According to the Oxford English Dictionary
, "Jap" as an abbreviation for "Japanese" was in colloquial use in London around 1880.
An example of benign usage was the previous naming of Boondocks Road
in Jefferson County
, originally named "Jap Road" when it was built in 1905 to honor a popular local rice farmer from Japan.
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
Some in the United States Marine Corps
also tried to combine the word "Japs" with "Apes
" to create a new description, "Japes", for the Japanese. However, this neologism never became popular.
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'".
In the United States
, the term is now considered derogatory; Webster's Dictionary
notes it is "usually disparaging".
In the United Kingdom
it is considered derogatory, and the Oxford dictionary defines it as offensive.
In 2003, the Japanese deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Yoshiyuki Motomura, protested the North Korean ambassador's use of the term in retaliation for a Japanese diplomat's use of the term "North Korea" instead of the official name, "Democratic People's Republic of Korea".
, under pressure from civil rights groups, Jefferson County
commissioners in 2004 decided to drop the name "Jap Road" from a 4.3-mile road near the city of Beaumont
. Also in adjacent Orange County
, "Jap Lane" has also been targeted by civil rights groups.
The road was originally named for the contributions of Kichimatsu Kishi
and the farming colony he founded. And in Arizona, the state department of transportation renamed "Jap Road" near Topock, Arizona
to "Bonzai Slough Road" to note the presence of Japanese agricultural workers and family-owned farms along the Colorado River
there in the early 20th century.