bojangs and spajangs

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Jun 29 15:11:05 UTC 2006

Al Hirschfeld (of "Nina" fame) contributed cartoons to a book on the
speakeasies of NYC, published in 1932.  The text was written by Gordon
Kahn.  Its original title was "Manhattan Oases", the publisher E. P.
Dutton.  The book was reprinted a few years ago under the title "The
Speakeasies of 1932", by Glenn Young Books.  I don't know how the first
edition was presented, but the reprint is released with Hirschfeld as
the author, and Kahn in a secordary role.
One of the speaks was in Harlem, a joint called "Mike's", on 7th ave. in
the 140s.  (p. 52)  (The reprint gives exact street and housenumber of
many of the speaks, but not this one.)  Remarkably, "Mike's" valued its
black customers above the white sluumers who came in.
Kahn permits himself to use several vernacular terms for black people,
two of them new to me.
These bojangs hanging around the entrance have seen Mister Charlie and
Miss Mary before. . . .  ["Bojang" isn't in HDAS.  Presumably it's
derived from "Bojangles" -- Bill Robinson: a word personal to Kahn?
HDAS has "Mister Charlie" from a few years earlier; doesn't have "Miss
Mary" but has "Miss Annie", also from a few years earlier.]
Closing only when the last spajang customer leaves, regardless of the
number of whites remaining in the place.  [Thanks to the ever-to-be
cursed Bertelsmann family, I don't have the volume of HDAS that would
cover "S".  It's not in Cassell's.  Is the fact that both "bojang" and
"spajang" end in "jang" significant?]


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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