Covert Charge/Cats/Chops

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Sun Jan 28 01:09:47 UTC 2001

> Also, in the taped episode we saw last night, it was asserted that
> Armstrong was "the first person to use" the terms "cats" and "chops."
> Does anyone know anything about the etymology of these?

Well, certainly that both predate Armstrong--"cat" for 'a person;
fellow' was in use by 1920 (though it was chiefly popularized
after 1935 or so by jazz musicians), and "chops" was around
from the late 16th (!) century. Armstrong is often credited with
popularizing various jazz terms, but the only one for which a
reasonable case is made is _dig_ in sense like 'to understand'
or 'to enjoy', which seems genuinely to have been unknown before
Armstrong's use of it.

Jesse Sheidlower

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