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Some friend of mine told me it was an acronym for "western oriental gentleman" and was a form of sarcastic politeness. Is this true, and is it offensive to use this word?

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Hah! My first "protected question!". Apologies to anyone with less than 10 rep points who wants to post a useful answer. –  FumbleFingers Oct 3 '12 at 16:04
    
Checked Wikipedia? It seems to have most of your answers: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wog –  Django Reinhardt Feb 1 '13 at 4:32
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2 Answers

Etymonline gives its derivation as:

wog c.1920, "a lower-class babu shipping clerk" [Partridge]; later World War II British armed forces slang for "native of India" (especially as a servant or laborer), possibly shortened from golliwog. Many acronym origins have been proposed, none found satisfactory.

So the acronyms may be folk etymology.

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And if a word pre-dates WWII, chances are it's not an acronym. –  Hugo Dec 29 '12 at 20:42
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In the UK it is a "racially offensive slang word referring to a dark-skinned or yellow person from Africa or Asia." (link: "wog")

In Australia it was a slang term used to describe common illnesses, such as the cold or flu. It then became a derogatory term, as above. Recently, beginning in early 1990's, it became a backronym for "Worthy Oriental Gentleman", embraced by those who the term was used to describe; now used more affectionately (could possibly be considered "sarcastic politeness").

It can be an acronym for several other things:

  • "Whole Of Government. Used to describe Australian Government-wide outsourcing contracts"
  • "Working On Government Service, referring to Indians working for the British Raj, or referring to Egyptian labourers working on the Suez Canal during the British Occupation in the early 20th Century."
  • "Western/Westernized/Wild/Wily/Worthy Oriental Gentleman."

Primary Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wog

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If you're going to copy and paste from Wikipedia, you should source it. –  victoriah May 11 '11 at 9:36
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I'm Australian, grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1970s and 1980s and never heard "wog" in reference to people from Africa or Asia. Rather it was used in reference to people from the Mediterranean countries, chiefly Italians and Greeks. I can verify the cold/flu sense though. –  hippietrail May 11 '11 at 12:33
    
I'm caucasian, in the UK, and I don't recall there being any ethnic minorities in my primary school many decades ago. But the other kids nicknamed me "wog" as a derogatory epithet, for no particular reason that I've ever been aware of. I suspect many of those kids didn't even know what it was supposed to mean - it was just an insulting term that didn't bring down the wrath of any teacher that might have overheard. Today's schoolkids would probably be punished far more for calling someone a "wog" than a "f**king c*nt" in the playground. –  FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 17:16
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No, no. Dark-skinned people from Africa or Asia are niggers, while wogs begin at Calais. (see the drunken Major from Fawlty Towers and others: up to the 1940s I believe people actually did draw a distinction) –  TimLymington Oct 6 '11 at 10:04
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protected by FumbleFingers Oct 3 '12 at 16:02

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