bojangs and spajangs

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 29 15:51:19 UTC 2006

Except for Mr. Charlie, these are all new to me, too. Needless to say,
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was still alive and dancing, during my
youth. However, bojang, spajang (< spade + -jang?), Miss Mary, and
Miss Annie are all new to me. We say "Miss Ann."

There's a rock-blues called "Big Mary's," but Big Mary is clearly a black madam.


On 6/29/06, George Thompson <george.thompson at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      bojangs and spajangs
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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