[Ads-l] 'gig' = (non-show-business) engagement, 1952

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 25 19:58:13 UTC 2015

Below is a citation for "gig" referring to a non-show-business short
term engagement in 1943 (verification on paper needed). The
'engagement' was a short-tern confinement.

This "gig" is from slang used by soldiers and may have been derived
from a different sense of "gig" that was distinct from a musical gig.
The relationship is unclear (to me).

Periodical: Esquire
Date: June 01, 1943 (uncertain)
Article: Soldier Slanguage (uncertain)
Article Subtitle: New Lands, New Situations Bring Flow of New Worlds
into Patois of Americans

(Data may be inaccurate; citation constructed based on Google Books
Snippet search and Esquire Archive search; must be verified on paper)

[Begin extracted text]
Originally a "gig" was an official report of a trivial infraction of
regulations, but today to the draftee a "gig" is also a short
confinement, usually lasting over the weekend.
[End extracted text]


On Sun, Oct 25, 2015 at 2:09 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg
<nunberg at ischool.berkeley.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Geoffrey Nunberg <nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU>
> Subject:      'gig' = (non-show-business) engagement, 1952
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The OED gives a 1964 cite from J.H. Clarke=E2=80=99s Harlem as the =
> earliest instance of the =E2=80=9Calso transf. and attrib.=E2=80=9D use =
> of =E2=80=98gig=E2=80=99 ("An engagement for a musician or musicians =
> playing jazz, dance-music, etc.; spec. a =E2=80=98one-night stand=E2=80=99=
> ). "Pa=E2=80=94knockin' hisself out on a mail-handler gig at the Post =
> Office where the pay is so lousy he's gotta work a part-time gig.=E2=80=9D=
>  That cite should really be 1963, but there=E2=80=99s a much earlier =
> instance in Kerouac=E2=80=99s piece  "The Railroad Earth,=E2=80=9D =
> written in 1952-53 but published in the collection The Lonesome =
> Traveler, 1960. Kerouac describes working as a railroad brakeman in San =
> Jose:=20
> It=E2=80=99s the chief dispatcher calling from 4th and Townsend in the =
> Sad Frisco, =E2=80=9CKeroowayyy? It=E2=80=99s deadhead on 112 to San =
> Jose for a drag east with Conductor Degnan got that?=E2=80=9D=E2=80=A6=E2=80=
> =9CAll you do is get ups and you already done made how many dollars? =
> Anyways in your sleep and put on your gig clothes and cut out and take a =
> little bus and go down to the San Jose yard office down by the aiprort =
> and the engines are being lined up and numbered out there=E2=80=A6 You =
> go down and find your conductor who=E2=80=99ll just be some old =
> baggy-pants circus comedian with a turned-up hat brim=E2=80=A6
> This is the sense that figures now in =E2=80=9Cthe gig economy=E2=80=9D =
> etc., which Ben discussed in his WSJ piece. It corroborates my sense =
> that this was one of the musicians=E2=80=99 terms brought into the =
> mainstream by the hipsters and beats, along with =E2=80=98riff=E2=80=99, =
> =E2=80=98cool=E2=80=99, and my favorite, the late, lamented =E2=80=9CSolid=
> !=E2=80=9D
> Geoff
> PS. =E2=80=9CThe Sad Frisco=E2=80=9D seems to be Kerouac=E2=80=99s own =
> =E2=80=94 it appears in The Subterraneans, too.=20
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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