~Seventy years after 'The War', is Jap still considered to be an ethnic slur in the US? Is/was it also considered offensive in the UK?
Jap is still considered an offensive term in the US. From personal experience, I remember an afternoon in public school where a classmate used the word "Jap" and was scolded by the teacher. The well-cited Wikipedia entry on the term supports this:
Today it is generally regarded as an ethnic slur among Japanese minority populations in other countries, although English-speaking countries differ in the degree to which they consider the term offensive. In the United States, Japanese Americans have come to find the term controversial or offensive, even when used as an abbreviation.
Additionally, there's evidence that the term can be controversial in the UK specifically. Again from the Wikipedia:
In 2011, following the term's offhand use in a March 26 article appearing in The Spectator ("white-coated Jap bloke"), the Minister of the Japanese Embassy in London protested that "most Japanese people find the word ‘Jap’ offensive, irrespective of the circumstances in which it is used."
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the term is considered offensive due to its usage by Americans during WWII. (Before the war it was not considered offensive.) Once more from the Wikipedia entry on the term:
Later popularized during World War II to describe those of Japanese descent, "Jap" was then commonly used in newspaper headlines to refer to the Japanese and Imperial Japan. "Jap" became a derogatory term during the war, more so than "Nip." Veteran and author Paul Fussell explains the usefulness of the word during the war for creating effective propaganda by saying that "Japs" "was a brisk monosyllable handy for slogans like 'Rap the Jap' or 'Let's Blast the Jap Clean Off the Map.'"
My parents are Japanese, I was born in Japan, and I'm a Japanese-English translator living in Canada.
Of the people I know, second and third-generation Japanese-Canadians seem to take the most offense. Part of it may be due to the lingering anger of having been cast aside (and in many cases shunned and mistreated) by the rest of Canada during World War II.
Meanwhile, even among the well-read, the Japanese living in Japan seem to have no trouble using the word "jap" both in communication amongst themselves and in communication with English-speakers. After all, the Japanese often find it stylish and convenient both to write in English and to abbreviate liberally. If someone in Japan does take offense to it, it's often only because they'd been instructed to.
So, to (kind of) answer your question, considering many of us don't care as much anymore, I think the offensive use of the term "jap" is probably on its way out, being replaced by -- or returned to -- its benign use as a natural and linguistically sound abbreviation. Personally, I welcome this, and wish it to happen sooner rather than later. In fact, I use the nickname
japinthebox frequently online, and no one seems upset by it -- at least, not enough to say so.
"Jap" was probably already in use before the war without any racial overtones. I only find it offensive when it's said to emphasize a remark that already suggests racism, and I argue that people who see nothing wrong with the word nonetheless become upset simply because they recognize that some other people still do. It's a strange self-perpetuating sentiment.
"Jap" differs from "nip" in that the latter isn't even English, and so one must have gone out of their way to use it with vile, whereas "Jap" is an abbreviation of "Japanese" with legitimate usage outside of the war and probably even before it. We say "the Afghans" quite casually now, and it's used just as casually in the war in Afghanistan, but just because of the way the war is going there, there may come a time when people insist that we stop using the word "Afghans" and say "Afghanis" instead -- which given our current perspective, we know would be just a little bit absurd.
from far off Kiwi land aka New Zealand.
The following are words with country name or nationality implicit or clear.
There are, of course, many ethnic slurs which are not country related terms.
Jap - not unknown. Never polite. Can be rude.
Paki - rare. Would usually be rude.
Chink - increasingly rare. Always dismissive to rude.
Uncertain to risky:
Frenchy - more dismissive than offensive.
Iti (I-tie) (obsolescent)
Casual - perhaps a hint of good humoured denigration amongst mates:
Brit - moderately common.
Pom - slightly dismissive sometimes. Depends on context. (= Brit = Prisoner of Mother England)
Ozzie - Australian. Common. Informal. Bantering. Never rude per se.
Dali - common, fading. Dalmation - product of NZ gum-digging years).
Ruski - rarer of late
"Jap" isn't used only about Japanese people.
In Australia and New Zealand, kabocha is sometimes called a "Japanese pumpkin" according to Wikipedia, or a "Jap pumpkin", according to the blog Stomachs on legs. It's sometimes sold in grocery stores as "Jap pumpkin". Based on the comments in the blog post, I'd say some people find the term acceptable, some do not.
The"J" word is no more acceptable and as racially charged for not only Japanese Americans, or Asian Americans in general, but also for many native Japanese, as the "N" word" is for African Americans and blacks from all over the globe. And akin to the "C" word for Chinese - and many do not make the distinction. I find it appalling that there are people here casually discussing this as if the term is somehow now acceptable, a linguistic term or even trendy. The word is NEVER acceptable, both in the US and Japan. As the spouse of a Japanese man (who knows very well what it means in all of its negative and racial connotations - and detests its use) and, the parent of a bicultural/racial child, who was called the "J" word on the playground, our family knows well what this racist and foul term means. It is always interesting to me that derogatory terms against Asians are often downplayed as if Asians are still fair game. Wake up people.