Background: The informant is a woman in her late fifties who grew up in downstate New York in Queens and on Long Island before moving to upstate New York for college. In her mid 20s, she moved out to Southern California and she had lived there ever since. She comes from a large family of Catholic Irish-Americans.
Context: TR went to high school in the late 70s/early 80s on the north shore of Long Island, where a substantial percentage of the public high school’s student body was either wealthy, Jewish, or both. TR does not consider JAP to be an antiemetic phrase and mentions that it describes women that aren’t Jewish too. Later, when she went to college in upstate New York, she says there were a lot of JAPs at her school there too.
(In the following interview the informant is identified as TR and the interviewer is identified as JS.)
TR: Especially coming from Long Island, the JAP—the Jewish American Princess…
JS: Did you use the phrase JAP?
TR: Oh god, yeah, cuz I was from Long Island!
JS: And did you know anyone who you considered a JAP?
TR: Oh, yeah!
JS: Do you want to explain exactly what a JAP is?
TR: Well, usually a Jewish American Princess knew it and was proud of it and self-identified, so it was never like, it never seemed like a really negative thing. Actually, I had a friend, she was a senior when I was a freshman—or, she was a junior when I was a freshman and yeah, she, uh, she self-identified as a JAP [laughs].
JS: Wanna explain anything else besides the abbreviation?
TR: Well, usually they’re Jewish…but they don’t have to be. Yknow, they dress very kind of, like, Long Island, downstate New York.
JS: What does “Long Island” mean?
TR: In the eighties…big hair, dark hair, lots of curls, fancy clothes, tons of makeup, very expensive clothes, lots of jewelry. And defitniely a thick New York accent, like “OH MY GAWD.” [laughs]
JS: So their families are wealthy?
TR: Definitely. Yes.
JS: Is there a specific…field Jewish American Princesses go into, studying-wise?
TR: Well, yeah they would get husbands. [laughs] Typically they would get..yknow attorneys, doctors, the hotel industry, ILR…I don’t think I knew any engineering JAPS.
JS: What do their parents do?
TR: Doctors, attorneys, wives…oh, oh, accountants!
JS: Anything else you wanna share about the culture?
TR: No, you know, it was a look and it was consumption—consumption.
Thoughts: The phrase JAP is something I know, but not really something me or people I grew up around ever used. Perhaps it’s still frequently used in downstate New York, but I suspect part of the affiliation had to do with the style and “consumption” (as TR calls it) of the 80s. It’s funny that she says it’s not exclusive to young Jewish women, despite what the acronym stands for, and that people would proudly self-identify as JAPS, despite it seeming like a stereotype. I suppose it’s not the worst stereotype to be identified with.
For a humorous take on the Jewish American Princess, see Rachel Bloom’s “JAP Battle” from the television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019).
“JAP Battle (EXPLICIT) – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”.” Youtube, uploaded by racheldoesstuff, 29 Feb 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TQmo5TvZQY.