More "jazz" etymythology

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 31 07:51:48 UTC 2013

You can't make this shit up! <har! har!>

On Sat, Mar 30, 2013 at 11:24 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      More "jazz" etymythology
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> From Bruce Price, on The Week:
> ---
> **Jazz was sexual slang before it was music. "Jas" was a Creole brothel
> where jezebels worked. Music for the clients became known as "Jas music",
> sometimes "Jass music." When the word "Jass" was printed on posters, the
> letter "J" was sometimes crossed out for a joke. Promoters knew "ass music"
> was offensive, so the spelling moved from "Jass" to "Jazz", hence "Jazz
> music."
> ---
> This is a variant on the unsubstantiated lore given here:
> ---
> Storyville is often given credit with giving the name to jazz. It seems the
> women of the brothels, in an effort to counter the smells of the swampy
> city, would wear Jasmine perfume. When one left the company of the lady
> smelling of jasmine, one was said to be =93jassed.=94 When musicians at the
> brothels would make their music sexy to inspire customers, they were said
> to have =93jassed,=94 or sexed, up the music. Brothel owners would
> advertis=
> e
> their musicians with signs that would announce =93Live Jass.=94 When
> mischievous children would come along and wipe off the =93j,=94 owners
> deci=
> ded
> to change the =93s=94=92s to =93z=94=92s in an effort not to offend people.
> ---
> I see The Week's version of events has been added to the Wikipedia page (
> -- though I'm sure John
> Baker
> or another vigilant Wikipedian will revise it soon enough.
> --bgz
> --=20
> Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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