Ask a Mexican

Why does the Mexican call us gabachos?

Dear Readers: I don't like to rerun columns, 'cause it makes me look like a lazy Mexican, but as my column invades foreign terrain (Steamboat Springs!), I realize that new readers might not understand some of my commandments. Following, then, are the two most frequently asked questions about the Mexican's methodology:

Dear Mexican: A friend of mine calls Mexicans wabs, but being a dumb shit, he doesn't even know what it means — except that it's not P.C. What's it mean?


Dear Gabacho: "Wab" is a slur that assimilated Mexicans use to describe and deride recently arrived Mexicans. It can be used as a noun ("Refugio is such a wab"), a verb ("Look how that idiot Refugio wabbed up his truck with a bull sticker!") or even an adjective ("Refugio's mustache is so wabby"). The etymology of wab is unknown; it could be a mongrelization of "wetback" or "wop."

What's most fascinating about "wab" is that it seems to be a distinctly Orange County term. When I've asked various Latino journalists over the years if they're familiar with the word, most have drawn blanks. And Lalo Alcaraz, the dean of Chicano comedy, thought it meant "white-ass bitch." Pinche racist pocho.

The final word on wab goes to Dr. Armin Schwegler, a professor in the University of California, Irvine's Department of Spanish and Portuguese who specializes in dialectology and Spanish in the United States. He's taught at the school for twenty years and drops language trivia like some people default on their house payments. Did you know, for instance, that the area from Denver to the Pacific Coast is the largest dialect continuum in the world, meaning Western American English is one boring tongue? While Schwegler had never heard of wab, he's not surprised the epithet exists. "People always think naively that language is just for communication," the good doctor told the Mexican. "But language is so important because it's also an identifier. With wab, you can see this tied into the question of nationhood. It's rooted in social discrimination. You coin a word and it circulates around."

So rejoice, Thesaurusaurus Mex! Wab is all ours! It can now join Barbara Coe, the Costa Mesa-based, Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review and ¡Ask a Mexican! in the Orange County section of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Watch.

Dear Mexican: How hard can Spanish be to learn if Mexicans know it?

Wondering in Teotihuacán

Dear Gabacho: Still hard enough that gabachos fail it in high school.