The Immigrants in America Review, 1916

Further the word Wop is found in common jargon and in poems that are still popular(21st century.)  Authors such as Runyon and Kipling are important studies in schools but their words—quickly forgotten.  

From: The New World Edition of the Works of Rudyard Kipling: Just so stories for little children. Stalky & Co 1912  By Rudyard Kipling, Charles Wolcott Balestier.


Fifty North and Forty West!


Rudyard Kipling


When the cabin port-holes are dark and green

Because of the seas outside;

When the ship goes wop

(with a wiggle between)

And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,

And the trunks begin to slide;

When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,

And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,

And you aren't waked or washed or dressed,

Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)

You're "Fifty North and Forty West!"



Wop is also found in classic popular poetry. Damon Runyon a boxer and poet used the word often and it appears as follows:

The free Hitter

By Damon Runyon



Listen !

I've elbowed me way from nowhere to a seat wit' a champion team.

By puttin' some dents in the center field fence along o' me turrible steam.

I've heard 'em debatin' me system,

an' I've heard 'em discussin' me style — Listen !

Me secret is punchin' the ball on the snout an' makin' it ramble a mile!

That's me! I always hit it a mile!

It's a trick that I learned in the Timber,

for the boss he would say wit' a smile:

"Step up there, you rummy, an' '''wop''' it,

an' be sure ,that you '''wop''' it a mile!

"The fadeaways fade to a fancy,

an' the spitters go splat- terin' out,

An' all o' their smoke is a Bush-league joke if you clout it a toe-swung clout;

An' they's never no zones o' safety an' they's never no sys - tem or style — Get me!



From SONGS of the WORKDAY WORLD comes a story of the real story of the Wop.  The Wop, Songs of the Workday World, Berton Bradley, George H. Doran Publishing, 1915







WHEN the line is surveyed through the scenery,

For tunnel and culvert and cut—

When the contractor has his machinery


The "big job" is ready—all but—

"All but" means the shovel and pick of it—


The hunkies who work till they drop.

And so, in the dust and the thick of it,

Look for the Wop!


The big bosses bear all the fret of it—

They are the fellows who plan;

But the backbreaking strain and the sweat of it


Fall to the laboring man-

Dago and Russ and Hungarian-

All of the immigrant crop.

Where is the job we could carry on—

Save for the Wop?


Subject for scorn and bedeviling;

Victim of fraud and chicane—Still, with his spade he is leveling

Routes over mountain and plain. Progress? His soul is the breath of it;

Lacking his hand, it would stop. Facing the danger and death of it, Here is the Wop!

He knows the toughest and worst of it;

He knows the hard-driven toil,

The ache and the heat and the thirst of it—

Never the dream—or the spoil.

Caves and explosions make mud of him—

Who cares a damn? Let him flop!

Progress is stained with the blood of him—Only a Wop!


From Arno Dosch’s article in Everybody’s Magazine Volume XXV; July to December 11, 1911; Ridgeway publishers New York. Pg.  579.  It becomes the clear abuse of the rich over the poor labor which is really what happens in Africa and other third world countries today:

The young assistant smiled. “Well, yes, I guess that’s right he replied  “There wasn’t any one killed except just Wops.”

“Except what?”

“Wops. Don’t you know what Wops are?  Dagos, niggers, and Hungarians—the fellows that did the work. They don’t know anything, and they don’t count.”

He said it lightly, as to one who would understand. I was “his kind” and he took it for granted that I had his point of view. To me, too, he presumed they were wops—just wops. Not men—wops. A negligible quantity. Unintelligent, sweating creatures who could be killed without counting. Low brutes who worked with their hand for a dollar and a half a day. Food for powder. Just wops.

It struck me that there was a story in these wops, and, searching I found it—everywhere. It lay hid in the subcellar of society, in fields afar, in splendid cities boasting of philanthropy. It came into the open and flaunted itself with talk about “the complexities of civilization” and the glib utterance—“Modern industry must have its victims.   And everywhere it met with a dull apathy, an unthinking acceptance of the assumption that the killing of wops is a necessary blood sacrifice to our comfort.

I begin to find out how many wops were killed in the Erie cut. But, I have been trying for months, and I have not yet learned the exact number.  I never expect to know.  No one knows.  The cut is only ten minutes by tube from New York City, and yet there is not record worthy of the name. The nearest approach to adequate information I found in certain newspapers. In April, 1909, when completion was still a  year distant, the Hudson County Observer published a partial list of the killed and injured.  It filled four columns. The total number of dead cannot even be estimated. I know of twenty-five. These were either killed instantly or died within a few days. Those who lingered and were carried away by friends were never scored against the cut, but were put in the list of miscellaneous injured, which contained hundreds of names. (And the most remarkable thing about this tremendous undertaking, said the press-agent, was that it did not cost a single life!)

Yet I liked these men who talked so indifferently of the wops. I liked the young assistant.  I liked the engineer.  I liked the old blasting foreman.  A big, two fisted Irishman, good-natured, smiling, a man who gets things done. I was told every railroad contractor bids for his service. He is said to be the best blasting foreman in the United States. He wastes no time. He spares no dynamite.

“So you kill a man occasionally,” I remarked to him.

“Oh they get bumped,” he replied, “if they don’t get out of the way.”

And that is all he had to say on the subject.

Even the workmen have become hardened.  In all building operations, when a man is killed, it has been the custom for the others to stop for the day to recover from the shock. But accidents among the wops have become so common that this custom is no longer observed when they are the victims. From ironworker to stonemason the word is passed.  “Just a wop”—and the job goes on.

The young assistant was right. The wops don’t know anything, and they don’t count.

{Dosch, Arno;  Everybody’s Magazine Volume XXV; July to December 11, 1911; Ridgeway Publishers New York. Pg.  579.} 

From McCarroni Ballads comes a song dedicated by Joyce Kilmer and the many Italians in his regiment. Many Italians were members of the Catholic church Joyce Kilmer served in New Jersey.

McAroni Ballads of 1919 written in memory of Joyce Kilmer!



My title has a foreign look,

The sor of Latin Label

One might expect upon a book Devoted to the table

A word of many meanings

(One Noah Webster, LLD., Explains it's Yankee leanings)

And some of these I think will fit

The facts and personages

My puny pipings cause to flit Among these prtend pages.

If, still you deem my plain intent

Too delicately subtle,

I've yet another argument To offer in rebuttal:

Since these my verses scarce my claim

Much share of fame or boodle

But merrely aim to laud the name

Of Mr. Yankee Doodle,

May I-whose Pegasus, mayhap,

Like his, is but a pony-

Not stick a feather in my cap And call it McAroni?


Misinterpretation exists for the word that sounds like Wop in some dialects of Southern Italy from and area that was once known as the: Kingdom of the Two Sicily’s—The Kingdom of Naples—and Napoli.  The word is spelled Guappo and comes from the word Guapo. Some want to attach the word Guapo to secret societies but it was the suffering common man for who this name was pinned.

Guapo [goo-ah’-po, pah] is one of the words which means:  the


1. Stout, courageous, valiant, bold (valiente), enterprising, good, clever.

2. Spruce, neat, elegant (elegante), ostentatious, vain.

3. Gay, sprightly, fond of courting women.

4. Good-looking, handsome (hombre).

Va de guapo por la vida, he goes through life with every confidence in his good looks. ¡Hombre, qué guapo estás -> how smart you’re looking

(Velazquez® Spanish and English Dictionary. Copyright © 2007 by Velazquez® Press. All rights reserved.)