Cohen and "jazz"

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Sun Jan 30 04:33:21 UTC 2005

Gerald Cohen wrote:

"The etymology of 'jazz' is still open for discussion. I.e., if the
crapshooting story is correct (and I find it credible; all the rest of
Gleeson's 1938 account--except for one minor detail--is validated in
the 1913 newspapers), the crapshooting 'jazz' (in: 'Come on, the old
jazz!') might plausibly derive from now obsolete 'jasm' (energy,
force). The incantation would then have meant roughly 'May the force be
with me.'"

In similar situations, I've heard the bruthuhs shout, "Snake Mary! (or,
perhaps,) ... Merry!/merry! Come on! Hunch me, Snake/snake!"
Unfortunately for further discussion, I have no idea what the referent
was. Obviously, this was some kind of call for luck. "Hunch" among
blacks can, as a verb, mean "poke someone in the ribs with one's elbow
so as to get that person's attention." Hence, I assume that the player
was calling upon a deity of good fortune to hunch him and supply him
with whatever mojo it took for his play to win.

Further deponent sayeth not.


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