conked/konked hair (1943)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 28 21:39:53 UTC 2005

" ... 'to get gassed' means to get a konk or hair-straightening job ..."


According to this URL, this is a Satchmo-ism, unfortunately undated. In the
early '40's, when I was a grade-schooler in St. Louis, a "gas job" was
distinct from a professionally-done conk/konk, the former being a crude,
do-it-yourself, hair-straightening job worn by boys and young men. This
hair-do was accomplished by simply running one's mother's/sister's/girl
friend's heated hair-straightening comb through one's hair.

Unfortunately, I have not the slightest clue as to why either Satchmo or
black St. Louisans referred to this kind of thing as a "gas" job. Well, a
straightening comb - also used in conking/konking - in those days was
typically heated on a burner of a stove. That could imply gas, perhaps. But
most black people that I knew in those days had kerosene or even coal or
wood stoves, not gas ones.

-Wilson Gray

On 12/28/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: conked/konked hair (1943)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 12/28/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> >
> > 1935 _Chicago Defender_ 12 Oct. 9/5 If "Dig that high-jivin' chick
> > layin' here racket over at my crib, with those conked rug-cutters"
> > isn't Harlemese for "Look at that ritzy miss trying to make an
> > impression in my home with those slick-haired ballroom dancers" then
> > sue the fellow who told me it was.
> > [HNP Doc ID 761075942]
> Should read "...layin' her racket..."
> --Ben Zimmer

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