Query:"jasm" (= energy, vitality)

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Sep 23 02:42:10 UTC 2001

   The term "jazz" probably derives from a now obsolete term "jasm" (=
energy, vitality). _DARE_ gives 1860 as the date of the first
attestation, and the apparently related term "jism" (= energy, vim;
ability; semen) is first attested in 1842.

    The origin of the term is obscure. But Douglas Wilson has very
tentatively advanced a suggestion to me, and with his permission I
now share it with the ads-l members: Might "jasm" be a shortened and
altered form of "(enthu)siasm"?

     Specifically, might some people have pronounced "enthusiasm"
something like "enthuzhasm" ("zh" here as in the Russian name
"Zhivago")? And might this "zh" (uncommon at the beginning of a
syllable in English) been replaced by "j"? Hence: "(enthu)jasm,"
shortened to just "jasm"

    Webster III has a definition and example for "jasm" which fit
"enthusiasm" perfectly: "jasm (origin unknown). zest for
accomplishment. DRIVE, ENERGY. You must have jasm if you want to
amount to anything in this world."

     Again, this is all tentative, like thinking out loud. Still, is
there any evidence that might support it?

---Gerald Cohen

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