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I recently heard a friend refer to a wasp as a “jasper” I’ve never heard of this before, and haven’t been able to find anyone else who uses this term.

Is this usage of the word “jasper” meaning wasp commonplace anywhere, and if so where does it come from?

They’re from Somerset if that helps at all.

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  • I remember kids in Hertfordshire calling wasps “jaspers” back in the early/mid-1980s.
    – Shevz
    Apr 8, 2020 at 1:16

2 Answers 2

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It's found all over the UK, but especially in Southern England and the Midlands. Lots of wasp-related products use the word 'jasper' in their names.

Common wasps are colloquially called "jaspers" in some English regions (Dorset, Lincolnshire, and elsewhere in the English Midlands); whether this comes from the Latin vespa or from the abdomen resembling the striped mineral jasper, is not clear.

Vespa Vulgaris (Wikipedia)

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  • I come from Derbyshire (in the East Midlands) and I've never heard it that I can remember. Oct 30, 2019 at 14:02
  • Too far North, maybe. I am partly from Castle Donington and I never heard it until I went to Bristol. Oct 30, 2019 at 15:21
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The Oxford English Dictionary (subscription required) says usage of jasper for wasp is "regional". So you are right. The first example they have is dated 1969, from Kentucky. They also say "Origin uncertain and disputed."

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