Q: "jewgaged"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Nov 3 00:27:13 UTC 2009

At 7:53 PM -0500 11/2/09, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>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 ....

Right; as you said earlier, the urbandictionary evidence seems to be
limited to that toe-tease episode in the Randiana.  I did try looking
under the alternate spelling, but all I got was

"how does an American Jew gauge the risk of identification?"
"How, for example, can the "imaginary Jew" gauge the menace behind
Dave Brown's cartoon..."

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

OK, very much along the lines of the Merchant-of-Venice worldview.
Makes sense.

>>>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.
OK, I'll buy it.  As I noted earlier, this ("jillock" > "jewlark")
would then constitute a wonderful twin eggcorn, given the
refashioning of both elements, and (at least in the former case) the
revelation of cultural attitudes absent from other classic
double-yolk eggcorns like "rosemary" < "ros marinus", "cockroach" <
"cucaracha", or "sparrow grass" < "asparagus" (which I wouldn't have
guessed is attested back to 1685).


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

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