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Analysis: A brouhaha has erupted over the Wild Animal Park’s plans to change its name to Safari. But as the U-T notes, this isn’t the first time a name at the park has raised eyebrows.
The paper says the now-retired Wgasa Bush Line — which transported visitors around the outskirts of the park for more than three decades — was named after the African-sounding acronym for “Who Gives a Shit Anyway?”
Could the five-mile monorail line really have been named for WGASA, whose company in the pantheon of foul-mouthed acronyms includes FUBAR and SNAFU?
It was indeed, confirm two men who should know — the zoo’s former executive director and the son of the late San Diego Zoo chief designer who coined the name.
Andy Faust, son of zoo designer Chuck Faust, said his good-humored father had the brainstorm that created the memorable name.
“They were at a meeting and bouncing around different ideas for the name of the busline, and he said WGASA. And then he goes, ‘Who gives a shit anyways?’” recalled Faust, a Delta pilot who lives near Albuquerque. His father designed exhibits at the zoo and helped create the Wild Animal Park, which opened in 1972 with an African theme.
The name then went to a committee for approval, remembered Chuck Bieler, a zoo official at the time. He knew its true origin, but others didn’t: “It was just a neat African-sounding name. They said, ‘That sounds great,’ without any knowledge of what it meant.”
The name stuck. “We got a lot of chuckles out of it, and it survived the years,” said Bieler, who later became the zoo’s executive director and fudged history over the next decades by telling people that the name actually stood for “World’s Greatest Animal Show Anywhere.” (This particular tale has legs: A park spokeswoman this week said she thought that’s what WGASA actually stands for.)
The Wgasa Bush Line no longer exists. The park replaced it with an open-air shuttle called the African Express three years ago. The story of the origin of the Wgasa name, however, remains a popular topic.
All evidence suggests that the monorail was really named after the earthy acronym. So we’re declaring this tale to be true.
By the way, it’s a stretch for the U-T to say WGASA is a “well-known acronym.” A wide search of historical slang dictionaries and other lexical resources doesn’t reveal any decades-old use of the acronym outside of the Wild Animal Park tale. WGASA appears in the written record only in the last three decades, and then only in small numbers, and almost never in relation to anything other than the animal park. There are many uses of “WGAS” — without the “anyway” — but those are mainly in the last 20 years.
Does this word history matter? Well, some might say, “Who…” Oh never mind.