The nature of slang and HDAS--"jazz"

Sun Jun 22 00:53:01 UTC 2003

        My original message was not intended to contradict any of what Gerald wrote here (although I had erroneously recollected that a second San Francisco newspaper was involved).  Of course, we don't know for sure that the San Francisco Bulletin was more important than pre-existing oral usage in popularizing "jazz," but that's the way the evidence points.  As Gerald notes, Scoop Gleeson never claimed to have invented the term, but there's no proof that he didn't (though that seems unlikely).

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: Gerald Cohen [mailto:gcohen at UMR.EDU]
Sent: Saturday, June 21, 2003 8:32 PM
Subject: Re: The nature of slang and HDAS--"jazz"

At 7:01 PM -0400 6/21/03, Baker, John wrote:
>Newspapers probably played an important role in the early use of
>"jazz," before the word was applied to music,

Not "probably," but "definitely." And thus far at least, not
"newspapers" (plural) but "newspaper" (singular; specifically: _San
Francisco Bulletin_)

>  and it is possible (though not likely) that the word could have
>been made up by the journalist who seems first to have popularized

The journalist "Scoop" Gleeson never claimed to have invented the
term, explaining instead that he acquired it from fellow journalist
William "Spike" Slattery, who in turn had picked it up at a
crapshooting game ("Whenever one of the players rolled the dice he
would shout, 'Come on, the old jazz.'") Gleeson's article on the term
appeared Sept. 3, 1938 in _The Call-Bulletin_ (San Francisco
newspaper), page 3, col. 1 and is entitled "I Remember The Birth of

    I have treated "jazz" in some detail (with due acknowledgments
given very gratefully) in _Comments on Etymology_, Dec. 2002/January
2003 (double issue), 91 pp.

Gerald Cohen

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