!Ask a Mexican!

Dear Mexican,

A friend of mine calls Mexicans "wabs" but being a dumbshit doesn't even know what it means—except that it's not P.C. What's it mean?

Thesaurusaurus Mex


Dear Gabacho,

"Wab" is a slur that assimilated Mexicans use to describe and deride recently arrived Mexicans. It can be used as a noun ("Refugio is such a wab"), a verb ("Look how that idiot Refugio wabbed up his truck with a bull sticker!") or even an adjective ("Refugio's mustache is sowabby"). The etymology of wab is unknown—could either be a mongrelization of "wetback" or "wop."

But what's most fascinating about "wab" is that it seems to be a distinctly Orange County term. When I asked Oscar Garza, the longtime Los Angeles Timesstaffer who's now editor of the fine glossy Tu Ciudad Los Angeles, if he knew the word's meaning, Garza replied it "draws a blank." Ben Quiñones, the token Mexican at LA Weekly, didn't know what a wab was either. And Lalo Alcaraz, the dean of Chicano comedy, thought it meant "white-ass bitch." Pinche racist pocho.

The final word on wab goes to Dr. Armin Schwegler, a professor in UC Irvine's Department of Spanish and Portuguese who specializes in dialectology and Spanish in the United States. He's taught at the school for 20 years and drops language trivia like some people default on their car payments—did you know, for instance, that the area from Denver to the Pacific Coast is the largest dialect continuum in the world, meaning Western American English is one boring tongue? But Schwegler has never heard of wab. He's not surprised the epithet exists, though. "People always think naively that language is just for communication," the good doctor told the Mexican. "But language is so important because it's also an identifier. With wab, you can see this tied into the question of nationhood. It's rooted in social discrimination. You coin a word, and it circulates around."

So rejoice, Thesaurusaurus Mex! Wab is all ours! It can now join Barbara Coe; the Costa Mesa-based, Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review; and ¡Ask a Mexican! in the Orange County section of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Watch.



Dear Mexican,

I've noticed that areas with lots of recent Mexican immigrants have stores that sell nothing but water. I find this very odd. Do people recently arrived from Mexico not know that tap water here is potable? How can these stores survive selling nothing but water anyway?

Agua Pa' la Raza


Dear Gabacha,

Mexicans can never get far from the bottle, whether it's H2O or Herradura. In a 2002 survey, the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55 percent of Latinos in the state drink bottled water, compared with 30 percent of gabachos. It's definitely a custom smuggled over from Mexico, where tap water remains fraught with nasty viruses and bugs and crap. So it seems the Mexican affinity for Arrowhead is another case of assimilation gone dead, huh?

But another possibility is suggested by Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In the 1964 Stanley Kubrick classic, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper reveals that fluoride-contaminated tap water is a commie plot that's robbing America of its precious bodily fluids. Mexicans want no part of that. We want our mecoshealthy and hopping, so when it comes time to repopulate the States after the bomb hits, we can turn all surviving gabachitasinto baby mills.



Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at garellano@ocweekly.com. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym,por favor, or we'll make one up for you!

 
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