Q: "jewgaged"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Nov 3 00:53:09 UTC 2009

Laurence Horn wrote:
> ....
> So your speculation is "jewgage" = 'short-skirted', as in our thread
> from last February? Could be, in which case there's no blend with
> "engaged".  What's the source of the "jew" part, though?  The "jill"
> element below is much less likely to be part of "jewgage" than of
> "jewlark", for obvious phonological reasons.

My (mere!) guess would be that the "jew-" here is basically just "Jew".
I speculate "Jew-gauge" might have meant "short-gauge", by analogy with
(e.g.) old slang "Jew bail" = "insufficient bail".

This is only a "least-implausible (IMHO) conjecture" based on very
slight information. Now if somebody can come up with another "jewgage"
citation, we'll have twice as much information, I guess ....

"Short gauge" = "short measure" BTW apparently was used particularly
with respect to casks of wine or liquor which didn't contain the proper

>> If this is the right
>> interpretation, the word would have been used in a jocular metaphoric
>> fashion here (hence the quotation marks, maybe): the lady is not getting
>> the attention she 'deserves', but rather only limited contact with a
>> clothed toe. No doubt still other guesses can be supported.
>> Or does someone have another citation?
>> --
>>> It's not in the
>>> OED or in Farmer & Henley, which does however indirectly suggest an
>>> origin in its derivation of another portmanteau, "jewlark" 'fool
>>> around':  see JEW 'to delude' + LARK 'irresponsible action'. A
>>> blogger at
>>> http://www.erosblog.com/2009/03/20/footsie-under-the-table/ plausibly
>>> suggests a link with such related (but historically longer-lived)
>>> ethnic slurs as "to Welsh" and "Indian-giver".
>> --
>> But other books fail to identify a "jew" in the etymology of "jewlark":
>> e.g., DARE points instead to "jill" (= "girl[friend]" or so). I myself
>> would wildly speculate that the "jew" and the "lark" may both be
>> adventitious, the original word perhaps being something like "jillock"
>> with 'diminutive' suffix.
> Adventitious = 'eggcornish'?  Not implausible on the face of it.
> Looks like DARE splits the difference, relating the first part of
> "jill" as you say but the second part to the verb "lark" ('flirt')
> from Wright's English Dialect Dictionary.  While -ock is a diminutive
> suffix, wouldn't it be more likely to create a noun as in "hillock"?
> "To jillock" seems less likely.

According to this (mere!) speculation, the noun (= "jewlarky",
"jewlarker" in  DARE etc., = "girlfriend" or so) would presumably have
preceded the verb. Conceivably "jillock" > "jillocker" = "jewlarker" (=
"womanizer") > "jewlark" [verb].

There is an example of "jewlark" [noun] (maybe meaning "loose woman",
but maybe simply "girlie" or so) from 1910 at G-books: <<"Oh, lewd
people and such. A jewlark was livin' openly with a man up the river ....">>

"Jewlark" [noun] = "sweetheart" appears in a G-books snippet from an old
ADS publication too.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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