would you pour me a martini, lovey?


All this talk of Catholics, recovering or otherwise, coincided with a question Tessa asked tonight: namely, is WASP – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – a redundancy? More specifically, are there any White Protestants who aren’t already Anglo-Saxon? If you take “Anglo-Saxon” to mean any Germanic tribes that invaded the Celtic island of Britain and thus became “the English,” you’ve got precious few white people left to work with.

I came up with a semi-lame answer, and Tessa thought of a semi-good one. I seem to recall that the French Huguenots were Lutherans (or Calvinists) at a time when the rest of 16th-century France were all Catholic. They were accepted at first, but by the time Louis XIV came around in the 1680s, they were all getting their ass kicked and fled to various places, including America.

Thus, any descendents of the French Huguenots that landed in America – notably New Paltz, NY and parts of South Carolina, would not technically be WASPs, they’d be WFNPs (White Franco-Norman Protestants). Yes, I know the Normans conquered the Anglos and Saxons and messes that up, but you gotta give me some props for getting that far, dontchya think?

Tessa’s idea centered around the Scandinavians who settled the Midwest part of America, folks like Kent’s wife (my sister-in-law) Melissa, who has lived in Iowa her whole life and comes from Norwegian stock. The Norse were polytheists with an extensive mythology until Christianity came around in the 1100s to make them thoroughly boring (no more raids, pillagin’ – nothing!)

Since they are primarily Lutheran, that would mean that Melissa is no WASP – she’d be a WVP (White Viking Protestant) – along with all her friends in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Look, I know the term WASP was invented to describe preppies and monied families who send their kids to Exeter and Dartmouth, as well as a way to differentiate between themselves and other White People like Catholics and Jews, but if we’re going to use a term, why can’t we just call them White Protestants? It seems like a weird way to set yourself apart from a couple of Huguenots in Charleston and my sister-in-law. Or am I missing something?

0 thoughts on “would you pour me a martini, lovey?

  1. HKK

    why always pick on dartmouth? the wasps went (and go) to all the schools…as a dartmouth alum (and non-white) i was able to surround myself with all the hispanic, black, and asian kids, and the good WASP here and there as well. All in large fraternity house that still stands and rages today.

  2. kent

    Since WASP is at this point a perjorative, and most people you might identify as WASP don’t go to church at all, I’m not sure we should even be using the term. It’s another dividing line between people.
    The idea that there were immense bloody wars between Protestants and Catholics and that they’re STILL GOING ON in Northern Ireland creeps me out. It just goes to show that being an asshole is ecumenical.

  3. cathie

    according to the oxford dictionary of the christian church, the term was first used by irish catholics in america against the “anglo-saxons” (the protestants in new england).
    don’t forget that the word ‘white’ is also a very loaded term, and has changed meaning throughout the history of america. irish were not at first considered ‘white’, and neither were italians, as my grandparents remembered clearly. ‘white’ only came to mean those other than anglo-saxon as their numbers became necessary to shore up the campaign to keep those of african descendant from obtaining any rights.
    still i think you are thinking of this WASP thing a little backwards – it was not a description so much as an epithet – one might also argue that any string of expletives one group chooses to call another is similarly redundant, perhaps even purposely so. it is only in modern times that the term has become more quaint than anything else.

  4. Ian

    Hm, didn’t know “WASP” would raise cackles. I always thought it was funny, I suppose being one myself (Mormons are Protestant, in some bizarre fashion, yes?)
    Anyway, Cathie C. wrote a comment, which made it worth it!

  5. Alan

    I am a Sp/g/vP: Spotted Pictish/Gaelic/Viking/Protestant as my people from the western highland isles were early converts to early protestantism (lurther trained under monks trained in Ireland whose affiliations were close to traditions like those at the monestary at Iona, Scotland founded in the sixth century). They are also culturally an amalgam of the three people who pushed each other around up there for a few millenia and have nothing to do with Angles or Saxons other than the need to fight them off periodically. Plus I am not “white”: I am pink with brown spots, I eat haggis and my heart is in the highlands chasing the deer. That is not “white” whatever “white” is.

  6. mcf

    ian-i’ve always thought this was an interesting topic for discussion. growing up primarily in a small town in NC , everyone seemed to be protestant [i knew a few catholic and jewish families, but that is it. and no one i knew was muslim, hindu, etc.]
    of course, here in nyc, “white folks” are categorized, seemingly [so said an old boyfriend years ago-so perhaps this is “off” but i’ll try it out], as “irish,” “italian,” “jewish,” and WASP. i’m sure i am leaving vast groups of folks out here, so forgive me… also of note: this presumes, rightly or wrongly, that the “irish” and “italian” are catholic.
    anyway, my point is: i never considered myself to be a WASP — or anything else — until someone [that old boyfriend, in fact] told me i was. and, because most of the people i grew up with fall into the same category, that label seemed kind of meaningless to me.
    ps-loved the history lesson.

