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Wog

Wog is a British slur supposed by some to have originated in the colonial period of the British Empire. It was generally used as a label for the natives of India, northern Africa and the Middle East. It has also been used to refer to any non-local, including people from other towns and cities in England; there is an old phrase "Wogs begin at Calais".

The origins of the term are unclear. Many dictionaries guess that it comes from the term golliwog (or golliwogg), a blackfaced doll with tangled hair. Other theories point at the long established name "Waugh" and suggest that "wog" was once an analogue of "barbarian" (with the irregular plural "Welsh", also found as a name as "Walsh", "Wallace", etc.). Yet others hold that it is an acronym (despite the relative recency of acronyms in English). Several possibilities of acronyms are offered up, the most believable of which is "Working On Government Service", a label displayed on the clothing of non-British workers during the construction of the Suez Canal. Some other possibilities are:

  • Wealthy Oriental Gentleman
  • Westernized Oriental Gentleman
  • Worthy Oriental Gentleman
  • Wily Oriental Gentleman
  • Wonderful Oriental Gentleman

In Australia the term is used in a somewhat less offensive manner to describe people of southern European extraction or more generally to describe people of any ethnic origin. Although originally used as a pejorative, the term is increasingly used more affectionally, especially by the individuals the term is used to describe.



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