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When did “WASP” Lose Its Acronym Status?

When I was a kid, we knew of the acronym WASP, meaning White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. As a child, I had no idea of its meaning. It was just an acronym.

Now, of course, I can go online and look up WASP and find that it is an informal and sometimes derogatory term to describe high-status people of English-Protestant descent. This group’s influence on the country was great from the 17th century to World War II, and many things we know of come from this group. Their lineage dominates Ivy League schools, elite liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Bowdoin, Tufts, Wesleyan and Swarthmore; and historically women’s colleges such as Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Smith and Radcliffe. The concept of a debutante ball comes from this group. The 1939 play “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which became a 1944 (though shot in 1941) film starring Cary Grant, lampooned WASPs. Prescott Bush, father of one president and grandfather of another, and Nelson Rockefeller are famous members who influenced the Republican Party.

Nowadays, Jews, Catholics and others are just as influential, and maybe that is why WASP lost its acronym. In this week’s Time magazine, an article that seeks to explain why certain groups succeed in this country while others don’t list the following groups as lacking: “African Americans, (sic) Appalachians (and) Wasps.”

It’s obviously not true, as history indicates. Still, I didn’t know flying insects would be included.

Until next time! Use the right words!


January 28, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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