A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 16, 2010
Za (pizza)

"Za” is a clipped form of the word “pizza.” The term “za” has been cited in print since the 1960s, but achieved its greatest slang popularity in the 1980s.

Urban Dictionary
Really obnoxious word for pizza, that no self-respecting person uses.
Next person to call it za is getting kicked in their nis.
by Alex Stockwell May 17, 2007

Abbreviation of “pizza”.
“Let’s call Domino’s and order up some za.”
by VAKI5 May 7, 2005

The Free Dictionary
za (zä)
n. Slang

Dictionary: za (zä)
n. Slang
[Shortening and alteration of PIZZA.]
Our Living Language When young people today speak casually of ordering a za, “pizza,” they are unwittingly producing an expression that is quite interesting to language historians. Za derives from the full form pizza by a process known as clipping. Two types of clipping are common in English: dropping the unstressed syllables or syllables not receiving the primary word stress, as in fridge from refrigerator; and dropping all syllables after the first syllable, as in ab, dis, porn, and vibe, whether or not the first syllable was originally stressed. In the case of za, the syllable that was dropped was originally stressed and was the first syllable, which is unusual. Rents for “parents,” is another recent example of the same kind of clipping. Interestingly, we don’t need to stay in the realm of contemporary youth slang to see the results of this unusual process. The words phone, bus, and wig (from telephone, omnibus, periwig) belong to Standard English but had their start as slangy or catchy neologisms formed by clipping stressed syllables, just like za. Who knows whether in fifty years za and rents will be as widely accepted as phone and wig are now?

Google Books
The Routledge dictionary of modern American slang and unconventional English
By Tom Dalzell
Pg. 1075:
za noun
pizza US, 1966
.—John D. Bell et al., Loosely Speaking, pg. 22, 1966.
-—Current Slang, pg. 15, Summer 1968

20 July 1980, New York (NY) Times, “Words for Nerds” by William Safire, pg. SM3:
Pizza has been shortened to “tza,” pronounced “za.” Nancy Pines of Mount Holyoke reports: “You guys want to go in on a za?”

19 October 1983, Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram, “Oberlin College junior compiling slang dictionary” by Steve Novak, pg. A9, cols. 3-4:
“Za” is a relatively new term. it’s a shortened form for pizza. Speculation is that it might refer to the 60-second pizza one prepares in a microwave.

6 January 1984, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, sec. 1, pg. 2, cols. 2-4:
Next to za, slang books are big on campus
MEADVILLE, Pa. (UPI)—Strange agents aren’t weird spies. They’re more like Poindexters.

“Poindexters” and “strange agents”—or nerds as they were known last year—are among the current college expressions translated in a slang guide published at Allegheny College in Meadville north of Pittsburgh.
“Za” is pizza.

22 September 1985, New York (NY) Times, “Back to Tool” by William Safire, pg. SM14:
Pizza, of course, with the ‘za pronounced as “tsuh,” somewhat similar to the first sound in “Dzerzhinsky,” though bereft of its chicken fricative.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, June 16, 2010 • Permalink