The Sanas, Jazz, Jazz and Teas

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Jan 30 05:57:13 UTC 2005

>.... Had anyone on any aboveboard paper in 1912-13 known of the sexual
>senses of "jazz" and knowingly allowed the word to be printed in any sense
>at all, he or she would likely have faced a misdemeanor charge or worse.

Hmmm. So how did the term "screwball" get accepted? Is it thought that the
obscene verb "screw" was unknown to those who first published the word
"screwball"? Or is it decontaminated by the combination with "ball"? Surely
the referent does not demand this word (in its baseball sense or its other
one); was there any attempt to avoid the word, to introduce a sanitized

What about "snafu", which has been in the papers since WW II? Was it really
arguably innocent at first? Or did everybody already know what the "F"
stood for? [I'm not sure we really know the answer to this one.] When it
became clear, did the word suddenly disappear from the papers, from fear of
the censor? [Maybe it did transiently, I don't know.]

Why has "pussy" been used in the papers with impunity all along, with
reference to cats and otherwise? "Pussy[cat]" is never necessary; "cat"
will do, or "kittycat". Is it suggested that the newspaper editors would
have claimed ignorance of the existence of the sexual senses of "pussy"?

Of course I am still young and naive, but it is my impression that (except
for a few globally unacceptable words, e.g., "f*ck", "c*nt") an 'innocent'
neologism might appear freely in the newspapers in spite of the existence
of a known obscene homonym, provided that the obscene sense was not too
dominant and that there was no indication of deliberate double-entendre.

-- Doug Wilson

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