NABOKV-L post 0019452, Fri, 19 Feb 2010 10:05:37 -0800

Re: QUERY: Red Wop Explained
Dear Matt,

You asked one of those great Nabokovian questions when you asked the
red wop question. But I fail to see what is the link between the
apparently explosive powder/red wop and Hazel? Or did I miss something
(not unlikely)? Or is VN making a non-sequitur kind of joke? Something
seems to be missing ... Of course Hazel could be said to be amiss.

On Feb 19, 2010, at 7:29 AM, Matthew Roth wrote:

Thanks to all for your answers to my query, particulary Robert Boyle,
who of course got it from the source. (By the way, the word VN used
was "wonderful," not "delightful," as I had remembered it.) Since
posting my query, I did find one high-profile instance where "red wop"
clearly refers to wine. In Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, we find the

"So I found a liquor store and bought a half gallon of red wop and
went back to the bus depot and sat there drinking my
wine..." (Vintage, pg. 137)

See it here:

This was written after PF, but in roughly the same time period, so it
seems pretty clear that some people would have understood the term as
referring to wine. It's interesting that VN used the term in his
letter to Wilson, in his interview with Robert Boyle, and in PF
without feeling the need to explain what the term meant. He seemed to
think the meaning was well-known. Perhaps it was one of those slang
terms that, while common enough, rarely made it into print. Proof, I
suppose, that the written record of an age cannot very accurately
reflect way people actually communicated on a daily basis.


>>> On 2/19/2010 at 12:16 AM, in message <
>, "Robert H. Boyle" <KatyaBelousBoyle@AOL.COM> wrote:
To answer Matt Roth's query about the meaning of "red wop." It has
nothing at all to do with red wine. From the way VN expressed it to
me, he obviously meant an Italian with a red face. Now to the
etymology of "wop." .

In 1976 Mrs. Carl (Mary Josephine) D'Alvia of Croton-on-Hudson,
NY, published a book, The History of the New Croton Dam, an enormous
structure completed in the early 20th century to add to New York
City's water supply. It was built by stone-cutters and masons brought
over from Italy by a padrone.. When the immigrants got off the boat,
as Mrs. D'Alvia notes on page 97, the padrone handed each of them $25
because they landed "with out passage" money, abbreviated "W. O..P."
and soon the pejorative "wop" for an Italian.

Robert H. Boyle .
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