  7. Kevin from Philadelphia

    Well, as someone born to first gen Irish, and raised Catholic, I had always thought that the redundancy of the term WASP was intentional. My personal experiences with self-identified WASPs is that they take any and every chance they get to further dissocciate themselves from the rest of society. Anything to reinforce their undeserved air of superiority I suppose.
    You know, yesterday I was checking out Urban Dictionary – really fun little work distraction – and came across a definition for the area that I live in, and that is also inhabited by WASPs and JAPs – of the non-Asian variety – and got a good laugh out of that. Surprisingly detailed and accurate.

  8. Scott K.

    I guess I fit the very definition of WASP (of germanic background, first gen, raised protestant, drive a german car). Oddly enough, having lived in Iowa and being well aware of WVP strongholds like Pella, I can’t imagine why WASPs would want to exclude WVPs.
    In these times, I side with Ian and find the WASP or any other ethno-religious classification more comedy than anything else. But I have good non-WASP friends who joke about my WASPiness all the time, which makes me think it’s more loaded than I perceive.

  9. Piglet

    Seems to me, the Germanic tribes who did NOT go to England and become “the English” are the big non-WASP tent. I seem to recall Germans, Poles, Slavics, etc., being right up there with the Irish and Italians in the early 20th Century No-Star Sneetches groups.
    Not to mention the Amish groups who refer to mainstream America as “The English”.
    Of course, the real reason for including “Anglo Saxon” is that just “White Protestant” doesn’t make a decent acronym. Would you pronounce it “Doubleyou-Pees”, or “Whoops”?

  10. Joanna

    I never would think of Mormons as WASPs. I think the “P” mandates that religious practices are embraced by the average “WAS.” The sensationalism of historical Mormon practices and subsequent false assumptions of modern Mormons take Mormons out of the WASP classification.
    Ain’t no Child Bride of Short Creek WASP.

  11. Frequent Reader

    I consider myself a WASP, but in my case it stands for Wild Ass Sumbitch Pagan.
    A Buddhist pagan, if y’all can dig it.

  12. Scott K.

    Aside from all this WASP business, I think you could make a good case that Mormons fit into the protestant definition, at least as presently defined. True, Mormons did not spring directly from the Reformation. But they did branch off from those who had already parted ways with the Catholic Church and certainly are not affiliated with the Catholic Church today. According to merriam-webster.com, the term “protestant” may be broadly defined as “a Christian not of a Catholic or Eastern church.”

  13. Nate

    Hey Ian:
    This is off-topic, but have you see the new commercials the Competitive Enterprise Institute is airing to combat the publicity being garnered by Gore’s new global warming film AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH?
    You can find them at http://streams.cei.org/
    Just to give you a heads up, take your blood pressure meds before you watch. The tag of the ad campaign is:
    Carbon Dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it LIFE.

  14. Joanna

    Scott, I think you’re talking about the definition and I’m talking about the connotation. I just think WASP sounds like in-power, rather than subject to persecution.

  15. CP

    like you say, to me the term WASP has east coast class connotations (old money, etc.), and makes me think of caddyshack. middle class non-catholic/jewish/other “white folks” from, say, new england, while perhaps technically WASPs, I would more classify as yankees. however, if I’m not mistaken, certain southerners might classify any northerner a yankee, which doesn’t really apply to me since I’m a mets fan and we’re gonna win the world series this year. (thank you, omar!)
    on a related note, the terms black and white, while currently falling out of favor politically, have never really worked for me, since from the time I was a kid I was always struck by the fact that most “white” people were either light pink/reddish or light green/brownish, and most “black” people were anywhere from dark to pale brown. the terms always seemed arbitrary to me, because “white” and “black” PEOPLE never looked as technically white or black as white and black HAIR, or casper the ghost and daffy the duck.
    culture trumps race. class trumps everything.

  16. eric g.

    For some reason this all puts me in mind of Charlie in the movie “Metropolitan,” who, striving to define what he perceives to be his socioeconomic stratum, coins the term “UHB” (pronounced “ub”), which stands for Urban Haute Bourgeoisie. The term fails to catch on…

  17. cullen howell

    Thanks for the by-line BTW; kids at school are always referencing Gilligan’s Island about Kristin and I working together—Mr. and Mrs. Howell. Now if I could only have those martinis with that Long Island potato vodka at school; the piano parts would sparkle like never before. Tip jars in public schools, I don’t think so.


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